Peter Golub is a multi-faceted composer who works in film, theater and concert halls. Since 1999 he has been the director of the Sundance Film Music Program, where he runs the yearly Composers Lab. Film scores include Frozen River (which was nominated for Academy Awards for best actress and best screenplay), The Great Debaters (directed by Denzel Washington and co-composed with James Newton Howard), and The Laramie Project (for HBO, directed by Moises Kaufman). Recent Broadway scores include The Country House, The Heiress, and Time Stands Still. He has written numerous works of chamber music, as well as vocal and orchestral concert works. Peter taught composition at both Bennington College and Reed College.
Usually I have a music editor and a mixer. I have faith in them and I hand it over to them. I have never been a situation where I didn’t do the writing for myself. Even if I on occasion had an assistant flesh something out it’s still my music, and of course I give comments and notes and fixes, so I’m deeply involved.
I think one is very fortunate to find mentors that inspire you, and the best education is a combination of study and trial and error. You don’t really learn it until you try it.
The middle of the budget landscape has disappeared. Films with budgets between five and twenty million dollars aren't made much any more. The majority of films are either small or blockbusters. That has impacted every aspect of film making including music. Composers need to make sure the budget will allow them to write the score that the movie needs. In cases where this isn't possible, they have to be creative to get more out of few forces. It's important to be up front with directors and producers early on if they haven't budgeted for what the film requires.
Time deadlines tend to clarify the mind. When you’re on a movie you have a certain amount of music to write in a fixed number of days. When you realize you need to write 4 or 5 minutes of music each day, then you make it happen. When you only have so many days to produce so many minutes of music you find a way to do it.
Most limitations a composer faces can be worked around with creativity, but there's one insurmountable limitation. When a low budget film has a need for size it can be a problem, because MIDI can't replicate the combined efforts of an orchestra very well. You can find ways to go in another direction, but that’s certainly a constraint. Not every movie wants size, but when the film is a large canvas it’s a major challenge to score with limited means.
I like to start compositions over. I like to give options to directors, especially in the beginning while I’m still finding my way into a film score. The first idea came on one particular day after one particular lunch. It's good to try something else. If you just do one option and your director doesn’t love it right away, then you have to wait for the next meeting when you’ll have another shot at that scene. It can really slow things down. If you present two options it will give you more information and can cut out an extra meeting because you have something to compare the first one to.