Composing : Professional Organizations by Joel Irwin

Joel Irwin

Professional Organizations

I find as a composer not in a major entertainment / film city such as LA and NYC (I am in Houston, TX), that we have professional film organizations for all walks of film people (largest film meetup in the US, Women In Film, and Southwest Alternate Media Project [SWAMP]) to network with - that is good and I fully take advantage of them.  In fact this coming Tues, I will continue to host a monthly zoom meeting alternative for film people not wanting to network live at a local bar/restaurant.

But what I have been finding 'lacking' and frustrating are music specific film organizations.  What had always frustrated me was that the film music organization I had joined and let my membership lapse 10 years ago didn't serve my 'needs' - since other than a small amount of online material, everything else was geared to LA and NYC - live discussions and screenings, LA/NYC-only events, mentorship opportunities, etc.

But covid changed things.  Sure there is still location specific material but all the live things went online.  Now all the 'screenings' and discussions with the music content creators are available to all members.  So a few weeks back, I rejoined the Society Of Composers and Lyricists (  And for the last week or so (probably because it is pre-Oscar nomination consideration season), I am getting opportunities to view (and hear) about 3 to 5 films a day along with 45 minute discussions with the music content creators - some famous A list/some not, some film scorers/some songwriters.  So now I am overwhelmed and need to choose which discussions to watch and which scores and films to listen to.

Let me quickly discuss the first one I watched last week - "News Of The World" - the discussion was with the director/screenwriter and the composer (James Newton Howard).  Most of the time was geared toward how the two collaborated and James discussed logistical stuff like having to rewrite the theme, the influence of the temp track, etc.  Most of it was business and collaborative information but very meaningful stuff to hear.  He did spend some time discussing his choice of instrumentation and the need to create "broken music".  I wish he had played some samples to give us a better idea of what he meant.  I watched the film (starring Tom Hanks) after the discussion and didn't really fully understand what he meant.  While there was discussion in the sidebar, the presenters didn't in that session answer any questions.

I intend to watch and listen to other films scored by members of thescl.  That alone provides me with opportunities to learn from those composers who lead our field with the major studios.  The membership fee is now well worth the investment (thanks to everything now virtual).  I am looking for other ways and opportunities to take advantage of membership in this organization.  For those of you considering joining additional film organizations - especially those geared to film composers, I highly recommend thescl.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Awesome, thanks for sharing, Joel Irwin!

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