Perhaps more Russolo than Morricone.
November 14, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Help me transition from sound-art and experimental composition into film scoring. (Los Angeles.)

Through a series of fortuitous events, it seems about 75% certain that I'm moving to Los Angeles in the next few months. I recently left Boston, where I spent twelve years alternately doing time as a full-time indie-pop impresario and doing day jobs that were completely unrelated to being an indie-pop impresario.

In the last five years or so, I've moved increasingly away from anything resembling pop music into more formal experiments with sound art, radio art, audio collage, musique concrète, and the like. I've also done some pretty heavy work as a writer and composer with shortwave radio and found sound. While this work has always been characterized as ideal for soundscaping, soundtracking, and incidental music (and has been used as such in a few instances), I've never received any formal training in how to actually technically put a score together for a longer-form project, having thus far only worked on experimental films and my own radio broadcasts.

Which brings me to L.A. Since I'm here, I'd really like to learn the ins and outs of scoring films from someone actively involved in the business: specifically gaining experience with whatever audio/video software people are using, getting hands-on training and experience, and soaking up some tips in composition as well (although my focus would mainly be technical). I'd also like to find a related day job, perhaps in sound editing, to pay the bills, as I've sworn off ever working in a corporate office cubicle again.

So, my filmic sound-hound friends, talk to me about options. Can I find a mentorship? Should I be looking at schools? Any MeFites have experience in transitioning into this profession from the murky underbrush of experimental music? I don't have a lot of money for classes, but I have enthusiasm, some experience, and ideas galore.

FWIW, I'm already working on scoring another short film and putting together some music for a children's theatre piece, but these are volunteer efforts, not paying gigs. The idea would be to gain enough experience and confidence where I felt that I could pitch myself for film work and actually walk in the door having some practical, higher-level knowledge at hand - or start by getting an assistantship gig with someone already doing so.

Thoughts, if you please, to the usual mailbox.
posted by mykescipark to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a feeling you're not going to get a lot of answers, even though this is a great question! The only film composer I know well enough to know how he got there studied film scoring at Berklee and then worked his way up (NYC) by doing work for free. So I can't answer the component about how you'd learn the hands-on stuff.

That said, I think you could get some firsthand info in LA by starting out as an assistant music editor. You may already know this, but the music editor tries out temp score music and various source music as the film is being edited. Once that's settled, they generate cue sheets for the composer to use to score the film, and then receive the score and edit it into the movie and make it work with the other music. I think this would be a more useful vantage point for what you want to know than being a sound editor, as they generally don't get to interact with the music at all. (I'm speaking of Hollywood and indie fiction features, here.)
posted by xo at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2007

I know a lot of film composers.

UCLA Extension has film scoring classes, they are super cheap, and, in fact, one of my friends teaches there. He sometimes hires his former students to work with him.

It's a lot easier and cheaper, if you already know how to write music, than, say, getting your MFA.

Here's a link to the full certificate program, but you might be able to survive with just a few classes.
posted by MythMaker at 11:52 AM on November 14, 2007

That UCLA Extension link was no good. They seem to not have permalinks.

Try this one.

Good luck.
posted by MythMaker at 11:55 AM on November 14, 2007

Damn it. They just don't want to let me deeplink. Grrr.

Okay, from the main UCLA Extension page, click fields of study on the left, then arts, then certificate programs (in the upper right), then scroll down, and under "Entertainment Studies and Performing Arts" you will see the "Certificate Program in Film Scoring." Click on that, and you can take a look.

This program is the real deal, and people come out of it and work in Hollywood. It's taught by working composers, so being in that kind of environment will help, as well.

But without having been around how actual scoring generally works, I'd definitely suggest some classes, and this is as cheap and good as you'll find.

Good luck!
posted by MythMaker at 12:00 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

The UCLA program (for the discipline) and the assistant music editor gig (for the cash flow) both sound like great ideas. Thanks a bunch!
posted by mykescipark at 6:20 PM on November 14, 2007

You might also try asking around on mailing lists for Digital Performer -- I've noticed that motu-mac on yahoo groups seems to have a number of LA-based composers posting.
posted by weston at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2007

« Older How do I scare off cats without scaring off cats?   |   Possible Craigslist Scam? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.