Composing : Friends and Aquaintences by Joel Irwin

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Joel Irwin

Friends and Aquaintences

Looking for work in any industry is brutal - especially cold calling.  Regardless of our 'specialty' in the film biz, the competition is intense.  So we network and make friends both actual and virtual.  Potential collaborators such as filmmakers and directors, know who we are and hopefully have seen and heard our works.

So if our potential collaborators are more well versed with our products, then why does it so often seem that they don't communicate with us though they seem to be producing films that need music.  Shouldn't any type of professional 'relationships' yield gigs more than cold calling?

I have experienced the above personally both with filmmakers I have had actual contacts and the many ones with whom I have social media contacts (such as my Facebook friends).  It has got to be frustrating for example reading about films that have been selected for festivals produced by a Facebook producer friend that you either never heard about before or that you were not considered for a collaborative position.

I was wondering this morning NOT that it happens but more WHY it happens.  My thoughts were, if for example, I knew one or more of the 'causes', it could be possible for an action on my part to minimize or alleviate that factor.  For example, earlier this week, my mentor suggested that I could be losing gigs because my audio production is not competitive - that prospective clients don't think my music sounds realistic enough when it is not live.  Was that true or just his opinion?  Was it the MAIN factor or just one of many? How would I find out? 

Well in my opinion, the are likely many 'reasons' why I get some gigs and don't get others and that those reasons will vary based on the prospective filmmaker.  And it is risky to ask those filmmakers why they are not working with us - composers at least here in Texas don't get auditions or face to face meeting opportunities like say actors.  We just email and text and communicate and network and then don't hear back.

So for this post, I thought about building a list (which you are welcome to add to) of possible reasons that could be worth thinking about.  And perhaps in some situations/scenarios, we could ask for feedback from a filmmaker and collect some useful 'intelligence' that help us compete.

So what are some possible reasons we don't get a gig:

1. There is already an ongoing relationship with another composer who gets repeat business

2. The filmmaker does not make the decisions on who is used on the cast and/or crew

3. The 'sound' we have produced on past projects does not work for the project in question. And even though we could be able to produce that sound, the filmmaker has another composer in mind with that background/required sound.

4. Our produced music does not 'sound' like film music and/or live music.  It either lacks the quality using the products and samples we are using to create it.  Or the artistic content does not sound film-like or professional. For example, we may be really good at composing classical piano pieces or singer-songwriter guitar playing but we are not viewed as being able to create anything else.

5. The filmmaker can not tell how well we fit into a collaborative team environment.  Perhaps we don't have sufficient film experience or we don't socialize enough in the community in which the filmmaker interacts.  We are viewed as possibly isolationist and an unknown factor in the ability of the filmmaker to meet a timeline. Or perhaps we have had a bad 'interpersonal' experience on a previous project and word has 'got out' about it.

6. Our past history or our current contractual requests/requirements suggest that we could either be too 'expensive' or unwilling to abide by the rules and demands of the film project.  For example, we may be viewed as unwilling to give up copyright, not willing to allow our music to be mixed any way the filmmaker wants, or perhaps unwilling to allow the music to be broken into parts and put in places other than where the spots required.

So have you ever had the opportunity to ask a filmmaker why you have not be offered a collaborative opportunity?  Has it been one or more of the above.  If another reason, let's build this list.  And once you knew the reasons, were you able to do anything for yourself or your craft/music to try to mitigate that in the future for other perspective filmmakers?

Guillaume Longhi

Our job has always been kind of remote. Unlike actors, cameramen, staff, etc... Score Composers intervene mostly at later stages of production.

Just like a production chain, those who make the product are not likely to meet those who enhance/market it. I suppose this is why some productions have someone who specialises in PR, as to relate every stages and aspect in the making of the movie.

Not sure if I'm making much sense here, but that's how I see it. The main product here is a movie and the music part of the product, not the main one. Though it plays an essential role.

Let's turn the situation upside down. When an artist/band produces a music video, actors/extras can also be this sort of a remote part of the main product. The latter being, the song.

Ray Archie

Guillaume Longhi - It might also be interesting for us to try to get involved earlier in the project. A composer could be very helpful to define the look/feel and sonic identity of a project very early on. Imagine if a 'Lookbook' had a rough score during the Pitch stage of the project.

Rachel Walker

Sometimes movies are made to the sound track which really brings a lot of life to the is important:-)!

Jonathan Price

Here are my two cents. First cent: if somebody says your production could be improved, work on improving it. A trick I use is to convince myself somebody else composed/produced my track and listen with those ears. The joy of creation is not something your audience will experience, so you need to compartmentalize that in yourself. Second cent: if, after you've composed and produced to the best of your ability, you're still not hired for a gig...let it go. Not every composer, even an A-list composer, is every director's cup of tea. You want to encourage good matches, and being declined is a healthy step toward directing your time and resources toward directors who are a good fit.

Vladislav Savvateev

Let me add another 'list of reasons', sir. Some possible reasons you've got the gigs:

1. You are truly a talent.

2. Maybe you are a wise man and you dive deep in your work and that is why your soundtracks and films get those awards.

3. You are more sensitive to details than others.

4. You can feel the right tone of a film.

5. etc, etc


Brian Alan DeLaney

Ray Archie I actually love getting the scripts during pre-production. It allows me to get a feel for themes and such that I want to use on the project. Unfortunately this isn't always possible, either by joining production later in the timeline, or working with a director/writer that is overly protective of their idea.

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