I'm often asked for advice about life as a composer and what might be in store for someone if they try this career. Here are some thoughts on various things I've experienced that might hopefully be somewhat insightful.
1) How did I get into composing for film/Tv?
- It could be somewhere between 5-10 years before getting any decent paid feature films!
- Agents are mainly signing composers making a couple of hundred grand a year..
- That I would question my sanity and choices, as I watched non industry friends making good money and buying houses as I struggled to pay bills and feed myself for so long. So goes the life of a composer....
- Working 24-36 hours straight (I really mean that) several times per project is the norm. Try it once to see what it feels like... no breaks as that would be cheating...
- Getting composing work that pays a living wage is most challenging. We are very disposable in the world of falling budgets. I guess you could say we are bottom feeders.
- Dealing with people who have unreasonable expectations about the music.
- There is really no super amazing part, other than maybe that rush you get when a job is finished and you realize you didn't do as bad a job as you thought you were doing at the time!
- A good set of sound samples.
- A RELIABLE computer and composing software. You do not need it to cause problems in the middle of a project believe me!
- A good set of speakers. If you cannot discern the difference between why one set of string samples sounds shit and the other a bit better, then you will struggle! Its about being able to truly know what your work is coming across like, and being aware that the other listeners (director/producer) are possibly not the most knowledgeable about music and need to be helped along the way. Knowing what you work actually sounds like is a big big deal!
Accidentally. I was about to do a doctorate in composition, but took a course in film music and decided to (indefinitely) postpone those dreams and try working in the real world for a bit...many years later now!
2) Any advice for someone who wants to establish themselves in this area?
Networking is key. It takes patience and time. For example the film I am working on right now (2013), I first met the director over 10 years ago. There are lots of independents being made to demo for, but most are on spec and have little or no money available. Short Films are the way to connect with people - in particular new directors and producers that will become your peers.
3) What would I like to have known, before I started this journey?
Any project where the director trusted me most, because I could actually enjoy the writing process most and am able to be more creative while trying to finesse out their 'baby'.
7) What Tv and Flim (any genre, any decade) do I listen to and wish I had composed?
Music from the early years of talkies.... right up through the early 70's would have been most fun, because I would have been writing more symphonic music and had a budget to treat all my musicians and 'team' way better than the current operating budgets allow for.
I hope that in some way gives you an insight into life as a composer. I'm trying to be honest, as this is the actual world I live and work in!