I began my trip this morning at 9am, driving down to Agoura Hills. It was a beautiful drive through the hills. Danny works from his home up where some of the farms and stables are. It’s a really great place. He has a home studio, but when I say home studio, I mean giant frikkin mansion with a full sized studio on the first floor. His place was gorgeous.
His assistant composer Mike let me in and showed me around. His studio is basically 4 rooms. One is the computer room where all the sounds and hot, noisy gear live. The next room in Mike’s station where he writes cues and so on. The middle room is the live recording room where vocalists and performers come in to record when needed. And the final room is Danny’s station. He was in the middle of scoring some cues for the show ‘Love Bites’ when I came in. He was also in the middle of making the switch from Logic to Cubase as his main scoring software so not everything was working properly quite yet.
Danny talked to me about the shows he’s working on, and I watched him make a cue for the show. Then he took me to lunch. We talked there about the industry and what the producers are looking for in a composer. He said that it’s great that I write orchestral music, but if I submit a demo of that to the TV show guys, I’ll never land a gig. That demo would go over well in the film world, but not TV. He said the producers want to know that you can write the stuff that’s on TV now, and then if you get in a position where they want something more creative or orchestral, they’ll let you know. He said the best way to get started out here is to become a composers assistant first. Most composers need them and it’s a great way to ease in to making cues for shows before you get your own just dumped on you.
He told me how he got his start working for Mike Post by accident when someone from his studio walked into his dad’s shop by mistake and his dad got Danny a gofer gig at the studio when he was 17. From there he moved his way up and worked with Mike for 9 years. From there he’s been extremely lucky and fortunate to find gigs and is now loaded with work. He’s said like everyone else that I need to move out here, so I really have to start thinking about how and when to do it.
I hung out with his assistant for a little while too. He had just gotten his first show that he’s scoring on his own and he was working for a bumper for that. A bumper is a little piece of music you hear in sitcoms when they show whatever home or building the characters are in, and then there’s no music for the rest of the scene. The most famous example is Seinfeld, when you hear that slap bass guitar before the scene starts.
The interesting difference here is Mike Post is not a fan of temping. He finds it limits you creatively. I don’t know if I’ve described temping yet, so just in case, temping is when the editors put in music from other movies or what-have-you into the video temporarily to give a feel for the music with the video. Danny always gets temp tracks and the producers want him to write music that sounds like the temps. So that was interesting. He has a different way of writing too. He likes to go piece by piece, layer by layer until the cue is done, which is very different from Mike’s almost on the spot method.
I got a lot of good tips and advice and then Danny told me that there’s a guy who calls him often looking for people to assist him. His name is Robert Kral, and he works for Warner Brothers doing all of the WB cartoons as well as Buffy, Angel and the Dresden Files. Childrens music bells started going off in my head! He gave me Robert’s number and email and told me to give him a call. So I went home and did just that. Robert’s been composing for almost 20 years now and picked up the phone right away. I told him who I was and what I was doing here. He asked me how long I’ve been here and I told him how Mike thought I was at an advanced state and should be meeting people now. The first thing he said is “So you’re probably looking for work then.” I told him all of the above, and left it at that, but to have this guy mention work so fast I’m taking as a good sign. I refuse to get my hopes too far up, but this could be the start of something. So he told me to call him on tuesday to set up a meeting!
I have the next few days pretty quiet. No studio work or anything. Just getting my demos together and resting before everything explodes on tuesday. On tuesday I need to call Robert in the morning, go see Atli in the afternoon, and pick up my SVU episode back at Mike’s at night. Sheesh. Is it weird that I’m talking like this? I feel weird talking like this.