• Toby Ellis

Alexandra Harwood – Music & Sound Studies – Reflection Article 10

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

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Alexandra Harwood – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)


In todays blog post I wanted to take a minute to reflect on my second afternoon with Alexandra Harwood at University of Hertfordshire. Harwood is a classically trained BAFTA Cymru Award-winning composer and is also famous for the scoring of Mike Newell’s newest feature film ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ starring Lily James. I was lucky enough for her to introduce herself in the final year of my undergraduate degree and was really quite lovely to see with her name on two big movie titles, how far she has come within the space of a year.  


As a fairly new face in the industry, in this exclusive talk she (as opposed to last time) gave us an insight on the different routes into the sound in film industry that she had come across herself and the decisions that it is important to make at certain times in our careers in order to make it.  


Some notes I had taken and then expanded upon when I attended:

  1. The Film is always more important than the music.

  2. It is a personal project… but… the more you can let go of it that way, the better it gets. 

  3. Be easy to work with, for you the directors want the ‘banter’, the light side. the other people they deal with on a day to day generally infuriate them no end.

  4. You just never know what could be seen, say yes to everything. Animations particularly. 

  5. Go and seek out your employers, animators 2D/3D etc. you never know what might happen. Alex achieved her big break with Disney through 1/10 animations she composed for.

  6. There is always an angle for employment. follow the people that follow your employer on social media. Find out what their likes and dislikes are to sweeten yourself up before you dive in with a straight up approach. 

  7. You won’t find a music for film job without getting out and meeting directors, animators… anyone that could give you a future job while working with them. 

  8. Realistic expectations – You won’t instantly become John Williams. you have to perceiver. 

  9. Themes and melodies – Are crucial for Hollywood movies. Even if its a hybrid score, you will have this terminology said to you time and time again. 

  10. Earning A living –

  11. Composer Assistant – Being an assistant to a composer is a way of earning although its usually nothing really other than cleaning up audio and helping out occasionally. Note: Composers named such as Martin Phillips and the prolific Hans Zimmer came up as composers who are known to give emerging composers opportunities within the realms of composing cues etc.  

  12. Music/Audio Editor – A job to defiantly consider. Involves being responsible for compiling, editing, and syncing music for, in this case, film. Note: Oscar winning composer Steven Price started off by being a audio editor until he suck his music into a informal editing session for gravity.

  13. Royalties & Music Libraries – Way to get your music into Television (BBC1, Channel 4 and ITV). E.g. Audio Network, EMI etc. Look for things that certain libraries maybe don’t have enough of in styles and genres. 

  14. On the subject of Freebies – Always do something in exchange for something. Whether it be something to help you in earning a living, a film credit, additional experience etc. Film Festival opportunities won’t do too much for you. 

  15. To Be a composer for film you must:

  16. Watch, listen, analyse until a film is engrained. Know what film music does. Become totally absorbed in it.

  17. Be versatile in your writing. At the same time if you want to do films… do short films. If you want to do library music… do that! Try not to choose too many areas. Specialise in your work. 

  18. Learn what Directors do. Learn what sound is doing a in a movie. Helps to understand and let go of your music. 

  19. Networking. Scour the internet for opportunities. (Mandy.com, Filmandtv.com). 

  20. Make the first 10 seconds of your track count. Making your music enticing from the get go, it must grab the listers attention straight away.

  21. Find your support network:

  22. Keep composer friends close to consult with on projects that may be challenging. A good way to release stress on a project, talking to someone who understands most likely exactly what you are going through. 

Sources: 

  1. Harwood, A (2018). Seminar: Industry Discussion – With Alexandre Harwood. Seminar notes, University of Hertfordshire, delivered 14th Nov 2018.. 

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