Writing His Future: Meet A Composer

By Lillia Alvarez

Andrew Scott Bell is a composer, writing original music for shows, including NBC’s Home Sweet Home, and films, including Lifetime’s Psycho Storm Chaser.

When Bell takes on a project, he first meets with the director and reviews the fully-edited film, a state called picture lock. As they go through the film, the director explains where the music will come in and what mood it should convey. This process is called a spotting session and will usually take one to two days. After Bell feels he has enough notes to perfectly capture the director's idea, he begins to compose the music. Once he is finished, he will send it back to the producer and await a confirmation or notes for changes. This part of the process can be stressful because of the possibility that he and the director are not on the same page, and he wasted his time on the wrong idea. Bell avoids this scenario by taking many notes and asking questions during the spotting session. The approved music is then sent to an orchestrator and orchestra, who perform and record the music. Bell will be on a call with the orchestra during the recording so he can provide critiques and ensure the final version sounds right. From there, it is mixed and put into the film. Bell’s favorite part of his job is the collaboration; he enjoys making new and original music with someone else. As he’s grown in the industry, he’s experienced more and more success, working on a variety of projects ranging in size and scope. In 2009, however, when he saw his name in the credits of a film for the first time, he remembers telling himself, “Make sure you don’t get used to this.”

One of Bell’s most memorable projects was the anthology film Deathcember, which was produced using multiple directors and composers worldwide. The lead producers were so impressed with his work in one of the pieces that they hired him to compose the main theme. An orchestra in Budapest played his work as he watched over Skype. Watching 80 people play the music he composed was an incredible experience, Bell reflected. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Bell scored a student film titled Rocket, which went on to win a 2016 Student Academy Award, a student-submissions subdivision of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Past student winners have gone on to earn dozens of Academy Award nominations and 11 wins, so Bell feels very grateful to have been a part of the film.

To a student interested in being a film composer, “Just start,” says Bell. There are many free programs available that can be used on almost any computer. Bell reminds himself and others that “the active verb for music is to play:” enjoy practicing, experimenting, and finding your voice as a musician. There is no shortage of media that needs to be composed. Bell encourages young composers to find people around them making movies and offer to compose them.

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