image for Showreel scoring project brings together Icon Films and Bristol University

Showreel scoring project brings together Icon Films and Bristol University

Published on Thursday, 4th July 2013
A showreel scoring project has brought together Icon Films and students on the University of Bristol MA Composition for Film and Television course. Composer Will Goodchild tells us how it all came about.

I approached Icon Films with the idea of having students write and produce music for Icon’s wildlife showreel. Icon would be looking for a strong contemporary track to help promote its work on-line. The students’ compositions would constitute one of four assignments I was setting for them and therefore formed part of their academic assessment. More importantly, however, it would bring their work to the attention of an internationally established production company creating a broad range of factual content for the major broadcasters – a great opportunity for the students’ work to be heard and assessed by industry professionals.

The students were given the task of scoring a 2’30 piece to picture. The music needed to be dramatic, adventurous and pacy. The score would help tie the sequence together as well as highlight and accent key moments in the film. A guide track laid to picture gave a rough idea as to feel, tempo and progression, but the students were asked to compose an entirely new and distinctive piece of music. An important consideration was for the students to create a satisfactory mix that allowed for voice-over/ commentary to cut through as placed.

The students’ pieces to picture, once completed, were given to Icon Films. Directors Harry and Laura Marshall and Marketing Manager Belinda Biggam, listened to all sixteen, and selected three winners: Alex Burnett, Oliver Howlett and Andreas Michalopoulos.

Out of the project came an additional result. Icon Films decided to commission one of the composers to score the Icon short film One Planet Living. For this they chose Joe Newton.

Thank you to Icon Films for taking part in this industry/ university collaboration. It’s been a great experience for all the students and an outstanding opportunity for the four winners.

You can see all the wining compositions by going to

The winning compositions:

Alex Burnett 

The Icon Films showreel presented an interesting challenge for me as a composer as it was both a promotional video and an emotionally engaging story about endangered species. With that dual function in mind, I decided to produce an orchestral-based track that would have emotional flexibility as well as strength of impact. One aspect that I often focus on when writing music is fluidity and, for this showreel, I felt that was particularly important given the montage style of the visuals. The music would serve to bind the images together and create a sense of continuity. The score does, however, go through several important developments. After the sound logo and impactful opening, piano, strings, and an ethereal voice provide the images of these endangered animals with a sense of poignancy. The piece then builds with rhythmic strings and percussion mirroring the increasing pace and emotion of the story. As the showreel progresses I introduce synthesised sounds to give the music a more modern feel. This then develops into an electronica-style percussive accompaniment whilst still retaining the undulating strings throughout as a thematic glue. At the climax of the piece, the ethereal voice and piano return bringing the composition full circle.

Oliver Howlett

An Icon Films production always tells a great story. Whether exposing the illegal slow loris trade or solving the mystery of Buddha’s resting place, an Icon film is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. I remember being struck by how varied and exciting the footage was in the showreel, and I knew it would be a challenge composing music that would match those stunning images.

Icon Films has taken their productions all around the world, so conveying this global aspect through a diverse instrumental palette was important. An African drum rhythm was my weapon of choice to drive the images forward and to give a necessary sense of location. Icon Films' fresh and contemporary approach to film-making also guided my music down an electronic route. The combination of acoustic and synthetic elements create an impression of continuity across the sequence’s range of emotions. A dubstep-inspired electronic rhythm accompanies western strings and African voices to link them together. Lush harmonies convey the natural beauty of the animals.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to showcase my work with Icon Films. I hope you enjoy watching the showreel as much as I did when composing the music for it!

Andreas Michalopoulos

Scoring a wildlife showreel for an internationally-established production company was stimulating and challenging. The idea was to compose a strong, contemporary, yet dramatic and adventurous piece of music that would give the sequence a distinctive identity and original voice. Simultaneously, I wanted to give the piece a commercially appealing quality. My timbral palette choices were triggered by an aspiration to integrate acoustic instruments with synthesised sounds, along with elements of sound design. Therefore, I used orchestral software samples and synths along with recorded and manipulated sounds of live instruments, voice and objects. My ultimate goal was to provide Icon Films with a conceptually-unified composition that reflected and responded to the astonishing visual scenery.