I get asked this more and more often, so I thought I would write a short blog post about this subject.
My career is starting to take off, so I feel that I can actually share my thoughts on this subject with some certainty and hopefully help those who read it.
The information may not be complete yet, but please read and comment, ask questions and I will perhaps flesh this out and create a stand-alone page out of this.
Best of luck to you in this promising new year!
Be a solid composer who knows his craft.
As a film composer you will need to write quickly and with facility. You must be flexible and be able to capture a wide variety of moods on a deadline, which means you must have a big palette of colours at your disposal. How do you get that? Music theory and experience both musically and with writing to picture.
There will be no time to experiment under the gun and you won’t get a second chance.
Be a Dramatist
Writing film music is really about being an actor with notes. So make sure you understand story and character and how music plays a role in all that. (“Getting the Score” often deals with that very subject.)
Is is a good business decision to work on having a unique voice in your writing. You must stand out because there is a sea of composers out there. So knowing who you are musically is just as important as being flexible. It’s ideal when you can balance both. Although many have made a living being chameleons, you never notice chameleons, they blend in too well.
So the bottom line is, study, study, study.
Build quality contacts
Work on projects for new film makers to build your reel, but be a little picky at the same time. You can waste a lot of time saying yes to every project and have them go nowhere, and you right along with them.
Contacts are built by:
- Sending a demo – done mostly digitally now: it must impress and stand out since they get a lot everyday. (See above.) It must be custom tailored to their project.
- Following up on demos a week after.
- Get a face to face meeting if possible.
- Keep the relationship going and don’t just say hello when they have a project.
“Big follows small” is a law of marketing which also applies to self-promotion in film. Start with small films, build your resumé, and move up.
Do Good Work & Put it Out There
Being heard is important to build contacts. So put your music out there. Everywhere. The best place is in a film, but Facebook and other social media are also good. Don’t spam.
It’s About the Film
“We judge ourselves by what we believe we can do, others judge us but what we have done.”
I forget where I read this, but it’s the truth. Especially in film. Your credits will be important and filmmakers will hire you based on them.
Composers ride the wave of success and failure of a film, just like any other part of the creative team. So make sure you pick the best projects that are available to you.
If you don’t have any credits, look to the first point.
Know how to talk to film makers
You must understand everything you can about films: story, editing, directing, acting and especially story structure and screen writing. This is important in order to be a good dramatist (see first point) but also important to have meaningful discussions with the film makers.
Treat every director and his film like if it was Spielberg
Then you will get hired back.
Don’t be a Yes Man
Come prepared to spotting sessions, have opinions and ideas on how to make the score truly an asset for the film. They hire you for your expertise, so be an expert, bring something to the table and they will appreciate that, every time. Just don’t be a jerk.
Be a Good Listener
Yes, that goes right along with the point above. It’s your job to find the right balance between the two.
So there you have it, a short primer on getting started in film music. Like I wrote above, it’s not complete so please take the time to comment, ask questions and I will fill it out further.