Composing for Soundtrack

This is something I have dreamed of doing for a long time now, but I’m beginning to think I don’t have the tools, or the good fortune to get there.

When it comes to actually composing a cool piece of music, I’m there. I can play with emotions, visual elements and thematic patterns within the music. -but-

Having an opportunity to get in the industry seems impossible. The only access points I can find are sites like BroadJam, Taxi, etc… and there, you not only have to compose the music, but engineer and produce it (or have it done) to an already finished product and I’m not sure that I have the motivation to do all of this myself, even if I have supporting musicians egging me on. It seems like an overwhelming task.

I guess what I’m asking is this. Do composers just compose, or do they produce and engineer a lot of their material themselves? It seems to me, once one is established in the industry, that this would be detrimental and time consuming. So I guess I am asking for some clarity from those with experience in the field(s). It is kind of depressing to me, as I’m beginning to realize that my music may never get outside my homegrown group of friends and fellow musicians, but it is what it is. I’m hoping that some advice may clue me in to something I’ve been missing.

Thanks ahead of time.

As far as what composers do that varies from project to project and the type of project. In TV it is often the composer who does the composing, recording and mixing. TV has tight timelines and budgets so getting a one-stop shopping guy is really important.

On big budget films it is more common to have more people involved.

My experience has been that getting into Post Music work is a bit like becoming a Rock Star - albeit on a smaller scale in most cases.

Kind of like being in the right place at the right time with the right product.

When I wrote jingles I worked at a my own studio and did sales - literally going to Ad agencies and Businesses and selling my services. Then word of mouth kicked in a bit.

However, my opportunities for film and TV work came as a result of being a freelance audio engineer and having clients who needed custom work.

Those who have really done well in it generally started with a little piece here for a friend - something bigger for an acquaintance - if your lucky, after a while you’ll be in the right place with a bit of work under your belt and land the BIG ONE. Keep’em happy and you’re there.

In Creative things, people tend to hire people they know, feel comfortable with, and trust . . . since “good work” in those fields is very subjective and hard to define. You need someone you know you can work with.

Of course, after one has “Made It” . . . big names do get hired partly for their “Big Name”. Looks good on the project.

PS I am NOT a BIG NAME . . . yet

Hi John,
It sounds to me like you’re back at that place you were at when you started [u]THIS[/u]
If you’re serious, you’ll simply do whatever it takes to make things happen.
You might start by pm’ing SoundsLikeJohn from the ‘blog post about filmscoring’ thread and ask him
if he can steer you in the right direction. Find a site where other film scoring composers congregate,
and pick their brains.
I’m also wondering, have you done any scoring yet, or are you waiting to get hired to do it?
If you haven’t done it, or haven’t done much, you should think about getting some video - anything
that you like, download it from youtube, copy it from a dvd (don’t worry about copyrights, because you’ll
only be doing it for yourself)- remove the sound and score it yourself.
This would be some valuable woodshedding and it would help you to streamline the process, so that
if you do land a job, you’ll already be quicker and more confident - and more able to meet a deadline.

Hey Steve. I didn’t mean to imply I would just jump right into sountrack… a smaller scale would definitely be the starting point for me, whatever that may be.

That’s good to know. I wasn’t sure if your “name brand” composers for TV had a production crew for audio, or it was all a “one stop shop”, dumping years of engineering and production knowledge and responsibility into the composers lap.

Thanks for the info Hugh. I kind of figured it was like that. Slowly work your way into the ranks. And I’m sure there is an element of knowing someone, or getting to know someone.

Hey Lenny,
The problem is I never left that place. I took over a month off to kind of reset my perspective, and have gotten back into it on a part time basis, but I’m not happy with my results nor my progress.
I haven’t done any scoring yet. I’m hoping to be picked up for the occasional commercial or TV show though sites like Broadjam (previously mentioned). I have, however, “practiced” quite a bit in the range of creating for specific things… like visuals, emotional states, particular themes, etc… That part of it is the easy part for me. I can have an entire theme based around a clients description… written, recorded, rough mixed in a matter of a few weeks. The problem is that it is not being heard. …and it has not been heard, enough times over enough years that it has soured my taste for the whole industry.

The whole thing has turned into a love-hate relationship. I love it, it is a part of me, it is the impetus that has formed all of my friends from when I was in my early 20’s. So I don’t want to, and can’t just “give it up”. But I also hate what it has become, a grinding money machine with no compassion at the industry level. All the responsibility to make a finished product left up to the artist, and even then, a meager return on investment if anything at all.

So in the end, for me the term “doing whatever it takes” may not be enough for me. That was why I mentioned hunger in that old post. I need that hunger to be an insatiable, driving force within me… I need that hunger to be strong enough to break the physics of the process to success, and I know for a fact at this point, that nothing less is going to get me there.

I would venture that, if you’re just trying to figure out how to get started/into the business then you’ll probably have to get used to wearing a lot of hats (composer, arranger, player, recording engineer etc…).

Lenny’s thought about grabbing an existing bit of video is excellent. Not only would you get direct experience but you might end up with something that could be used as a demo reel of sorts.

Another thought would be to look around your area and see if there are any universities that have some sort of film arts program. Go there and start talking with teachers and students and see if you can collaborate with someone who wants to do a class film project and needs someone to do the music soundtrack. Even then, you’d probably need some sort of demo reel to show them, which gets back to Lenny’s suggestion.

If Hans Zimmer is any example of the range of skills that a modern film composer needs then I would say you’ll need to be pretty sharp on a variety of technical aspects above and beyond the composing.