STUDENTFILMMAKERS MAGAZINE | AUDIO | “How to Choose a Composer for Your Project” by Kristen Baum

Written by Kristen Baum

Finding a composer is often one of the last items on the filmmakers list. So how do you do choose a composer for your project? Here are two things to consider when making your selection.

What to Look for in a Composer

You may love the film music of John Williams or Danny Elfman or even have a favorite game composer, but the question to ask yourself is what do you want a composer to add to your project? While a big orchestral score can be impressive, it may not be the right choice for your story. Basically, score for your project needs to emotionally fit the story.

When you’re choosing a composer, listen to their music, but don’t let the thought that their music doesn’t perfectly fit your movie rule them out. Instead, listen for their ability to compose, to evoke an emotion in their music. If they have that ability, you can feel confident putting them on a short list to explore them as a collaborator for your project.

What You Want Music to Do

Knowing what you want music to do for your film will help you find a composer that’s a good fit for your project. Composers serve story. So, having a concept of what you want the score to do to support your story is key.

Some things to consider: Do you want music to function in the background, blending in and not drawing attention to itself while providing emotional subtext for the audience? Maybe you want the score to be bold, melodic and in the foreground, to have a melody people can hum that will connect them to the story or a specific character in it. Or you might want the score to set the tone of the film.

Your ideas about score don’t need to be solidified. Once you’ve formed some thoughts about overall direction, you’ll be ready to speak with a composer to discern whether they are a good fit for your project.

Kristen Baum is a Sundance Fellow and LA-based film composer. She works on a broad range of projects, frequently creating hybrid scores that incorporate computer-based sounds with live instruments. Her music is on, her website is, her film credits are at

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