Local man makes music for TV, independent film

Friday, January 13, 2006
Dave Walton talked about how he composed scores for independent films and TV out of his Cape Girardeau home. (Diane L. Wilson)

While the big shots are in Cape Girardeau filming "Killshot," local man Dave Walton sits quietly in his own home, taking part in his own little slice of the world of movies.

Of course, as Walton puts it, "I'm in the minor leagues."

Walton, a former software engineer and touring rocker in his younger days, now has a new kind of business that incorporates his experiences in technology and music. Using a computer, he creates scores for independent film projects and TV shows.

"People like me, our job is to try and emulate a real orchestra as best we can, or to provide music that is suitable to the film," Walton says as he sits in his "studio" in his home's family room.

The only equipment he needs to create his compositions: a midi keyboard, monitors and a computer with the appropriate sound and video editing software.

Other than the keyboard and speakers set up at the computer, the room looks like a normal middle-class family room -- couch, TV, large windows to let the sunshine in, hardwood floors. But with his equipment Walton can create scores for films with high-fidelity. On playback the bass rumbles, the strings squeal, the brass blares, all in time to the action of the video running concurrently in the corner of his computer screen.

Pressing a key on the midi keyboard allows Walton to play different tones on a variety of computer-emulated instrument sounds -- from distorted electric guitars to piano. He has a virtual orchestra at his hands. Of course, Walton admits he's no John Williams, but then again he's not scoring "Star Wars."

Making music

Instead Walton is making music for independent filmmakers in America and overseas and for music libraries used by TV production companies. The service he provides is one in high demand, said Walton.

"That's the attraction for a lot of filmmakers," said Walton. "They can deal with one guy and get a film score instead of having to deal with a whole live orchestra."

At a cost of several tens of thousands of dollars, a live orchestra is a cost the vast majority of filmmakers can't afford.

One of the projects under Walton's belt is the music for a trailer for the B-horror flick "Hunting Season." Walton takes the silent footage he gets and arranges a score around the intense moments. In the case of "Hunting Season," the music is loud, noisy and suspenseful, with a lot of accents.

Without someone like Walton to write the score, the makers of "Hunting Season" would have been hard-pressed for traditional mood-emphasizing movie music.

But Walton is diverse. Another project he's working on is a British documentary called "Home," about a shelter in Britain that saves abandoned canines. The music for the "home" trailer is soft, with only piano and strings.

Every month Walton gets alerts, telling him what productions are looking for composers. He also searches the Web to find any filmmakers who may need services like the one he provides, and has provided music to Hollywood licensing companies that take composers' music and market it to production companies. These companies market their product to such big names as Bunim/Murray Productions (producers of MTV's "The Real World") and Electronic Arts.

One project to the next

Searching out the jobs takes a lot of time, said Walton, but it must be done. His time is divided evenly between working on current projects and finding the next project. When he finds someone who needs music, he sets up contact.

Right now Walton is trying to land the score for an independent film called "Man vs. Woman," created by special effects man Juan Carlos Vargas. Vargas has worked on effects for big titles like "Fantastic Four" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," but is now trying to make the jump into filmmaking.

The music is Spaghetti Western-inspired -- with an Old West showdown feel. It plays against the backdrop of a trailer set in a post-apocalyptic desert, where a man, woman, robot and dinosaur are about to have a shoot-out. It's a funny idea, and one that Walton has fun with.

Walton genuinely enjoys the composition business he started in 2004. But make no distinction, it is a business.

"When I started this one of my friends said, 'I guess you're retired now,'" said Walton. "This is a business, just a different kind."

Walton doesn't have to leave home to run his business and sets his own hours, but sometimes puts in 70 hours a week.

Now Walton is networking with local filmmakers he has recently discovered and continuing to work with national and international projects.

His family -- wife Marcia, sons Chris and B.J. and daughter Katie -- are supportive of dad's new profession in media. One day Katie entered the house while Walton was working and gave him the best compliment he could receive on his product -- all the acclaim he needs to know his work is worthwhile.

"She came in with some of her friends and stopped and said 'Daddy your music rocks,'" said Walton. "The Daddy Your Music Rocks award is better than any Grammy or Academy award."

To check out Walton's music visit www.davewaltonmusic.com.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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