Film and Video Makers Community Spotlight: Charlie Twitch, Composer/Sound Designer/Producer
“I consider composing for film to be almost synonymous with the process of lighting a scene. You are leading the audience’s focus to the action, not trying to distract them.”
Charlie Twitch is a producer, composer/sound designer, and visual artist based in Montreal, Quebec. His music draws from his work in film and his live performances, moving from subtle, minimalist soundscapes to explosive swing inspired passages. As a producer, he is interested in creating unique environments for performers that allow for controlled spontaneity.
StudentFilmmakers Magazine: Tell us about your background and experience in music and film. Does one influence the other?
Charlie Twitch: The rhythms in music and video editing feel very similar to me. I can’t help but think of everything I do musically. I got into composing for films when a friend recommended me to a local Montreal filmmaker, Olivier Bonenfant. My composing career has always existed alongside my career as a performer, with my interest shifting from one to another.
I have always written scripts, either for shorts, or my own music but the technical side of filmmaking was a big wall for me while I was studying music production. Thankfully I’ve met some amazing filmmakers who’ve helped me get my projects off the ground in recent years.
SFM: What tools do you use to compose and edit your music?
Charlie Twitch: I primarily use Cubase, and Wavelab, running on a Windows desktop. I use Live for sketches or when I’m tracking out of studio. My soundcard is a Focusrite Saffire with Mackie HR624 monitors.
SFM: What is your process like in composing music for film, video, or media?
Charlie Twitch: When I am working on scores, I will make rules for lead characters or important, recurring visual elements before I start writing anything. I tend to go off on tangents with my work so having rules to follow keeps me focused. It also feels really good to break them from time to time…
SFM: Can you share with us a songwriting technique?
Charlie Twitch: I think silence is the most important technique in writing any kind of music, especially when composing around visuals. There is little as effective as leaving the music out of a moving or delicate scene.
SFM: What is your favorite tool for composing?
Charlie Twitch: The most fun I have is when I’m working with found objects, exploring the different sounds I can conjure out of them. When I was working on a children’s web series, I lost a whole afternoon to playing with balloons, and all the ridiculous sounds you can make with them. If you’re stuck on a score go to the dollar store.
SFM: What do you use to edit your videos?
Charlie Twitch: I edit in Adobe Premiere, and After Effects.
SFM: Having a background in film and video, do you find yourself wanting to be involved more in music video production whether it be for yourself and to promote your music or for other musicians that you work with?
Charlie Twitch: I like music videos because there isn’t as much of an issue with anachronisms, and suspension of disbelief. I can test out some of the stranger ideas I have in the context of a video before trying to get a bigger narrative video work off the ground. I also like that the visuals exist in the same way a soundtrack exists in a film; I can go as subtle or as far as I want, as long as I respect what the artist has set out to do with their song.
SFM: Challenge and Solution Question. Can you share with us an interesting ‘challenge and solution’ in relation to composing or recording in the studio?
Charlie Twitch: The human element is often the thing you forget when going into a project. I am still learning how to deal with myself, and the other musicians and artists in every stage, and maintaining respect when working on insane deadlines with small budgets. We all have a breaking point and learning to recognize when someone needs a break, or when you need to step outside is as important as having a good idea.
SFM: Audio gear and audio tool shout outs. What are some audio gear must-have’s?
Charlie Twitch: Everyone should have an H4n Zoom. They are a great start for budget film recordings, simple microphone setups, and the H4n can be used as a sound card! Other than that, you don’t need much to make a good recording. The basic technology that comes with your laptop is on par and better than most of what was available in the recent past.
SFM: Do you have an agent? Why or why not?
Charlie Twitch: I am currently managing myself. I have worked with managers in the past for my performances and it’s an immense help when dealing with promoters and artists.
‘Mercury’s Net’ music video
2014 Composer Demo Reel: