The Art of the Score


by David Toth

Following our meeting on January 2, I posed some questions to Patrick as he embarks on writing the score for First Rites. This blog’s mission was always to shed light on the various aspects of filmmaking in a way that provides practical and actionable tips for fellow filmmakers. In addition to being a genuinely nice person, Patrick is also very articulate about the demands and nuances of his profession.

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Patrick Neil Doyle (middle) in the recording studio.

1. How did you first hear about First Rites? 

I first heard about First Rites when I was working in Prague on a play with the film’s leading actor Karel Hermanek Jr. At the afterparty, Karel described in detail to me a fantastic short film he had just completed shooting in New York and how he was really keen to get me involved. The film sounded right up my street and very quickly I was on board and discussing the plans for the music.

2. What stood out to you about the source material (the short story?) 

The particular moment in the original short story that stood out to me was the unexpected and dramatic twist that lends itself perfectly to a short film. I love moments like this in both literary and visual storytelling that change the course of events and make you want to watch or read the whole piece again just to see how it differs on the second go.

3. You’ve seen part of the rough cut.  How do the visuals line up with what was in your head when you read the story? 

There is a vast amount of detail that I absolutely could not have foreseen when reading the short story or script. From what I have seen of the rough cut, First Rites gives you not only a wonderful insight into the lives of these characters but into the surroundings and passers-by of New York City that I could not have predicted. David and I instantly began discussing the possibility of using some form of diegetic music (music heard by the characters themselves), possibly in the form of music coming for a car, set of headphones, or a shop – these are all great for positioning the film in a certain time period or location.

4. What is your process like?  Do you watch a rough cut and make notes?  Do you hear musical themes already, or does that come with a deeper reflection about the piece? 

My musical brain kicks into gear straight away when watching any rough cut, so I like to start making notes and thinking in depth about the score early on. Once I’ve seen the entirety of a film (short or feature) I am able to work pretty swiftly, having sat down and discussed with the director where we are both planning on placing original music. More often than not a musical theme or sonic palette comes straight away, and so I need to have my tools ready and open to start fleshing it out before I start kicking myself for not having jotted it down or played it in.

5. In the case of First Rites, what do you think is the “job” of the score?  

In this case, the score I think will be a very useful tool in painting a more detailed portrait of our main character. I believe the job of the music will be to bring us into his thoughts, feelings and afflictions. The film is a first person account of the events of one day, and so an appropriate score will be essential in order to create a musical through-line between the events that unfold before us. Prior to discussing the music with David, I had already heard a strong element of religiosity in the music when reading the script, and so it was wonderful to hear that this is also what David had envisaged for the score. That being said, the plan very often evolves after embarking on a score and so the final outcome may indeed differ along the way.

6. How do you know when you’ve arrived at a place where the score is finished? 

I think the score is one of many elements of the film that is only finished when the whole entity is completed. For instance, if the sfx/dialogue mix is produced long after the music for the film is written then that may affect what choices I have already made about the music, at which point I am more than happy to readdress or re-mix parts of the score. When the musical score has achieved the overall desired effect, and blends with all the other elements at play, then I’m usually pretty confident the score is finished.

7. What is the ideal collaborative process like with the director of the film that you are scoring? 

I don’t think I have an ideal collaborative process when working with a director, as sometimes I am very grateful for detailed descriptions about what they would like from the music, but other times I enjoy the opportunity to fully experiment. When possible, I like to be in the room or on the phone with a director as they first listen to a new music cue, just so I can hear about their first impression of the scene now with music. Essentially this is the closest experience to what the film’s audience is going to have, so it is great for me to get to talk in detail about this moment with the director.

8. Do you have an overarching career goal as a composer?  Types of projects you want to work on, specific directors, genres?  

I’m enjoying getting to work in a variety of different genres and platforms at the moment, with a whole host of great directors. Every project brings something completely new and I’m constantly learning. My overarching career goal is to continue to broaden my horizons and compose music for exciting films that truly move their audience with their story and music.

For more information about Patrick go to:

For more information about FIRST RITES and to see the trailer go to:

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