From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass


Learn how Hans gets to know his characters in order to create memorable themes for them.

Topics include: Approaching Character • Backstory • Relating to Them


Learn how Hans gets to know his characters in order to create memorable themes for them.

Topics include: Approaching Character • Backstory • Relating to Them

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

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You can get to know the characters in a film in two ways, and one I think is the wrong way. When I read the script I make up-- obviously I read the writer's words and the character does come across, but I'm suddenly becoming the actor, I'm suddenly becoming the character, and so usually my interpretation is wrong. Having Sherlock Holmes or Jack Sparrow or any of The Lion King, any of the characters I have worked with constantly have a German accent might be inappropriate to begin with. So the way I get to sneak up on it is partly talking to the director, who sometimes has a better sense of who the character is even than the actor himself, because by the time the actor inhabits the character-- and if you talk with great actors they are so inside that character that they can't describe it in an objective way anymore. So again, I usually come back to this very clumsy method, which is asking the director, tell me the story. Does this character have a past? Did some tragedy befall him in his youth, or something like this. What drives the character? What's hidden from us that we don't know about the character, that makes him behave in a certain way? That sets the whole thing into motion. And interesting characters do have a backstory, and sometimes you have to go and make one up for yourself. I remember sitting with Ron Howard and Peter Morgan on when we were doing Rush and the James Hunt character-- I mean, James Hunt, because obviously he existed in real life. There's a shot the camera travels past the cage with two-- in England they're called budgeries, these little canaries. And James Hunt actually-- after he quit racing-- he started a budgerie farm, he was breeding these birds. And there's a weird thing about these birds, that you always have to have two in a cage. If one is by themselves they die from loneliness, you always have to have a pair. And I just thought that James Hunt, who was so gregarious and so social, but in a weird way was so isolated from the world, that the thing that he was drawn to and that the thing that he truly loved were these birds that couldn't be in isolation. That was such a symbol of companionship I kept writing about-- you know, Rod was going, are we going to hear another tune about the budgies? But that's what I kept writing about, that was my way into it. All that happens is, in the movie-- usually-- you're just in a snapshot. It's usually a fully-formed human being, unless it's some origin story or it's like a biographical story that starts off with a baby and all [? sort of stuff. ?] You're in this moment in time where something happens that sets all sorts of things into motion, and you have conflict, and you have-- So why is the character dealing with the conflict or whatever obstacle are being put into his way in that way? And the other part of it is, why is the character going on this journey in the first place? Is it becau...

Tell a story with music

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

As a self tought person I'm used to beat around the bush. When someone gives you a hand things make sense much faster, so thanks again.

I love what Hans said that many great musicians secretly pulled off things they were advised against! Wonderful class. I did not yet finish. Found myself here.

I did this class because I am interested in filmmaking, and I want to learn and understand all aspects of it as best I can. I'm not a musician, nor do I plan on scoring my own films, but I took away so much useful information from this course that will help me out greatly in my future film career.

Many ideas come up when listen to Mr. Zimmers lessons. He tells his way but still you have to find your own way.


Alina D.

Music is really a main character in every film, it creates the ocean of emotions to the viewer. Score can make mediocre actors / scenes into stars Eg Vertigo one of my favorites and a classic when watched without the score (which I did) is not "tied together", performances are flat. Thank you for teaching. What an honor. Alina Demeter

A fellow student

So inspiring, since I hear HZ story, I starting to write something again. Even-though i dont have music background. I hope could get better from time to time. Here is what I learned from HZ story, based on character of person that lose his/her precious one. Feel free to drop comment for me to write better :)

Robert A.

I love this process of coming up with the right themes that represents the character aside from the music just being for the movie. Because you have to have themes that represent every aspect of your film. Thank you hans!!!

Kenneth S.

Developing the music, focusing on the frame of the character, is interesting. I always thought of developing the music around the theme of the scene... so it's a shift to think about the back story, the supporting story of the music, for the character. Ok, I'll be watching this over as well. But I also like hearing Hans own story, and how that popped into a film score, it's just an interesting tidbit... but reminds you that you can become emotionally involved or affected in or by the character-music creation process as well.


Good advice to focus on the CHARACTERS -- even with a back story... how he / she thinks, feels and behaves.

Jonathan S.

Oh, so it's not just a matter of writing for the emotion of a scene. There's a lot of depth here. It's a lot like what I do when I write novels. I have to understand these characters so what they say and do makes sense. You have to do that musically too.

Marcus M.

"Relate to the character" is a big one. Sort of immerse yourself in the story to create a good musical backdrop for the story...

Judith M.

I wish I could give you a hug, the whole German and British stiff upper lip thing can get too much...then we just have to find a way to smile. You answered in one fell swoop how your themes for Batman worked so well, you had an affinity with the character to a limited degree. It also sounded like you get into the person you are portraying in music scores, the same way an actor or writer would get into their head. Backstory and world feel very important to me, which is why I need to feel the characters living and breathing in my head before I write things down. Thank you for reminding those of us on the writing side of story to let others know the hidden details. I hadn't really thought of that effecting composers as well as actors. Thank you. Oh, and sometimes our characters do actually have a German accent, so you never know unless it is obvious of course.

Sandy Moonias

My script is about a character who goes on a journey to avoid a relationship. After her journey, she looks at that relationship in a new light and falls in love.

Brenda N.

I think diving as deeply into the characters as he does is what, in turn, gives his music such depth. His gift to us is encouraging us as composers to do the same.