Laura Iredale Student Interview | Collaboration and Music for Film

Laura Iredale joined our Advanced Diploma in October last year and comes to the end of her studies in a couple of weeks time. Having previously completed a classical music degree at the University of Nottingham and worked as a music teacher she decided to add production and audio engineering as additional strings to her bow. It is her passion for composing music for film that has led her down this route and working in film is ultimately the direction in which she wants to take her career.

Laura has been using her time whilst studying with us to gain practical hands-on experience working with musicians, film directors, and composers and to develop this network and the opportunities this creates. In this short student interview, we find out how Laura has established these connections, how they have adapted in the current climate and how she maintains those relationships once the studio session has finished.

Meet Laura Iredale!

Could you start by telling us about your background in music?
I’ve always played music. I started playing piano and guitar at primary school. The guitar was something that I was more interested in than piano at the time! However, I came to love the contrast between the classical training that comes with the piano and the more rock/pop guitar training. I played guitar in bands and also did a classical music degree which was really focused on composition, so there was always a marriage of the two disciplines – I never wanted to put myself in a box musically. 

Is film scoring the direction that you’re particularly interested in?
Yes, working as a film composer is definitely what I’m aiming for! I considered doing a film scoring Masters, a more traditional path into film scoring – if there is one! But I think film and media scoring now is such a fusion of elements, from classical orchestral writing to synthesis to production. Abbey Road is a really great place to learn all these elements because it’s always been innovative in its approach to music production and recording, and obviously there’s a huge history of recording iconic film scores. The Institute is a great place to develop your engineering and production skills while composing – it’s really brought together everything that I love.
It’s such an exciting time for film scoring in that music reaches ever wider audiences, through the most diverse platforms. Film composers are the rock stars of the modern era – without the pressures of being in the spotlight and having to smash TV’s to make a point (unless it’s for a specific sonic impact!) – and it’s this innovative and creative tradition that I would love to be part of.

Laura Iredale Custom
Laura at the Custom 75 in our studio

What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of short scores. A particularly interesting project with a director called Mike Peel who has made a documentary about his Grandad who was a war hero. It’s a really unique project covering war, its effect on people and also the impact of Alzheimer’s.

Another thing I’ve recently recorded is a string quartet for a composer called Robert Harvey for a Doctor Who audio drama, ‘The War Master – Killing Time.’ He wanted to use live musicians instead of samples for a key episode so it was really exciting to be able to contribute to creating an impactful episode. I’m also working on an upcoming feature film with a composer called James Peter Moffatt, and have been involved in a couple of projects with Rupert Uzzell. They’re similar kind of things – recording and mixing strings or quartet scores.

I also saw you’re working with a couple of bands?
Working in the industry now, there’s such a range of skills that you have to have to be successful. So as well as scoring and film-based sound I’m working with an ambient, indie-pop band called Kin, and that’s really exciting. I actually met them because I know the guitarist, but I also played with them. I supported them in their first ever gig! Since then they’ve really been pushing and promoting, and their first release has over 50,000 streams. They’ve done really well and have just released their second single, which is also doing great. 

We’re working on a couple of tracks. They’ve got a really focused idea of what their sound is now. They know what they’ve had success with. So I’ve been recording, producing and writing a couple of string arrangements for them and getting some tracks for them to move forward with. It was definitely strange to record them individually due to the COVID-19 guidelines. 

Laura Iredale recording KIN
Laura recording with lead singer Grace from KIN band

So how did you reach out to all these people and did any of them approach you? Did you approach them? How did you establish those connections?
I’ve been trying to find people online, as I say with these guys (KIN) I had a connection with them already. We’d already played gigs together and we knew each other personally as well. Also, they had really organically grown their following. That was kind of the place where I wanted to start, working with people that already had an idea of the sound they wanted so that I could contribute to and create and help push them forward.

I also posted messages online in different composer forums. Over lockdown, composer Michael Price ran a ‘Composer Coffee Break,’ a weekly Zoom chat with different composers in the film music sphere. There was a Facebook group that was created as a result of that so that people could connect and the discussion could continue. I posted in the group saying that I was looking to mix and engineer some scores, knowing that the people who were part of that group might not be as established and might be looking for people to work with, but might not be in a position to pay for a studio. So that was where a lot of my connections came from.

How do you choose which artists to approach? 
I think it’s probably like I said right at the beginning. My interests are partly classical and partly pop and rock. The things I’ve ended up recording are a real combination of those two things. So it’s partly just what I’m drawn to in terms of musical genres, and partly that I do the research about the bands and artists before approaching them. I’ve had responses from people and then once they send me either demos or links to SoundCloud accounts, I have to look at whether it’s something that’s right for me. It’s an investment of time for everybody. 

I think you’ve got to decide as much as the artist has to decide if the investment of your time is worth it for both parties. So that’s why I think I’ve wanted to work with people who have a really clear sound, have a really clear project in mind and something that’s going to have a positive outcome.

What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t got access to the equipment that you might have in a studio?
You know, I think even before COVID, the industry had changed so that it was possible to have a really amazing product that’s just created in a home studio. The example of the moment is Billie Eilish, where her first tracks were just recorded in a bedroom and it’s had global success.

Equipment shouldn’t limit what you think you can achieve. There are so many things that you can achieve with limited resources, and I think this is also what lockdown has helped in a positive sense. Online collaboration has really been enabled – ways you can feel like you’re in a room with people, working and collaborating even thousands of miles apart.

In a way, it’s made the world a bit smaller because a full film score can be recorded remotely. So I don’t think people should ever feel limited by where they are physically or how experienced they are or what equipment they can afford. I also think the industry is also starting to support people and diversity. There’s more funding available for people who can’t afford equipment or schemes and scholarships for people to apply to. 

How does collaboration inform your approach to how you work in the studio or in your production?
Music is such a collective expression of creativity and the best musical output is from groups of people with a shared goal. I’d promote the course in this sense because it’s been a great place to meet really talented people. It’s been useful because everyone has their own specific skill set and to be in the same room as each other or to have that kind of network of people that you can access all the time, it’s really important. Collaboration puts you in a nice position because you find other people who are on the same wavelength as you. That’s why working with KIN has been really great because it’s just been a really collaborative process. What the most important thing about collaboration is for me is that you get to work with other people who are incredibly creative and incredibly talented, and that’s really inspiring and it helps you push yourself forward as well.

Laura Iredale recording KIN
Laura recording with guitarist Adam from KIN in our studio

How do you negotiate fees and royalties with artists? How do you feel about dealing with that as someone starting out?
Yeah, that’s such a difficult thing. Having a previously established relationship with artists it’s definitely easier to have discussions like that. I’ve asked for credit for some projects, which is a good place to start. For me, I’m working towards IMDB credits and to help me make more connections in the industry and apply for potential jobs after the course ends. So it was less about the payment in that sense and more about the experience and the credit that will help me in building a name and a brand.

Credits are a good place to start.
Yeah. I’ve already got my first credit for additional mixing on a short film I worked on. I think that’s the position that I feel like I’m in and the people that I’m working with are in. It’s kind of trying to break into the industry or also in the early stages of their career. And it’s being able to be in a position where you recognise what you offer each other. So I don’t ever want to say, ‘Oh, you owe me for this’  because sometimes it’s the case that they probably don’t have money for the project, but it might be a connection and building each other up. This might be a terrible business model!

There are different areas I work in, so when I work with a band, it’s more on the production side of it and I might talk about splitting royalties, and then when it’s with musicians being a recording and mix engineer I look for more of a credit. And then when it’s me as a composer, sometimes I’ve been paid but it’s been really small, because like I say, it’s been collaborations with people who are also starting out. 

How do you keep those connections going?
Usually supporting on social media. It’s really nice the support you can give each other by reposting and liking these days. Making connections with people on social media and over the Internet and showing support for other people’s projects online is really important. Also catching up with emails and Zoom chats. I’ve made sure that everybody that I’ve had an upcoming project with, I’ve had a Zoom chat with to initially talk stuff through and get to know each other, then kind of establish some common ground.

How do you deal with the creative differences you might have with an artist?
I’ve never had a really negative experience. I’ve had an experience where you realise that what you’re doing is maybe not what the director’s vision is, but I think that’s maybe an expected part of the director/composer relationship. At the end of the day what you’re trying to do is tell their story and help them achieve their creative vision. Then when you’re working as a producer with a band, maybe that’s more of a position where it’s an open dialogue. 

Do you feel comfortable navigating through the different relationships you have with a director, artist and composer?
Yeah, I’ve been quite lucky with the people that I’ve worked with. It’s always felt like a partnership and working towards the same vision. Maybe that’s because I’ve found people that I feel have the same vision as me from the outset. Or people who may be more successful in this industry are just people who are willing to work with other people, want to connect and collaborate and just generally nice people. That’s what I’d like to think! I don’t think there’s any benefit of arguing a point with somebody because it doesn’t work for either party then. 

What’s next for you?
I’d love to look for jobs in film. Ideally, I’d love to work for an established composer as an assistant and continue to develop my craft. There’s so much still to learn and I’m excited to start working in the industry!

Check out Laura’s music on:

See some of the artists she’s working with here:
KIN band
James Peter Moffatt
Robert Harvey