Jacob Shea’s career advice

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by ka00, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. FriFlo

    FriFlo Senior Member

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    Yes! And I totally get that at this point in time you wonder .. shall I tell them I will do it as I need the money or should I tell them that they should take the music more serious (and probably loose the job). I do not judge anyone for doing it in spite of not being take serious.
    But I oppose to this idea of the job bing accepted as the norm and even being endorsed as career advice from an experienced composer to newcomers. If somebody does accept it as the norm, I wonder how much self esteem will be left at the end of such a career ...
     
  2. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    Sometimes that's how it is.
     
  3. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    So then, if you find that advice repellant, don't follow it. I find it sickening when people turn the creative arts / crafts (whichever) into another boring job-type conversation.

    It's still a good idea to remember who's the boss. There are the Medicis and the Michalangelos, and although I would never compare myself to Michelangelo -- I'm certainly not a Medici.

    Moreover, the idea of "composer" does have geographic variants. For a lot of reasons about which we could speculate, outside the USA the role of composer stands a good bit higher. Circumstances can vary, but that's been my experience.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
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  4. Alex Fraser

    Alex Fraser Senior Member

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    Sure, but I think being able to write music for a living is an incredibly privileged thing to be able to do, regardless of the project you're working on. And yes, sometimes the music isn't taken as seriously by the rest of the film contributors. But, if all that's required is a ditty piano or pad....should it be taken that seriously?
     
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  5. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    How are you ever going to obtain that privilege if you don’t take it seriously?
     
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  6. Alex Fraser

    Alex Fraser Senior Member

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    Easy. Take the work seriously, but don't take yourself and "your art" too seriously.

    Choose your battles: If the rest of the creatives involved in the project are investing their all, do likewise. If all that's required is a quick synth pad at five minutes to midnight, and your music will simply be ran through once on the edit timeline for a quick approval..don't go annoying the director by talking about how the music should be taken seriously. Just deliver it. ;)

    Of course, this is only based on my limited experience and I'm sure you'll get more advice from bigger forum pros.

    Edit: And I think that dovetails nicely back to the original video. It's all about understanding your role in the process and keeping the creative ego in check.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  7. muk

    muk Senior Member

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    Alex has a point in my opinion. If you are writing film music, you are working on somebody else's project and vision. The composers job is to support this vision as best as they can. A Beethoven symphony is not always the best music for a film. Sometimes it is just a pad with a little rhythmic drive. The best film music is not always the best standalone music.
    Also, every director and producer will have their own idea of the importance of music in a movie. If you are working with a director who thinks it is of little importance you either adapt to that and deliver music that is unobtrusive, or you have to turn down the work.

    Where I agree with FriFlo is that I think there is a trend in film music to move away from classical music as a reference towards pop music. I am not the greatest expert on film music, so I don't know everything, but I do sometimes miss a greater degree of sophistication in much of todays film music.
     
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  8. FriFlo

    FriFlo Senior Member

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    If all the film needs is just that the film itself shouldn't be taken that serious! :) And, actually, a lot of films are not serious at all or a work of art ... it did not escape me. Yet, at least in my humble opinion, everyone who does a picture should have the ideal of doing something of value. But then, there are of course a million of reasons where that thought is absurd right from the beginning, like the whole advertising film industry, which makes a huge part of the film industry. And I don't mind people doing stuff just for the money, I get that you do not always have the position to pick what you wanna work for.
    The only disagreement we have is wether this message send out to the young ones should be sent like that. I think it comes close to a description of the work of a man with no dignity left and that is the part I can't help but feel sad about. I am torn, as I am totally aware that it is an honest advice and probably fed by what happened to Shea. I just don't think this status quo of the film music composer should be endorsed and sent out to the newcomers like this. Or maybe it should be ... I would have been put off the idea of becoming a film composer, had I seen this at a younger age. :)
     
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  9. FriFlo

    FriFlo Senior Member

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    I'll try to make a few examples of the past:
    Look at the biography of Bernard Herrmann. The man was an angry force and he took his liberties. Of course, Hitchcock betrayed him in the end, but otherwise he was a respected composer. Do you think anyone with that temper could work in the film music business today?
    Look at how Jerry Goldsmith reacted and talked about R. Scott not using most of his Alien score on the movie, but instead music from another film. What do you think would any composer today react?
    Look at how John Williams is allowed to work ... pencil and paper, no mockups, lots of time for writing strict litmitaion to re-writes, music editing, etc. What other composer is being taken even half as serious?
    Could you imagine any of these examples originate from current generations of composers for film? I can't. And I doubt anything of value will come from a generation of composers with such a low esteem of their own work and value. And I don't even mean artistic value, here. Just basic human dignity.
     
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  10. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

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    I think one of the elephants in the room is the fact that many people are seeing "Hollywood blockbusters" as the single and only goal of one's career- which seems to be pretty much being a 24/7-available asset machine and copycat with a mentality of a professional soldier. How much that has to do with creative abilities of conjuring emotions out of your keyboard... and how much it has only to do with the everlasting human quest of eternal fame and "name"?

    I've never understood why someone who wants to compose music, create emotions and immerse people into a different world wants to fight for years for breadcrumbs, only to end up copying that 4-chord loop every movie has, obey every single idea (no matter how good or bad they are) with joy and knowing that they day you question the orders is the day they bring the next guy in to replace you.

    Peeps like Herrmann are my idols. Maybe that's also why I've never even thought for a second about dreaming of Hollywood.
     
  11. Wally Garten

    Wally Garten Active Member

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    But you're pointing to someone at the end of a long and successful career. Of course he gets to dictate terms. He's rich and famous! Look at the Wiki description of his early career:

    In 1952, Williams was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he played the piano, brass and conducted and arranged music for The U.S. Air Force Band as part of his assignments. In a 2016 interview with the US Air Force band, he recounted having attended basic Air Force training at Lackland base (San Antonio, Texas), after which he served as a pianist and brass player, with secondary duties of making arrangements for three years. He also attended music courses at the University of Arizona as part of his service . . . .

    Known as "Johnny" during the 1950s and early 1960s, Williams composed the music for many television programs (including several episodes of M Squad), and served as music arranger and bandleader for a series of popular music albums with the singer Frankie Laine . . . .

    After his studies at Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music, Williams returned to Los Angeles, where he began working as an orchestrator at film studios . . . .

    Williams was also a studio pianist, performing on film scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. ​

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Williams#Early_life_and_family

    Do you really think John Williams was in a position to dictate the terms of his work, to say what he would or wouldn't do, in the Air Force? People have been throwing the term "good soldier" around here, a bit disparagingly I might add, but John Williams literally got his start as a professional musician in the military. And then he worked for other people for the better part of a decade.

    Same thing with Bernard Herrman, who started out as a staff conductor at CBS, and Goldsmith, who started in the CBS music department a couple of decades later. I mean, these guys came up in the studio system. You really think they weren't pushed around by directors and department heads and studio heads? Everybody pays their dues. You get to make demands and be temperamental later, when (if you're lucky) you're hot enough to be valuable in the market despite your quirks, temper, etc.

    And Herrmann wasn't "betrayed" by Hitchcock. They had a disagreement, and he had less authority than Hitchcock, so he lost. Herrmann had the freedom to stand on his principles, but only because he was a highly successful, known quantity. He knew he could make money elsewhere. What you're celebrating isn't the greatness or personal independence of the artist -- it's his market value. It's basically the equivalent of Christian Bale yelling at a cameraman.

    It's great that some talented artists (eventually) attain that kind of clout and freedom. Good for them. But it's not something people have at the start of their careers; it's something you attain.
     
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  12. FriFlo

    FriFlo Senior Member

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    No, I do not assume there ever was a golden age of composing for films where the composer was equal to the director or producer. Neither do I believe Williams or Goldsmith or anyone was as respected in the beginning of his career as he is now.
    What I am saying is, those were different times ... even in this early days of having tough schedules to produce TV-music on a weekly basis, both Williams and Goldsmith had ensembles of real musicians (sometimes maybe not more than 4 musicians) at hand. They had to write for them on paper and directors had to trust them. There wasn't enough time to do much of rewriting. Yes, they may have been pushed around - we don't know that! Yet, they were chosen as people who could do that and from then on, they had way more influence than any composer in the digital age has - as starters in the business. They also got paid for the invaluable experience of conducting and performing their own scores on a weekly basis. Nobody today gets that luxury.
    I don't believe it is realistic to hope for the clocks turning back in that regard ... although I would certainly like to see more music being recorded for TV with actual musicians.
    My point is rather, I do not think any composer after these ones will ever get as much respect as an important contributor to movies - not even the most successful ones! Especially not with that service mentality in mind.
     
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  13. Wally Garten

    Wally Garten Active Member

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    Those are certainly fair points. I would imagine the composer for radio or TV (and, probably, cartoons and serials, too) had a lot of leeway as to any individual score, in any individual week. Maybe that translated to more creative freedom overall. But that person would still have had to generally produce the work that directors and producers wanted, or they would not continue to work (especially in their early years). So the "service mentality" would still have applied. Still, I take your point -- more technology for mockups, temp tracks, etc. means more early interference in the process by people who are not the musicians.
     
  14. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    I mostly agree, just playing devil’s advocate. But there are plenty of examples of directors trusting the composer, composers going against the wishes or at least subverting their expectations that we all site today as benchmarks: Psycho’s shower scene, The Mission (and most of EM’s 70s output), Star Wars being an original score instead of the temp, Elfman’s entire MO, etc. Directors think that bc of the power they wield with the temp they will automatically have more effective use of music but it just hasn’t proven to be true to my ears. It has just made more scores sound the same.
     
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  15. Montisquirrel

    Montisquirrel Active Member

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    In the video he is talking about having too much work, so he has no other choice than giving it to the assistents. But why? Why don't just take the jobs you can finish? In his case it does not seem to be the money. It is also not the fear to lose clients, is it? Really like to understand this point.
     
  16. Fitz

    Fitz Member

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    Is it possible that many people who go through the route of assisting end up becoming just that... an assistant to someone forever? Or what about the people who go on their own, meet contacts on the way, and are always known as their own music artist as opposed to a faceless shadow? I'm sure so many assistants and interns have gone through RCP and never come out of it.
     
  17. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

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    If you believe John Williams is never subject to re-writes or music edits, you need to watch Attack of the Clones again.
     
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  18. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

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    I guess this was meant sarcastically but it's really not that far off the mark. The composer is the general. The assistants are soldiers. The battle is against time.
     
  19. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

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    Yes this.

    I can see both sides of this, it depends on your goals I guess. But work is hard to get and if you are offered work you don't ever say no.
     
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  20. douggibson

    douggibson Active Member

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    You know for the last 7-8 years I get about 2-5 people a year asking if they can intern for me.

    I've thought about writing a blog on "what not to do". At first I made sure to speak with everyone on the phone, and offer to meet for a cup of coffee. Basically to repay the debt I felt for those who met with me when I had zero credits. But the past 2-3 years I have pretty much barely had the energy to write a email back.

    (first tip: Don't email me within 2 weeks of Jan. 1. It just looks like you are on a start of the year goal checklist)

    The only thing I wanted to offer is I thought I really wanted to be a film composer, and I am so happy that it never happened. People kept on complimenting on my orchestration work, and then before too long I was known as an orchestrator. It's the ideal role for me, and all the hustle/people pleasing is really only with the composer and his/her team that I deal with.

    I've said it before here: The larger the projects the more professional, and enjoyable, they have been. The student films were the hardest.
     

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