Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Composers Need Decent Projects - But Where Do We Find Them?

Last week I responded to an editorial in Film Music Weekly in which I asked some hard-hitting questions about composers finding work.  It was printed in today's issue April 25, 2007):

When I saw the title of your column (Look Beyond Mainstream Film Scores) in this week's Film Music Weekly, I thought that I had finally found the keys to unlock the holy grail…how emerging composers (with due respect to Bellis) can get work in the film scoring business without being part of Zimmer's entourage, or better yet, not even being a member of the B-list of film composers.

I'm sure many of us have thought about the incredible number of films being produced.  As a matter of fact, I can't get that thought out of my mind each day.  What eludes me is how to make the right connections between emerging composers and emerging filmmakers so that true partnerships can be formed to produce highly creative works.  Oh yes, I know the drill: hang out with film students at USC or UCLA film school; read Daily Variety or The Hollywood Reporter to see what films are being produced, and get in on the action early. In the first scenario, I'd submit that many of us are no longer in our twenties…or even thirties…or dare I say…our forties.  Those film students are partnering with other students, not professionals with a decade or two of experience.  In the latter scenario, you can find out what films are being produced, but you still end up waiting in line with dozens of other composers vying for the same spot, sending in an unsolicited tape that you rightfully suspect will never get heard.

I know the thrust of your article was to promote the great music of films that are not necessarily major blockbusters…and on that note I couldn't agree more.  But when I see "Look Beyond Mainstream Film Scores," my brain tells me there might be nuggets of valuable information on getting work that I've never encountered before.  I guess I can't understand why, if the quantity of films being produced is soaring – and the number of talented film composers is increasing as well – why there can't be a vehicle to match these talents in a logical, productive fashion that is win-win for everyone.  I know that there are postings from time-to-time on the Film Music Network's job listings, but if we are being conservative about it, there must be hundreds and hundreds of additional, potential opportunities out there.  I'm talking more about a "Craigslist" of sorts for this specific purpose…an easy way to connect.

Another side effect of all not doing something to level the playing field so that more opportunities are created for composers is that we are become devalued over time, competing with those who will do it for literally no pay whatsoever.  How can that possibly help to increase the value of film music?  We don't need mainstream projects – we need decent projects.  Now where do you really go to find them?

I hope you will excuse my digression because I know it was not the real intent of your column to cover this topic.  I'm just passionate about film music – listening to it, learning from it, creating it, and appreciating it. I know for a fact that you are an advocate of the latter.

Thank you for listening,

Bob Safir