By Alison Plante
I have been to premieres of scores I’ve worked on at movie theaters, film festivals, and museums. Last semester was a first however, as I walked into the Indianapolis City Market surrounded by dozens of young farmers for the premiere of Farmers for America at the Future Farmers of America national conference. I scored this feature-length documentary along with some of my students from Film Scoring Practicum, and this is the second film that I scored with director Graham Meriweather (the first, American Meat, came out in 2013).
Since Farmers for America focuses on young, aspiring farmers, it was especially appropriate for young, aspiring film composers to be involved in composing the score, and this is the type of real-world experience from which students can learn a lot that is hard to teach in a more traditional class. The three composers I selected from my Film Scoring Practicum class were Chanmi Seo, Joseph Cilento, and Gabriel Majou. The film was divided into 5 sections: each student scored one section and a portion of the 4th, and I scored the opening of the film and the final section. Each section also had one major story theme, for which we composed a musical theme which we wove through the film across each others’ sections when that idea was present on screen.
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To produce the score, I engaged Berklee student Cristina Azarian as a score coordinator as part of her Professional Music final project, and we recorded strings, trumpet, flute, guitars, harmonica, and vocals in the Berklee studios using a Chair Recording Grant with Berklee staff engineers John Escobar and Fred Mueller. The sound for the film was designed by EPD Chair Michael Bierylo’s students in the paired course Sound Design Practicum. I regret that the students who worked on the score were not able to attend the premiere but it was for a very good reason: with the exception of Chanmi who is finishing her final semester this fall, the other students are all working professionally in Hollywood now!
Alison Plante is the chair of the Film Scoring Department at Berklee. She plays keyboard and wind instruments and sings, performed in a Gamelan for three years, and has conducted both orchestra and choir. Her composition honors include the Janet Gates Peckham International Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for an original literary or musical work. Her scoring credits include seven educational television series for the Annenberg Channel; History Channel specials Bible Battles and Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War; and the documentary feature American Meat.