Working with the Composer

June 12, 2021 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

How to find, hire and work with a film composer, from the demo process to finished picture. The instructor’s musical palette and style will guide the discussion, along with real-life case studies from a variety of feature, documentary, and fine art films. Emphasis is placed on developing strategies for successful communication between director and composer, the key to making beautiful music together.


  • Connecting with composers Film score sources (original, licensed, public domain, live captured, sound design)
  • Typical contracts, budgets and timelines Work that occurs before a composer is hired (the temp score, music demos)
  • After a composer is hired ((the spotting session, the cue sheet, score workbooks) Giving notes and feedback (glossary of film music terms for directors) Final stages (the music mix, filing cue sheets) How to license music for film (obtaining master and sync rights)
  • Getting to know the film music team (music supervisors, music editors, copyists)
  • Filmmakers at all experience levels are welcome, as are musicians interested in film composing. Interaction with the instructor is highly encouraged.

Instructor: Mark Orton

Mark Orton, founding member of the genre-bending acoustic chamber ensemble TIN HAT, has written original scores or contributed music to numerous dramatic and documentary films including NEBRASKA, MY OLD LADY, SWEET LAND, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED, BUCK, FROM THE ASHES, THE GOOD GIRL, THE BOX TROLLS, PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS, Fernando Meirelles’ 360, Ken Burns’ ROOSEVELTS series, and Pixar’s LOOP. Recent and upcoming projects include the features CHARMING THE HEARTS OF MEN, THE LAST SHIFT, and Sony Pictures Classic’s 12 MIGHTY ORPHANS. An alumnus of the Peabody Conservatory and the Hartt School of Music, and the recipient of a Sundance Institute Composer Fellowship, he was nominated Best New Composer by the International Film Music Critics. Mark is a multi-instrumentalist and collector of antique and unusual musical instruments, which he often employs in his scores. He is a frequent contributor to both radio and podcast programming including THIS AMERICAN LIFE, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, the HEADLONG series, and WIND OF CHANGE. As an arranger, Mark has worked with artists including Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Mike Patton, and Madeline Peyroux. In addition, he continues to compose music for modern dance, radio drama, the circus and the concert hall. He lives in The Great Pacific Northwest with his wife and son.

Tuition: $175

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The Portland Art Museum is pleased to offer accommodations to ensure that our programs are accessible and inclusive. All spaces for this program are accessible by wheelchair. Assistive listening devices are also available for lectures. All restrooms have accessible stalls but no power doors. There are single-stall all-gender bathrooms available. Please ask staff for directions.

We will do our best to accommodate your needs when you arrive, however, we need 2-3 weeks advance notice for some specific requests. Please email requests to, or call 503-226-2811.