Klaus Badelt is a Film Composer who has worked on a plethora of productions for both German and Hollywood cinema. A Film Composer writes original music for a film.
In the following interview, Klaus shares how he got started, his advice for student filmmakers and how his company Filmhub can help independent filmmakers distribute their films.
What originally attracted you to writing music for films?
I actually didn't know this was right for me, nor was I sure I would be good enough... I got rejected by German music universities and instead created a tech start-up at 18, sold it at 25, and only then made the decision to move to music professionally again.
I've always felt more like a filmmaker than a musician - my first "instrument" was a Minolta Super 8mm camera I purchased (from the proceeds of giving tennis lessons and playing gala bands..). I just express myself with music (and would probably make a terrible director, ha). The love for film came early on and never left.
I've always felt more like a filmmaker than a musician - my first "instrument" was a Minolta Super 8mm camera
What was your first paid job as a Film composer?
I left Germany for LA when I felt I had reached an inspirational limit there. I did have an established career, writing music to quite a known film and TV properties there - but I wanted more, and rather be a small part of something big than the other way around. I was then able here in LA to work for (i.e. "ghost write") some big composers who then also acted as the "insurance" for hiring me. While that got me access to some jobs, the downside was that it was really hard to leave the shadow of those gorillas and be recognized for my own work and hired outside that "system" they built for themselves.
So, when I jumped off, I used the momentum to work with many wonderful foreign directors - China, France for example - in addition to the Hollywood industry, "ignoring" my agent's advice. This led to building a trust-based career though, where I could work outside the usual typecasting limits.
I do still have the first $1 bill I received for writing one of my first scores (for Werner Herzog, and I did pay my agent his dime...).
Can you explain the process of film music production for student filmmakers?
The process of score production is a bit all over the place - I’m often hired too late, often because the first choice doesn't work out and with only very little time left. But in general, I like to get involved early on, sometimes in development even, when the script has gained some shape. Sometimes the writers even listen to some of my music while they write.
I see myself as part of the filmmaker team - Director, Editor, Writer, Composer as the core creatives - and often never even talk in music terms with them. It's more about focusing on the characters, making the audience love (or hate) them, telling the story, creating and following the arcs.
I often watch some of the footage if it’s available, then go back and write a theme suite - without even looking at the picture. When I play this to the director, we discuss our inspiration by it (or lack thereof, ha-ha) - is this the right language for the film? While I often write the themes with specific characters or actions in mind, sometimes it's the director or editor who has great ideas on how to use the music in the film.
Only then I turn back to the images and write frame-by-frame accurate. My "demos" are not really mark-ups - they are part of the actual music production. I've always been using computers and technology to create my music - although the tunes still are written on a crappy piano-like sound, to not get distracted. The sound of my demo’s play as much an influential role as the tunes themselves. I often create sounds specifically for the score - whether it's live samples of native instruments, for example, or synthesized sounds.
This gives the Director, Editor and Producers full access to the score production, just like they do with editorial and sound. It makes for a more trust-based collaboration.
I like to get involved early on, sometimes in development even, when the script has gained some shape
What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a Career in Film Composing?
Grab every director student you can find and write, write, write scores. You'll never be able to create so freely, experiment, and make mistakes with so little pressure again once in the wild ;-).
Can you tell us about your company Filmhub, how can this help independent filmmakers?
My heart beats for independent film, and I've seen - and even worked on - so many not seeing the light of day they should. Gatekeepers of our industry have been telling the creatives what's "good" and what's not. Meanwhile, the audiences are undergoing a massive paradigm shift. Everything now is streaming video - with unlimited shelf space and very different ways of discovery. But our industry is still clinging on the power they once had - middlemen dictate availability.
Filmhub.com is built as an alternative to this old distribution industry. You made a film, and with us, you now can stream it everywhere, without gatekeepers. We're giving full control back to the filmmaker and the audience.
We're taking the entire distribution process online and building smart tools around it, for discovery, tracking and so on - without any upfront fees and contracts. Films are distributed to all major streaming platforms – and many smaller channels worldwide, directly and fully automatic. To me, a truly creator-first platform. I want to empower filmmakers to do what they like and make a living from it - and sometimes more!
My heart beats for independent film, and I've seen - and even worked on - so many not seeing the light of day they should
Thank you for this interview, and greetings to all the filmmakers out there!