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Keeping the score in sync

June 12, 2005|Susan King

Melissa Muik

Music editor

Current projects: "Madagascar," the upcoming "The Weather Man"

Previous credits: "Spanglish," "Shark Tale"

Hitting the high note: "A music editor's primary relationship is with the composer. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with Hans Zimmer on the last few projects, and I am based at his studio [in Santa Monica]. I got involved in ["Madagascar"] when Hans got involved, which was the last few months of the project.

"You have this spotting session where you review the movie with the composer and directors and producers, and usually we do that here [at Zimmer's studio]. We critique the movie scene by scene and just figure out what type of music we need to aid the film. I take all the notes to make sure I have everybody's opinions and ideas in mind, like if they want something fast-paced in a scene or something light. Sometimes it is specific to an instrument -- they say, 'We want strings here, very subtle under the dialogue' -- things like that.

"I group cue by cue, where the music should start, where the music should end and the length -- all that kind of stuff. We rely heavily on the notes in the music-making process.

Composing: "Usually what Hans does is sit down and develop the overall themes for the movie. It's wonderful to hear what he comes up with. We need to get the themes approved, and ... that's when we start arranging and sit down with the movie and go scene by scene. We say, 'This is where we should supply the love theme'.... That is how the movie gets to evolve -- you actually connect the movie with this thematic material."

Collaborating with the film editor: "It's always great to establish a relationship with the picture editor because they see what has happened with the project from day one. With certain scenes changing, it is good to stay in touch with them every day. Sometimes reels are shortened and you have to balance the music and edit it according to the time."

Balancing act: "It is a technical and creative [job], and with Hans, he lets me be a lot more creative than maybe the job entails -- sitting with him while he writes the cues and asks my input. He has other composers here to help arrange the cues, so I do kind of a round robin and see what everyone is doing, and if I have notes, I give them notes."

Background: "I have played piano since I was little and studied classical and jazz. I went to music school at the Berklee College of Music and they had a production-engineering program there. I had some film classes and learned about the entire editing process. I actually had a friend who worked as an intern here, and they were looking for interns. That was during 'Black Hawk Down' in 2001. Hans had less than four weeks to write the music, and he needed another personal assistant to follow him around and make notes about what was going on. That's what I did for the entire movie, and then he hired me on his technical team. I helped build his studio here -- from wiring to software management, the maintenance of all of his equipment. It was pretty intense. During that whole technical-assistance period, I helped put together some of the [soundtrack] albums. Then I took a couple of months off and started doing this."

Union: The Motion Picture Editors Guild

Resides: Los Angeles

Age: 27

Salary: "One can make a good living. You get compensated for overtime because at Hans' place you do a lot of that. It's not crazy to do 90 hours a week."

-- Susan King

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