Case Study
MarketHold Productions: Sound Strategies

King's Faith Movie Score Taking Shape In Rochester

Major brand managers and commercial business owners throughout the country are well acquainted with MarketHold Productions in Penfield, New York. They have collaborated with the audio and video production services company since its beginnings in 1994. Since that time, the company, which is owned and operated by Rochester-born Steve Bartolotta, has conceived and collaborated on the production of advertising campaigns for companies that include the ESPN, Eastman Kodak Company, Walt Disney, Ford Motor Company, Marriott Hotels, Touchstone Pictures and many, many more. The company specializes in creating original music for broadcast commercial advertising projects and offers a range of videography, audio production, editing and post-production services to its client base of production and recording companies, advertising agencies, training companies, independent producers and a variety of B2B clients.

With all of these capabilities in his creative arsenal it was no surprise that Nicholas DiBella, a good friend and business colleague for more than 15 years, would call on Steve Bartolotta to help him produce and score his latest film project, “King’s Faith.”

The movie is a faith-based, independent, major length motion picture shot entirely in Rochester. As one of several local business owners wearing the executive producer’s hat for the movie, Bartolotta was charged with securing and coordinating a diverse group of vendors, service organizations and local technical professionals to orchestrate the delivery of their services to streamline the behind the scenes work necessary to complete the movie in less than six weeks.

Now, he is working behind his keyboard, guitars and computers to bring the film’s message to life with music and sound. DiBella asked him to compose all of the original music that will become the film’s score and will use mini-excerpts produced from the score to help market and promote the film. The work begins even before the film’s director and editors have completed the editing process.

“Scoring a feature film can be similar to other commercial productions, but the main differences are timing and tone. For “King’s Faith,” my job is to translate to the audience the emotional footnotes and the inner voices of the movie’s characters to support and enhance the story that evolves from beginning to end. Interpreting a character musically is one of the essential connections you must make with the audience. The scoring may take anywhere from four to six months. The time frame may also be shorter depending upon a number of variables that both DiBella and Bartolotta are in control of.

Nick DiBella, who is the film’s co-writer as well as the director, shot from the screenplay but will continue to re-envision the final film, throughout the editing process. He has placed his trust in Bartolotta because of his past collaboration on many other film projects. He knows that Bartolotta will work diligently to translate the emotion of his film in a way that will reach those who will view it.

To Bartolotta, this is not just another scoring job. It is a joy because he was raised with access to the fine and performing arts as a result of his parent’s appreciation for music, art and cultural pursuits. Music has been an essential part of his life and has made it a passion, pursuit, and a pass time.

Bartolotta explains it this way. “My canvas is sound and my sound palette may be piano, guitar, bass, orchestral instruments and string pads. Writing a piece of music is like creating a great gourmet meal. You have to know which ingredients are going to work well with the base of the dish. It can be a little risky, but people need to know that scoring is not just sitting at my keyboard and playing notes. It’s about the combination of notes, how loud or soft, the keys the songs are in, and much more.”

He says some of his best ideas come to him in the middle of the night as inspiration. He’ll jot a few ideas down and go straight to the studio to try to capture the feeling of the music that was in his head, and his dream. As he watches the film as it is being edited, he will compose the score by taking groups of notes, chords, and refrains and arranging them to capture the essence of a particular scene in the movie or to dramatically underscore the entire theme of the movie reflecting the film’s sentiment and points of view. “Sometimes that is easier said than done,” said Bartolotta.

He cites John Williams’ academy-award winning music as a formidable example. “When you play just a few notes of Williams’ original score for Jaws you know immediately what you are about to hear. He utilized just two notes to set the tone for the most suspenseful, scary movie theme that has ever been produced,” he said. “Of course he did the same with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, E.T. and the list goes on and on. His music genius became an integral part of every movie he has scored. That is the power of a dramatic theme song or music score. The great ones catapult the movie into legendary status.”

The technical aspects of scoring a film are about combining the highs and lows of instrumental music with unusual tones and sounds to make up the background as well as the foreground music that is essentially the composition or song that is built upon the melody, rhythm and harmony created by the musician or composer. Fortunately, Bartolotta is both. Scoring the film will demand that he create both a compelling backdrop that will resonate throughout the movie, and be appealing enough to resonate with the movie-goer. This process requires being aware of the action in the movie so the score does not take over but rather enhances the movement that is playing out on the screen.

Creating the overall signature sound for a movie is not easy. It requires input from many sources. As he does with all of his creative client productions, he will call upon the ideas and suggestions of his multi-talented Markethold staff to assist him in “sculpting” the score. “Writing original music is like working with clay for me, and everyone has their own style. You take your clay block and put more on and take some away. As your ear listens to a musical composition it helps you edit and hone the work so that the final product translates the message that you wish to convey. You might think you really have something good that works. You will write and arrange and play and repeat that process until you come up with a theme that blends the melody in your head with the right chords, and harmony to make the piece memorable. Or, you throw it away and start again.”

The director understands that process from a different point of view but the goal is the same. Rewrite the script and rework the scenes until they can allow the actors to deliver the performance that captures the fullness of the creator’s vision. Bartolotta is committed to doing the same with his original score.

The purpose of making King’s Faith was to create awareness about God and to move people to restore faith in their lives. Our music score will help to translate Nick DiBella’s message of hope and faith to people who are struggling and we hope they will find it a compelling interpretation that they can use to strengthen their own courage and resolve to change their own lives.”