A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

Elena Maro
Elena Maro
3 years ago

You often read “how to deal with rejections” for actors and writers, but, when it comes to Composers for Film and Television, it looks like there is less literature, so I thought I’d give it a go myself.

If you are pursuing a career in film scoring, no matter how long ago you started, I am sure you have experienced rejections.

Why is that? Well, the first logical reason is…

There are Many, Many Fish in the Sea

By choosing to be a composer, you’ve chosen a very competitive field. Every time you apply/pitch for a gig, you have to stand out among so many others! You need to be aware that, statistically, there are many chances you won’t get the gig. Ask any composer you might know. They will tell you the number of gigs they don’t get is significant.

Last summer I pitched for a short film and when the director called me she told me she had gotten many and many applications for all the crew positions, but she was overwhelmed by the number of composers who applied. In that case, I got the gig, but it is good to know where we stand when we submit a reel.

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

What makes you stand out?

It is More About Numbers Than About You

Being one out of hundreds, sometimes even thousands, candidates makes it quite hard to get the gig, so remind this yourself next time a “no” or “no answer” comes. Don’t build your worth as a composer (or, worse, as a person), or your self-esteem, on the number of jobs you get out of the applications you send.

And remember: being successful is not about not getting rejections, but about the way you deal with them.

Knowing the odds will help you manage your expectations, too. I find it is a good exercise for your mental health to submit an application and then forget about it.

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

Rejections are Part of the Game

Just because of the numbers, you have to accept that rejections are included in the process. Of course, you love what you do, but just like when you love somebody, there are things that are out of your control and you just have to deal with them. In your relationship with film scoring, rejections are that part.

As a freelance composer you know you are taking risks, all the time. It is a stressful, uncertain career path, but the unexpected is also part of the excitement of being your own boss. Isn’t it?

“But I wanted (and needed) that gig so much! What can I do to get over this rejection?”

First of all, I would say, allow yourself to acknowledge the way you feel. Frustration and disappointment are absolutely common feelings in case of rejection, so be aware you feel that way and give yourself a brief “sad time”, take some time to recharge your batteries, to remind yourself what made you choose this career in the first place.

For me, a good idea is also to talk to a colleague who knows me and knows my work and work ethic and that I really trust. It always helps me put the situation into perspective. Anyway, no matter how hard the rejection is hitting you, it is important that you do your best to keep looking at the whole picture, your achievements, your goals, your ability to move forward. Think of rejections as a bump on the road. They can’t stop you - unless you let them.

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

Be Kind to Yourself

You need this to elaborate on rejections. So take care of yourself and your motivation and inspiration… I would suggest not to waste time or energy to try and understand why you didn’t get that gig. Because you’ll never know. There might be so many reasons, regardless of the strength of your application. I personally think that asking yourself that kind of question could put in motion a spiral of negative thoughts that definitely won’t help you, so you’d rather focus on regrouping, getting back on your feet, and moving on.

Also, try and keep in mind that every extra time spent “crying” over a lost opportunity could make you miss just the next one.

Turn Rejection into Motivation

It might sound a bit fatalistic, but just like other times in your life, try to consider the possibility that you didn’t get that gig because there is something better waiting for you around the corner. In my experience, I always found out that there was a good reason why I didn’t get a certain gig and I never had to look back and think “what if”, because other exciting opportunities always came after rejections.

You have to believe this and to believe in yourself. Turn rejections into fuel for your motivation, to work hard, knowing that something better will come. If you don’t believe you deserve to be successful and you are going to make it, how could possibly other people believe in you?

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

Me Singing with Orchestra Sinfonica di Asti

Keep Making Plans

As soon as you feel better, start again: make plans, look for gigs, never be scared of putting yourself out there. It is the only way to find more opportunities.

Try and be creative also in the way you look for work. You’ll never know what next opportunity might be and where it might come from. Keep an open mind and keep up the good work and let it build a good reputation around you.

As I wrote in my previous blog The Film Composer/Director Relationship: How to Make it a Match Made in Heaven, referrals by word of mouth are one of the main ways to get more and more work and, not only get some gigs but build a solid career.

Also, as they say, it feels good to have a dream, but it feels GREAT to have a plan.

A Film Composers Guide to Dealing with Rejections

Dealing with Rejections: the Do's & Don'ts

DO:

1. (Do) Stay Focused and Active

Staying positive and moving on doesn’t mean you consider yourself as the perfect composer. It is good to focus on your strengths but, also, to be aware that there is always room for improvement. Whenever you have some time to spare, work on your weaknesses, and keep educating yourself. There is so much to learn out there and if you do this it will make you feel better when you don’t get a gig, since you are working hard and you are doing the best you can to constantly improve your skills!

2. (Do) Think of Ways to Beat the Odds

As I wrote in my previous blog, running the extra mile will possibly make the difference. Make sure you create a tailored reel and you really get what kind of music the production is looking for. Showing that you can offer what they need, and presenting it in a nice looking, organized package, is a good way to stand out. Since it is basically that you are selling your work, package counts.

3. (Do) Create your Personal “lift me up” Emergency Kit

I have got a folder with this purpose, containing pictures, articles, interviews, thank you messages and positive feedbacks on my work so that, when I am feeling a bit down, I have actual facts all together in the same place to help me remind my achievements and the number of people I made happy with my work, It’s a simple thing I used to do as an educator ( so hard to stay objective when you have to deal with many different students and their unique learning curves) and it works like a charm for film scoring, too!

DON’T:

1. (Don't) Compare Yourself to Others

There are no rules defining the steps in a film composer career, what works for somebody else doesn’t necessarily work for you. Furthermore, don’t forget you are an artist, keep shaping your distinctive musical voice. Your strengths. Don’t try and be someone else. Instead, be your unique, interesting self. It is just a matter of time, but you’ll be found!

2. (Don't) Complain in public

I know that sometimes rejections can hit really hard, especially if you are already feeling tired or a bit down for some reason, but do yourself a favor and keep negative thoughts that might occur to you for yourself. True fact: After a rejection from a scoring competition this year, a composer complained in a public forum. That post wasn’t well received. Stay positive and be smart. You don’t want to build yourself the negative reputation of a “whiner”. It would only be bad for your career.

3. (Don’t) Make Decisions While You are Not Over the Rejection Yet

It will pass, you will recover. Wait for a better time, when you can be more objective.

Thank you for stopping by and reading me and best of luck with your film scoring adventures!

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About the Author

Elena Maro

Elena Maro

Music Composer

Sought after Film and Television Composer Elena Maro is the living proof of how perseverance and the courage of making radical life choices do make dreams come true. From 2017, after she moved to Los Angeles from Italy to transition from performing and composing for theatre to Film Scoring (worki...

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