Very frequently I am asked how I got the job assisting composer Michael Levine and eventually moving with his company into Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions. I write out the response so often that I thought it would be practical to make a blog post out of it.
Like most things, it ultimately comes down to good luck (ie. preparation plus opportunity).
I studied Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating and deciding to move to LA, I knew that becoming an assistant to an experienced composer was the wise next step.
During my first week in LA I was given the opportunity to interview for a composer. I don’t remember exactly how I came upon the interview but I think it was Craigslist. Coming from Berklee, I was extremely well versed in Digital Performer. Unfortunately, this composer’s studio was all Logic, which I knew nothing about. Even more unfortunate was the fact that half of the interview focused on a “Logic quiz”, which was a complete waste of both mine and the interviewer’s time. Needless to say I didn’t get the job, but I thankfully did learn from the experience. I drove directly from the interview to a bookstore, bought a book about becoming an expert with Logic, and dove into the software. If being an expert in Logic was required for becoming a composer’s assistant, I would become an expert in Logic.
A few weeks later I met with Berklee’s LA alumni coordinator, the amazingly awesome Peter Gordon. In a classic moment of “right place, right time” there was an opening for a position assisting Michael. Along with two other composers who were both classmates of mine, I interviewed for the job. Although I had never been a composer’s assistant before, there were a few things in my favor that lent well to the job. The first obvious one was having a degree in Film Scoring. But what also helped was my experience as a supervisor for Berklee’s Video Production Services, as well as being a technician for Harvard University’s Media and Technology Services Department. A majority of the responsibilities for a composer’s assistant involve technical work with extensive knowledge in audio and video, and I had made sure that in my years leading up to this I would be prepared.
I didn’t get the job.
But as luck would have it, the person who did get the job ended up leaving a few weeks into it. I got a call asking if I wanted to come on part time, and eventually the candidate that was initially hired left completely and I came on as the full time assistant. After working out of Michael’s studio for about a year, his brand new studio at Remote was complete and we were ready to move in. The experience of helping plan and set up that studio was invaluable. I ended up working for Michael for about two years and I learned more than I could repay from the experience.
So that’s the long version of how I got my first and only job as a composer’s assistant. I think the basic lesson is that every situation is unique and there is no clear cut way to find that kind of work, but ultimately if you are prepared and a good candidate for the job eventually an opportunity will present itself. And if you aren’t prepared, like my first interview with the quiz on Logic, you won’t get the gig.
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