Recently a young college student and aspring film composer asked me a question, and I wanted to share my response with you.
“I’m in my first year of music college at the moment and I’m just wondering did you ever try to get any intern or assistant positions during the Summers in-between or did you wait until you’d finished college?”
“The short answer is no, I would wait. In my case I didn’t get an assistant job until after I finished college and moved to LA, but that was mostly because I had to move to where the industry was first.
If you come upon an amazing opportunity, perhaps with a composer you admire, or someone who works on the kinds of projects you love, then absolutely go for it. But otherwise I would say don’t get ahead of yourself. You’re in school to learn, so take advantage of it. Practice your instrument, read 100 orchestration books, stay up all night analyzing the Rite of Spring. Devote yourself to music and developing your skills. The details of how to work in a studio can mostly be picked up in a matter of weeks, but the foundation of being a truly skilled and versatile composer takes years.
There is no prize for getting your career started too early, and you’re only going to be a teenager once. Travel, hang out with your friends, start a band. Professional life is great but there’s no reason to rush into it. I’m 28 now, with a mortgage and a family. I love it, but it’s definitely a different life than I had 10 years ago.
When I had just finished with school I had the amazing opportunity to meet Howard Shore over coffee and ask him questions. I was just about to move to LA and so of course I had all these big plans and wanted to know the right move for every situation. His advice to me was “slow down and be patient”. At the time it didn’t really sink in and I didn’t get it, but now I’m starting to understand.
In the past I spent more time thinking about the next step without paying enough attention to the one I was on. Obviously I consider goals and planning to be crucial, but as a guide not an obsession. In high school it was all about getting into Berklee, at Berklee it was all about becoming a film composer, when I was scoring short films it was all about getting my first feature, and so on. But really scoring short films should be all about doing a great job scoring short films. Scoring a feature should be all about doing a great job scoring that feature, not about how to leverage it for the next one. Being in college should be about getting the most out of it that you can, while you still can.
Making the most of the present moment is worth contemplation.”
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