From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Directors: Part 3

Hans continues his discussion on what makes a great director and what makes a great relationship between composer and director.

Topics include: Working with Directors • Developing the Relationship


Hans continues his discussion on what makes a great director and what makes a great relationship between composer and director.

Topics include: Working with Directors • Developing the Relationship

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

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If you just look at the Ridley Scott movies, Thelma and Louise is a very different aesthetic musically from Gladiator's is a very different aesthetic from Black Rain is a very different style from Matchstick Men. What else did I do with Rid? Black Hawk Down, Hannibal. I mean they're all, they're completely, stylistically, they're very, very different. And he's very, very different as well in them. Because that's the whole thing. I mean, one of the reasons I think he's such a great director is because he's interested in so many things. And he can get passionate about so many things. There's an underlying aesthetic and a huge amount of knowledge and craftsmanship that goes with being able to, are we going to go and tell the story of Hannibal Lecter, are we going to tell the story of a battle in Mogadishu, are we going to tell the story of some con man in the valley. So, or a gladiator. So, really I know, I just know this about him. I feel this, I've never talked about this. But if I had to sum it all up, as he's genuinely interested in people and he's genuinely interested in stories. And everybody looks at the amazing way he shoots things and the amazing compositions and the amazing eye he has and the amazing artistry. But underneath, underneath, underneath, all that, the foundation for all of that is, he wants to go and tell a good story. I think at the end of the day, the director composer relationship comes down to something. It has to come down to trust, because the director is sort of in charge of everything during the shooting of the movie. He can look through your camera and he can probably adjust a few things here. He can probably do a line reading for an actor if he really has to. But when it comes to a composer, he has to trust me. Because if he says to me, a nice C major chord here would be the perfect thing, it's meaningless. I see it so often that filmmakers find it hard to take the step off the cliff, because that's really what it is. Not, they've been involved in the script, they've been involved in the casting, they've been involved in everything. And by being involved, I mean they had language, and eyes, and whatever, words to control the situation, to control their movie. And then they suddenly get to that bit of we need music. And whatever words they use, whatever it is, how ever articulate they are, it's still not going to get the music written. So they have to go and hand over literally the baton to the composer. And, oh God, the second movie I did over here for Ridley Scott, Black Rain. And I had heard that Ridley had a bit of a reputation of not sticking with the composer sometimes beyond the first session. So I just said to him, Ridley, what will it will take for me not to get fired? He said, simple, don't write me a symphony. I knew exactly what he meant. He said, write, surf the movie, enhance the...

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.

I have been inspired to create more music. Even though I'm more in the pop/hip hop production side of things with a few composing credits for short form projects, this Masterclass has revealed some other aspect of the music creation industry that I would like to explore further.

I have learned how important story is at the core of film scoring. The musicians are your actors, and you are their director. What an incredible opportunity to learn from a master like Hans.

Love this. Very practical yet creative advice.

Extremely helpful and interesting. I maybe wouldn't have minded just a little bit more on the technical/software side of things. On the other hand, Hans makes it very clear that there is no substitute for real-world experience, which I'm looking forward to getting later this year. I would definitely recommend the class.


Rudy B.

Given my background I can attest that Leadership is an art developed over time and through experience. I'm not a director but I know how I want to tell the story or complete the task. That's when your leadership style becomes important especially when your working with seasoned professionals. Leadership should then take on a less forceful but more inclusive form to obtain the teams willingness & belief in your vision to compete the take. This goes along way to ease stress on budget, time and the team.

Mike B.

He references the Hannibal Soundtrack which was my favorite by Hans, though another composer wrote that wonderful final track.

Paul F.

Just a thought about how to understand the director / ego. Sure there's lots of arrogant director types out there. but there's an undertone of fear hiding in there. Let me explain. In film everyone can get replaced at any given time. A director has a finite amount of time, and a finite amount of money to create something that the producer has faith in for both. The ego in the director can be a mix of being the "only man for the job" while also being at risk of getting dropped tomorrow. 1 in 8 films that begin get completed. 1 in 8 of them break even financially. Knowing that any director full well knows there's a 1 in 800 chance of breaking even in this town, you've got alot of stress, plus... plus.. You're wanting to create something that shows how good you are at bringing your emotional language to the screen because you want to make damn sure you're being hired by top notch producers, and not another indie where financing can be pulled at any time. Simply put the director knows there's dozens of factors and people that can put him out of a job. Knowing this may help when dealing with the next director. Especially when he needs to know you can create for the vision he promised the producers that got him the job in the first place. And this goes back to seeing him as "just a guy."

Tony C.

This has been very inspiring. I always the same arguments with co-workers and I had not looked at it that maybe we were both so passionate about the same things that we just butted heads, I think I need to revisit my collaborations a bit differently.

Anna J.

Im just working on this track now. Making a classic build up for the drop. What do you think?

Brian M.

Its interesting to hear how connected people can be in the creative process. Listening to each other, experimenting, caring about the outcome, but not attached to the specifics.

Robert A.

Yeah the director needs to know what he wants for his film. But he also needs to trust his music composer. Awesome stuff Hans, thank you!!!. Onward!!!.


Lots of good advice, tips and ideas. Be PASSIONATE is definitely the TOP one!

Jonathan S.

If no one is passionate about the project, you're in trouble. Now that you have everyone caring, talk. Rind a solution. Invent. Sounds like something that would work in politics, too. It's just that the thing everyone is passionate about can't be making themselves and their friends rich. (Oops! Got a little off topic there.)

Elizabeth P.

In this and in the discussion about temp music, I wondered how often the director or composer started with a tempo in mind, or a question about which tempo, because of pacing and climax in the story. Do composers ever start with a percussive phrase or them, rather than a melodic theme or a modality? Of course, the real point of his talk is about openness and putting aside ego and preconceptions to keep looking for the best treatment.