Expedia, A Reality Check, and More!

I’m still used to being in CT where things move slowly, so I have all this time in between posts, but that’s not the case here. I need to get used to writing more often so I don’t have these monster updates to write. So here’s a monster update.

First things first, I met with Christian, Rupert’s old assistant that I was hoping to replace if I had gotten the job. We met at this coffee shop in Santa Monica where apparently all the big movie people go to, because while I was waiting, the people sitting next to me were talking about their sound work on Captain America.  Christian is this really great guy and we talked for about an hour and a half. He had a lot of great things to say that made me feel great about making the choice to move out here. He said he also came from a tiny little town in Colorado and moved here with only enough money for live for a couple months. He only had one contact, and within two months he was lucky enough to get his job with Rupert. He did that for three and a half years and he left because he wanted to start doing his own composing. He did tell me (which was both a compliment and a little bittersweet) that the only reason I didn’t get the job with Rupert was because I couldn’t start the literal next day. That sucks a little bit, but it was a compliment enough to know that if I was there, I had the resume to get a big job like that. Christian did say that at Remote Control, every 3 to 6 months or sooner there is usually an opening for an assistant, so I should sit tight and keep my ear to the ground and he thinks I’ll have a job soon enough. He also said he thinks a runner job at Remote Control might be a good idea because that way I’d be the first one to hear when an assistant job opens up. He also mentioned that in his opinion, TV is the best way to go to get started right now, because you do much more writing and there are more opportunities to become your own composer faster than in the film world. It’s all stuff to think about. He said to keep in touch and that we can help each other out. It was a great meeting and it inspired me to be proactive. He said with the fellowship behind me and the number of contacts I have puts me way ahead of where he was, so made me feel pretty good.

I went home and started setting up more meetings. The first person I called was Greg Smith (gregorysmithmusic.com). Birgit recommended that I call him, as he does a lot for Disney. I spoke to him briefly because he was very busy, but he said he loves to help people out, so I am to email him in a week to set up a meeting. Then I called Robert Kral. I left a voicemail with him, so we’ll see where that goes. My speaker stands came in, so I was able to finish my setup and now my composing station is complete (well all the pieces I own are installed. My workstation is nowhere near complete).

Still no word on the American Express commercial yet. I think that means that I didn’t win that one, but oh well, I was given quite a few more to try my hand at. After American Express, I was given a commercial for Expedia. It called for an aggressive rock sound. Also, the commercial travels through a few different locations. One is a high class restaurant, the next a plane full of annoying kids and finally a ski resort. They wanted the composer to briefly allude to those locations. I did 3 tracks for them. Here’s one of them.

Then I got a reality check. The next day I received an email from Hifi telling me that this music wasn’t right, so I’d have to sit this commercial out. This was really the first time anyone had told me that my music wasn’t right for something and I took it harder than expected. This is what I’ve needed and wanted to happen to me for a long time now, but it didn’t make it any less difficult. There is an upside to this though. Paul told me that we’d meet up soon and he’ll give me a lesson on rock for commercials. He said that there wasn’t anything musically wrong with the tracks I sent, but I guess in the advertising world, there is almost a formula for how rock music should be written for commercials, and I just need to learn that formula. So next week I have my meeting with him to teach me that. So I was feeling a little down, and really wanted another commercial so I could redeem myself in my own head. Unfortunately what came next was a Starbucks commercial that called for an indie-pop sound. I did a bunch of watching of Starbucks commercials online to get an idea of what that sound was and tried it out. It was due the next day and I could only do one version.

Then the next Expedia commercial came in. When I first saw it, I was a little discouraged, but in the email, Birgit said this one was right up my alley. Her and Paul are starting to get a picture of what kind of composer I am, and it turns out it’s right what they need. More on that in a bit. This new commercial needed to be sparse but quirky, using odd combinations of instruments and a bunch of metal (like the material, not the genre) sounds that really follow the video and tell a story. So I set to work and I came up with 3 versions.

I sent these in and held my breath. I got an email back the next day, and they loved them! Thats when Paul called me. He started by saying he and Birgit really want me to get this one. He gave me a couple notes which were so simple. He said the music was perfect so don’t change anything there. Just switch some of the lines to different instruments to make it sound a bit more odd and I’m good to go. Then he told me why it’s good that I’m working for them. He said most of the people there have rock backgrounds and started by playing guitar and then learned piano after. He said they kill the rock commercials and struggle on the ones that require a bit more composing. I’m the opposite. So now I think they know they can come to me when a commercial needs a composers hand, or a more traditional sound (and if not ‘sound’ like in the Expedia case, then at least in how it is written). Then the next day I got an email from Paul asking me to write a specifically different sounding piece for the same commercial. He said this client is prone to changing their mind a lot about what they want, so he wanted to have another option ready, and wanted me to be the one to do it. So that was great and it was fun writing in this style, as I have never done it before. So here’s the fourth option for Expedia.

You’ll notice on that one the ‘.com’ singing at the end. So it’s possible that that singing bit may be at the end, so I had to transpose my original 3 tracks into the key of that audio clip just in case the client wanted to add that to the end of one. Interesting stuff. Finally, two days ago I woke up to an emergency email from Birgit. Kind of a calling all composers kind of thing. She said they had been asked to do a Sears commercial, but needed to get a track to them within one hour of us getting the email. They were looking for a ‘homey’ rhythmic sound, mostly or all piano that had 3 distinct ‘acts’ in the song. There is no video to score to on this one. Sears wants to pick the song first, and then edit their footage to the song. With 40 minutes left to write, I got to work and came up with this.

Birgit was very impressed with my speed and liked the piece, so I have 2 more commercials out there with at least a shot of getting picked.

Okay, almost done! Next week I have my meeting on tuesday with Paul for my rock lesson. I also have my meeting with Greg Smith to see where that leads, and I also have a meeting at the BMI office in Hollywood to see if they can give me any career help. So interesting things coming up. Whew. I’ll be better next time and keeping up with everything!

One thought on “Expedia, A Reality Check, and More!

  1. JT

    Can’t help but notice that all your expedia spots with “quirky” instruments included bassoons. I’ll try to forgive you.

    Dude, your instrument choices on those pieces reminded me strongly of Jon Brion’s work. Have you heard of him? I spent a couple months last year paying very close attention to his most recent collaboration with Brad Mehldau on a through-composed jazz record, but he’s written film scores as well as produced pop and hip-hip records. Bassoons there, too.


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