Day 16: The Empire

This morning I went into the studio to see what I have to do for the newest SVU episode. Mike and the crew were there and I told them about my weekend with Danny and my plans for today and this week. They gave me the new episode and shunned me out quickly so I wouldn’t hear what Mike was doing. Can’t cheat or nothin’! I can tell you that the next episode, airing next wednesday is called “Flight” but that’s all I’m allowed to say. Turns out I have tons of time to work on this thing because they wont get the final cut until Friday night, and on Friday the studio is actually adding more music cues to the list. And yeah, the episode is still due saturday. Crazy how fast this business has to work sometimes.

Before lunch I made my call to Robert. He wasn’t there, but I left him a message. Hopefully I’ll hear from him soon because I’m insanely curious why he asked me if I was looking for work. Then it was off to Remote Control Productions; home of Hanz Zimmer, to see Atli Ovarsson.

I was given a security pass and was greeted by Dave, Atli’s assistant composer. Let me just say this place is amazing. Hanz owns all these buildings over an entire city block. He also rents space out to all these other famous composers like Steve Jablonsky (Transformers), Harry Gregson-Williams (Chronicles of Narnia), Nick Pheonix (Creator of the virtual instruments I use) among others. This place has everything, and all the composers there have access to Hanz Zimmers’ personal virtual instruments. Dave was telling me what it’s like to work there and all the movies he’s helped on. He says the resources available are like nothing else. The hours can be difficult to get used to where if they’re really busy, he can be pulling 14 hour days every day. But he gets to write a lot of music for Atli, who is becoming quite a big name nowadays. As well as working on films with Hanz, Atli has scored Season of the Witch, Stuart Little 3 and Modern Warfare 2 (videogame) on his own and has a few movies I can’t talk about lined up. Dave asked me about my technical background and what programs I use. Everything looks pretty familiar to what Mike does, but on an even bigger scale than him. He also let me in on a little secret that got me pretty excited. The winter season is quiet for the composing world, so everyone goes on a sort of winter break. That break just ended so things are pretty quiet, but soon it will get extremely busy. Atli usually has a third guy as an entry level assistant…but he doesn’t have one now. Dave said that if he hears Atli talking about getting another one soon, he’ll recommend me! And I have a shot because Atli was a Pete Carpenter winner, Dave was a Pete Carpenter, and so am I. Pretty convenient stuff.

Then I met Atli. Right off the bat he’s such a nice guy. He told me how he got his start and we talked about music in general and where it’s going. He says music is getting simpler and simpler and that can make a composers’ life a little boring because that’s what the public wants right now. This is the hierarchy as he sees it. Orchestral composition (like concert music) is on top. You have complete creative freedom to write whatever you want. Film music is next because you can still be create but must write for a general audience. TV is next, and finally radio. I told him how I want to get into childrens music and he said that’s the exception. He said that’s where you can get the closest to concert orchestral music because you can’t be too over the top or fantastical with a childrens score. So that was good to hear. He asked me a bit about my background and then wanted to hear my music. I must admit, just being in Hanz Zimmer’s building having an A-list film composer listen to my music…it was probably the most nervous I’ve been since I got here. First he played my Pete Carpenter song and was really pleased. He said the same thing as Mike did: if I can write that, then I can write for TV and even film. Then he listened to the End credits music that I posted earlier. He could hear that I had just bought a new library of sounds and that I was drowning in them a bit. He said the music was good but I hadn’t learned how to mix them yet. Then he played a chase theme I wrote. Now here’s where I finally got some real good feedback that sets me in a direction:

Electronic music (in terms of film and TV) is ‘in’ and expected by audiences now. I can’t get away with pure orchestral music, which is what I was starting to figure out from Mike and Danny. He said (for all you composers out there) drum loops and synths can add a lot to an orchestral score. It doesn’t have to be all electronic, but I need to learn how to use that. He told me that in terms of my writing ability, it’s all there. He could hear the way I think and was able to relate it to how he writes (which was good to hear). But in terms of my sound palette, he said it’s like I’m only using half. So I need to officially learn to use some electronic sounds, so I hope some opportunities come up soon to try that. After that, he talked about production value. He can tell that I’m doing all my work on one computer. Understandable because that’s all I can afford now, but he said a good exercise it to write a piece of music and compare it to a professional one and see what I’m missing, but from a mixing perspective, not a music one. See what’s loud and what’s soft. Hear where the instruments are coming from and try to emulate that.

He’s such a positive guy but to hear some real feedback was refreshing. I know I still have so much growing to do and so much learning and to finally have my next steps feels great. He can tell by listening to my music that I want to be a film composer, but with this whole experience and hearing a lot of TV music I became a little on the fence. But hearing him say that set me straight again that my style is a film style so that’s where I should be. He said that it’s important to know what I want and to try to get it. When I had to leave, Atli gave me all his information and told me to keep in touch and he wants to know what I do after the fellowship. I really hope that position opens up with him. Being in that environment would be amazing and I think I would learn so much. So now I have even more of a clear direction for the future and now I just need the next step to show itself by the time this fellowship is over so I can just jump in. You can bet that he’ll be hearing from me before I leave to put the bug in his ear that I’ll be his guy if he needs extra help. I hope I didn’t forget anything, but I probably did. There was so much to take in today.

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