Scenes from Screen SongHubs: four days in the studio with Pru Montin

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019

(Pru Montin at work, photo by Courtney McAllister)

Composer, sound designer and 2019 Professional Development Award recipient for screen music, Pru Montin just wrapped our very first Screen SongHubs. What happens at a Screen SongHubs and how does it all work? We asked Pru to document her SongHubs experience, where composers, songwriters, producers and songwriters collaborated with the filmmakers on the music that helps tell the story. Photos are Pru's personal snaps, except where noted.

DAY 1

First day and orientation for the inaugural Screen SongHubs at Gold-Diggers in Hollywood! A room full of composers and songwriters from LA, Australia and Nashville are ready to make some movie magic, with curator Ashley Irwin coordinating the sessions. The next four days we’ll be writing songs specifically for the feature Snake River by Antony J. Bowman and scoring the seven minute short In the Shadows by Charmaine Bingwa. The directors briefed us…..so we have some ideas to head in to the studios with.

I’m paired with the voicetress and all-rounder Brontë Horder for the short film. Since we usually score projects by ourselves using our carefully curated samples and gear, Brontë and I decided to use nothing but her voice and sample it for this score and really combine our two polarised voices (my musical sound design and textural sampling of her beautiful voice and harmonies).  Our ethereal lullaby perhaps strayed a little from our original spotting session with Charmaine but it gave a whole meaning to the end of her beautiful film.

DAY 2

Today I’m on my own in the little editing studio scoring the short film again. Luckily I spotted with Charmaine two alternate approaches to her film but now the pressure is on to write a completely different and fresh score. 

For gear, I chose only this five-stringed loosely-strung guitar and Moog Sub Phatty, but had to reach for my samples later as I got stuck. Limitations may have worked yesterday but not so much today.

To keep me from remaining too stuck I escaped into other studios to see what everyone else was up to, and was very inspired. So inspired I camped out with John DeFaria,Tammy Ari and Nashville songwriter Phil Barton while they were mixing and arranging their empowering song for the feature.

(John, Tammy and Phil - photo by Courtney McAllister)

DAY 3

Finally I’m in one of the big studios -- I mean the biggest with the biggest speakers which we enjoyed using for playback -- with producer Jasper Leak and songwriter extraordinaire Shelly Peiken

(Pru, Shelly and Jasper photo by Courtney McAllister)

We decided to write a more introspective song for the feature Snake River that represents the protagonist's fear before courage, whilst next door Nicky Night TimeJvmie and John DeFaria were pumping out with a great dance number for the feature.

DAY 4

Last day and most of us have been mixing and finessing late, so we're very tired because at 5PM we present all of our work. Phil, Tammy and I worked together in this gorgeous vintage studio at Gold-Diggers complete with classic kaleidoscope.

(Tammy, Phil and Pru - photo by Courtney McAllister)

We wrote a song for the end of the short film into the end credits, using themes from my score from Day 2. We added in so many layers and tried out many ideas but in the end, all we needed was guitar, voice and cello -- some purity after an intense score.

Unlike other SongHubs, where selected songs are played back, we listened to all of the songs (and danced) and then reclined to watch the seven short films in proper cinema darkness. Everyone was pumped and we think the directors were really happy with everything we wrote...but now they have a tough decision on which songs and scores they will use. I think there was talk about sequels??

It was an incredibly inspiring songwriting/scoring camp and our curator Ashley worked tirelessly to put together studios each day that would have us all being uber creative. Some of the songwriting combinations really pushed our boundaries of genre and the combination with score meant some truly interesting songs and scores that I can’t wait to hear on the big screen.

(Ashley Irwin curating - photo by Courtney McAllister)

DAY 5 

Not content with just four days, we had the LA Connect event which saved our SongHubs withdrawals from kicking in. We were treated to special performances by Georgi Kay, George Maple and Jack Grayand met more members wanting to participate in the next Screen SongHubs! When’s the next one?

(Georgi Kay performs 'In My Mind' - photo by Courtney McAllister)

Thank you to the APRA AMCOS team, this experience opened my eyes to more collaborative opportunities since screen composers usually work by ourselves. I can’t wait to collaborate with everyone again in the near future and make some more movie magic.


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