Photo by Dave Keffer, Kefski Creative Services
April 14, 2020
Imagine watching your favorite TV show without any music in its sound track. TV production insider Steve Mulholland explains the magic of music breathing life into a television story.
Steve Mulholland has over 30 years of experience creating content for television. He is a writer, producer and director, whose clients have included Disney-ABC Television Networks, Amazon Prime, Warner Bros. Studios, NBCUniversal Networks and The CW network. Steve’s work has supported TV series including The Man in the High Castle, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and Supernatural.
- How does a TV show come into existence?
- At what point in this process does music factor into the discussion?
- How integral is music to a TV show’s plot and viewer experience?
- Before going out on his own with creative partner, Emily Burton last year, Steve was the creative director at Hodder, a boutique television marketing agency and creative services company, located in Minneapolis and Burbank. Steve led the development and execution of strategic and creative marketing content across diverse media.
- Steve’s passion for television and visual storytelling found its roots in sports broadcasting and it was there where he entered the industry as a sports producer at the CBS affiliate WCCO Television in Minneapolis.
Improv from Steve
Music plays a critical role in the kind of content we create for our entertainment clients and it is one of five key elements in our work. Our content is comprised of images, voices, sound effects, graphics/animation and music. In almost all cases, music is used as score for our content, to create the right feeling or mood. As we are writing, building and crafting our story, in most situations it is counter-productive to be editing the music along with everything else. But a piece of entertainment that is intended to have music presented WITHOUT music can be a very unpleasant viewing experience. You are watching this piece of content and saying to yourself, this feels wrong or incomplete or lacking in pace, rhythm, emotion. But we are forced to watch rough cuts of our work without music for the reasons I mentioned above. But this absence of music allows us to focus on the message, the narrative, whatever you want to call it. We ask ourselves, does the story make sense? Is it interesting? Is it flowing? So this is kind of a litmus test for us. If the story has continuity, it has flow and it’s keeping me interested, it must be working. It’s at this point that we introduce music to our piece of content and it is at this point where it magically – and I have to use the word ‘magically’ in a literal sense because I really have no musical background and do not know ‘technically’ how it works – it magically transforms our story, our message, our content. It comes alive on a level far beyond the words you hear and the images you see. It really is magic.
So, not everyone has an edit system with discreet tracks of movies and videos at their disposal. But there is content online, on YouTube, in which you can hear voice tracks of recording artists without the accompanying music. Freddy Mercury is one that comes to mind, singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Somebody to Love.” If you search “Freddy Mercury voice track,” you will find a number of songs with just his voice track; and while Freddy’s voice was amazing, it really demonstrates the power that musical collaboration has and how it can transform anything.
Steve shares a recent story of being struck with the magic that is music:
I think music is more important now than ever. Throughout my life I’ve had countless situations where I am driving in my car, a song comes on the radio, and it transports me to a certain place in time or it may lead me to remember an experience I had in school or it might make me think about my Dad who passed away twenty years ago but whom I think about every day.
Recently, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting very serious in the U.S., my wife and I were watching “Yesterday,” a film that posits the idea that The Beatles never existed but there is one person on the planet remembers them. He happens to be a struggling musician and he decides to recreate all the songs of The Beatles and it takes the world by storm. That’s as far as I want to go with the plot because I don’t want spoilers for anyone and everyone should watch this film. It sounds a bit gimmicky but it’s really a wonderful film and one of the many things that hit me as I watched the film is the enormity and the importance of the music that The Beatles created. Not just the volume of songs but the originality and the creativity that is truly genius. You see and hear so many of their songs all at once in this film and it’s kind of overwhelming. And you realize that this music is as old as time itself. For someone of my age, I have heard this music my entire life. It’s as ubiquitous as the sound of the birds singing or the wind blowing. And as I watched this film, it hit me just how miraculous it was that The Beatles ever existed. Because they could just have easily never existed. What if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a falling out back in high school or something? It sounds crazy but it’s true and it could apply to hundreds of other artists whose music we are so fortunate to listen to. A million things needed to happen for The Beatles to become The Beatles and we are so fortunate they did. So this long story is really just to emphasize how important music is to us as human beings. It’s the soundtrack of our lives and it’s the magical force that transcends all. Enjoy it, appreciate it and let it lift you up.
Thanks so much to Steve for joining us today. Thank you listeners for joining us today. Congratulations to listener Betsy in Wellington, FL, who is the winner of our free book giveaway. Betsy will be receiving a copy of Dr. Indre Viskontas’ book, “How Music Can Make You Better.” Thank you, Betsy, for listening to Enhance Life with Music and for sharing the show with others – I really appreciate it, and hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!
I don’t know about you, but since we’ve been quarantining, I have really been enjoying social media. I really do feel like it provides a social outlet and a way for me to socialize and chat with and see people outside of the 3 other people who live with me! I always enjoy hearing from listeners – and more than ever, now! Let me know how music has been enhancing your life during your quarantine, or just say “hi.” You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can also always reach me through email or by leaving a comment on my website.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.
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