Filmmaking is always a team sport. Everyone from the executive producers to PA’s have equally important roles in making the film look as good and complete as possible. One of the most important pieces of the completed film is the score and sound design. Without music, a film lacks the ability to emote, intensify, and even scare its audience. a good score can mean the difference between a good film and a classic. Here’s a little test to prove just how important music is. Pick your favorite film, and watch it on mute. Notice just how much of the film relies on a good score, and how empty the film feels without it. This week’s Featured FearMaker is Lauren Morris, who has been making music for over forty years, and scoring horror films for over a decade.
Originally from Bakersfield, California, Lauren was not a horror fan as a child. Her love of music came first, focusing on traditional Irish music. Learning multiple instruments, Lauren developed a talent for playing and recording music, which was honed at Berklee College of Music, the prestigious music school located in Boston, Massachusetts. She has released two albums of traditional Celtic music with her West Coast band, Celticana, which were both well received.
She eventually moved to Austin, Texas where she has been doing foley work and sound design since 2005. Her appreciation for horror didn’t come until 2010, when she began to work on her first horror project. “ I find horror to be an extremely creative place to be in terms of combining music and sound design.” Says Morris about working designing sound for horror. She found that her background with Celtic music would provide an excellent backdrop to her horror soundtracks. “As a traditional Irish musician, drones and melody are a huge influence in my work and they work well in horror to tell the story.“
When it comes to designing sound and scores to horror, there is not simple solution. “All the screaming, the foley, the music and just making the walls talk, takes a lot of skill in terms of creating multi dimensional sound that really works to support the film.” The ambient sounds and swells make any film, especially horror. “It just takes a lot of skill to make it come out with integrity.” And that is exactly what Lauren Morris is known for. She works with her company, Scorpion Sound, from her home studio in Texas. There she records all her scores, songs, foley, and everything else she works tirelessly on.
If making a low budget film wasn’t hard enough, seldom does any production team take some budget aside for sound design and music. It is said that 20% of the budget should be dedicated to post production, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen most of the time. Post production and sound design are often oversights, left to the last minute with whatever is left of the budget. To score a feature film, 3-4 weeks are needed to ensure the score is recorded, mixed, mastered, and placed. However, when editors are pushing back deadlines for picture lock, a necessity when scoring, it can be tough to make something great.
Lauren manages to keep her head in her work, working throughout all the challenges that she must face as a film composer and sound engineer. One of her latest projects, Circus of the Dead, has been receiving several awards and other recognitions at the many festivals it has been screened. The film follows a family man who visits a big top circus, only to find the clowns have their own sick and twisted sense of humor. The film stars Bill Oberst Jr., Parrish Randall, and Chanel Ryan, directed by ‘Bloody’ Bill Pon
Sound design is an important and intimate part of filmmaking. It is what makes the difference between a happy scene or a sad one, a calm situation and a hectic one. As Lauren puts it, “Get in bed with sound. Love it and use it to your advantage.” Don’t underestimate the importance of a well seasoned sound engineer, who can turn your film into an experience with the right touches.
Lauren does work continuously and is always available for hire, head over to her website for more information.