Finale, Collaborating on Music for Television, and The Event (Part 2)

Tim Davies conducting an episode of NBC’s The Event – Photo by Jeremy Levy

Last week we took a behind-the-scenes look at the TV show The Event, following the music creation process from composer inspiration to orchestration. This week we’ll pick up where music copyist Mark Cally takes over.

Tim Davies explains: “Music copying for sessions is a little different than copying for a concert piece. Mark spaces the music out quite a bit and breaks up the rests a lot. This makes it easy to quickly start anywhere in the cues, and leaves space for the players to write in any new notes that may be added during the session.”

Mark takes full advantage of Finale’s Linked Parts feature, keeping both the score and parts in one file – really handy should last minute changes be made later. It’s also interesting to note that there is just one version of the score; Mark and his team don’t add a date or a version number to the file name as they make changes. That said, Dropbox does provide them with the ability to undelete and restore previous versions of any file.

Then the music gets proofed again. Tim notes: “The process moves so fast it is really important to get fresh eyes on everything. We don’t have spare time during the session to fix anything, so everything must be perfect.” Next the music gets placed in a “Proofed” folder, Mark prints the score and parts, then tapes all the pages appropriately. Would you like to see what the final results look like? Here’s a sample part and score from the show, as well as an excerpt of the original sketch.

The truly crazy part is this: From the time Jeremy receives the first cue from Scott, this team has less than three days until the downbeat of the session. That’s pretty sobering for those of us who spend weeks refining the some tiny aspect of our work.

On the day of the recording session, Mark brings all the printouts, as well as his computer, and is ready to make any changes that might be too involved for a quick dictation. Sometimes there is a last-minute picture change, forcing Scott to write some revisions, and Jeremy and Mark re-orchestrate, copy and print again while Tim conducts the orchestra. (Tim also has his MacBook on the podium, running Finale, in case a question comes up and he needs to reference the sketch score or other files.)

Tim refers to the session as the fun part: “We get to work with amazing musicians who can play anything we put in front of them. Because we have the same core group each session they know what to expect and we don’t have to work anything out, they just play it. Everything is on the page and we rarely change the orchestrations, we just record.” From there engineer Steve Kaplan mixes this music with other elements of the show until the final product meets with Scott’s approval.

There is not much downtime for the team of Jeremy, Tim, and Mark. In addition to the next episode of The Event, they are always involved in other projects as well. They just finished working on Sony’s inFAMOUS 2 video game and are currently working on the next Batman game for Warner Brothers. And those are just team projects; Tim also orchestrates No Ordinary Family each week and writes for the Tim Davies Big Band. Mark plays guitar with Royal Crown Review. Jeremy copies for American Idol, The Tonight Show, and has a big band of his own, the Budman/Levy Orchestra, aka BLO, with saxophonist Alex Budman.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the world of music for television. Please share your questions or observations by clicking on “Comments” below.

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