TV companies, advertising agencies and film production companies sometimes require drummers for drumming roles in their productions.
Drummer jobs in films, TV and adverts
Here at Elephant Drums we mainly teach private lessons and run workshops, but we have been known to help out media companies with advice about drumming.
We’ve worked with television companies, ad agencies, film makers and visual artists when drumming is involved in their productions.
This article is based on the experiences of working in this field over the years.
Roles / Scenarios
There are many different scenarios in which we get involved to give advice about drumming. Three main roles are:
- Coaching and directing non-drummers (such as actors and models who do not play drums) to move and act convincingly like a drummer.
- Providing real drummers to appear in productions as stand-ins (drum doubles).
- Post-production / editing – e.g. synchronising film footage of the drummer with a recorded sound track
It’s best to have a drumming adviser and drum coach involved throughout the filming process, to ensure that the footage being shot is in sync with the music it is going to be edited to. This makes the job in post-production a lot easier.
Occasionally, we’ve been brought in after filming has already taken place. In the edit suite we can give advice on syncronising footage with the sound track. There are times where footage has been shot and edited, but some parts just don’t quite look convincing enough. OK, so, nobody is going to notice (apart from keen-eyed drummers) if every single stroke of the drums or cymbals doesn’t completely match what the images are showing. But there has to be a high degree of realism, otherwise the sound and visuals will look totally out of sync.
There is sometimes a bit of compromise required to make the artistic visual requirements compatible with the realities of the sound track.
Need to send an actor on a crash course in drumming? Give us a shout with your requirements and time frame. A tutor can come in to work on set, or spend weeks in advance of filming to develop an actor’s drumming abilities.
Pepe Jeans “Drumming Girl” video
This video was shot by fashion label Pepe Jeans to promote their new collection of music-inpired clothing. The brief given to us was to coach a model that had never played drums before to look convincingly as though she was playing the fairly complex beats in the sound track.
Bearing in mind she had never played drums before this video shoot (apart from a couple of hours coaching), the result is this Pepe Jeans advert of continuous drumming.
Advice for drummers?
It seems that the main avenue to getting work as a drummer stand in, actor or model is to sign up to casting agencies and be sure to list “drummer” in the skills section. If you play a particular genre or niche, add that too.
There are numerous casting, modelling and talent websites out there. Too many sites to list here, there are literally hundreds!
A good quality casting photo is essential, so this should be your first step. Follow it up with some good quality videos of you playing drums.
Coaching drum models
Communicating the needs of a film crew to the drummer appearing on camera is a tactful job. What may become 20 or 30 seconds of completed film may take many hours and many re-takes of the same thing over and over again. The drummer needs to know exactly what cue he/she is picking up from and maintain consistency in looking realistic throughout.
Forget you’re a drummer!
Where a genuine drummer is used for the filming (i.e. a model or actor that can play drums in real life) there are certain habits of a drummer that don’t necessarily work well on camera such as their ‘concentrating face’. One of the things that directors end up shouting at drummers in this scenario is “forget you’re a drummer for a minute!“. It’s worth bearing in mind if you’re drumming on screen that it is more important to look good in the shots than to play every stroke perfectly. You’ve got to give the director what he/she wants visually.
Sometimes (drummers you’re not going to like this), to make it look right you actually have to play wrong. I know, it sucks! Having spent hours getting the track perfect the director wants you to mime something which isn’t on the recording, because it is visually more interesting. Don’t argue about it on set, just do it, there normally is a good reason why they want you to do it.
Most importantly of all, have fun and enjoy the experience!
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