It was such a thrill to be invited to talk to Wez Allard on Skwigly's animation podcast series: Animation Composed. Skwigly has been my go to website for animation news for a long time, and if you're interested in animation it's well worth checking out.
You can listen to the podcast below (I'm around 52 minutes in, but it's a cracking podcast if you want to listen to the whole thing).
Source (with bio info and track listing): Skwigly website
Last week saw the Scream Street production team get together to celebrate the enormous undertaking that was Scream Street series 1.
It was great to catch up with people I knew and worked with, as well as people I hadn't yet met, like animators, the CGI team, prop makers, some BBC people and more. The series needed around 60 people to happen, so it was good to celebrate the achievement with a lot of them. Fingers crossed for series 2!
p.s. the photo below was taken later on, so beer may have been imbibed!
As an ex-teacher of key stage 1 children I've found a place as a composer that feels like home: children's media. The projects and productions I've been involved with so far in the kids' media world have been a wonderful experience, and so it's no surprise that when I first attended the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield last year I found myself surrounded by people who feel the same.
CMC is a wonderful celebration of the fantastic story telling and experiences we grown ups can provide the younger generation. Everyone seems passionate about the need for getting it right, about helping young people with certain issues, about the responsibility the industry has as a whole to give children a positive experience as possible.
That's why I'm going again this year. Of course it's a chance to have some meetings and network, but on the whole it's a chance to listen and learn, to recharge the inspiration batteries and to remember why the children's media industry is so valuable to our society.
If you're going feel free to say hello!
It's important to celebrate the small victories.
Today the last episode of Scream Street series 1 was signed off. I'm incredibly proud to have worked on this amazing stop-motion series, and thankful to be given the opportunity. Fingers crossed for series 2!
There will now be a short break followed by more relentless music-making - watch this space for more details in the near future.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I've both heard and given (apart from KEEP WRITING, even if you don't have a reason to) is network: go and rub shoulders with people, start to develop relationships.
The TV production business is no different to any other in the respect that it's people dealing with people. I have found that there isn't a shortage of composers all trying to occupy overlapping media spaces, so how do you stand out?
Be nice. There, I've said it. The secret to getting along with people. You're welcome.
Seriously though, you do have to have the skills and reliability to back it up, but being nice (not to be confused with being a pushover) gives you more chance of being thought of later on.
Now, this blog post is called 'The Networking Misconception' for a reason. I know people who seem to have the idea that by turning up to a networking situation that walking out with anything less than a job means failure. This isn't a criticism by the way. It's tough out there, and anyone trying to make a living doing something creative will agree.
When you meet someone, you have a conversation. You wouldn't introduce yourself by saying 'Hi, I'm looking for work, can you give me work please?' It's more likely you'll introduce yourself and what you do and share the spotlight with that person. Have a conversation and see how it goes. Oh, and be nice.
I know it's hard. When you're trying to break into professional work it's difficult not to put a lot of weight on meeting people who make decisions. Just remember decision-makers are people too, with lives and everything. If you treat them like an actual person and not a decision-making uberlord, you are so much more likely to get on with them in the future.
So if you find the idea of networking overwhelming or too much of a pressure, stop thinking long-term. Think of who is in the room and try to have a good experience then and there. Let that be your measure of success. Happy networking!
The composer experience of receiving notes on their work I'm sure varies wildly from production to production. I wanted to - hopefully - provide a fair view of what notes are about.
When I first received feedback on something I'd done, a mixture of flattery, vexation and panic started in the pit of my stomach. Flattery because someone had taken the time to review my work, vexation because how could they not see that I had understood the brief and provided my best effort, and panic because I had PROVIDED MY BEST EFFORT! HOW DO I BETTER MY BEST EFFORT??
After immediately hitting reply to the email, I paused, stood up and walked away, made a cuppa and thought it through. Why would I be hired, only to be told my work wasn't good enough? After re-reading the notes of course, I realised that wasn't what I was being told at all; it was just a natural state caused by me from not being used to feedback.
You see, when you get hired for a production you become part of a big, complicated team. The team has to tell a story, so it has to agree on the mood of each scene, the overall feel of the show, the importance of dialogue over music or vice versa, and many other things. It's complicated.
What I realised very quickly was that when I give my best shot at a scene or an episode it's very important for the people who have invested so much time and love into creating the story and the visuals to ensure the music is helping the story telling.
I also realised was that I was helping to tell someone else's story, not the other way around. 9 times out of 10 the second pass at an episode - with some tweaks made via notes from the production team - flows better than the first.
I've come to love receiving notes on my work. How nice it is to have a team of people thinking of ways to make everything sound and look better (in my experience - I would love to know what your experiences have been like). Oh, by the way, if you are a producer or a note-giver, us composers like to hear about the bits you like too. I've been lucky in this regard, it's a real boost to read 'very nice build', or 'I enjoyed this scene'. It gives the 'something more ominous here' and 'the music is fighting the dialogue' more context. And who doesn't like a compliment eh?
What are your experiences of receiving feedback on your work?
On a Facebook group recently someone asked about the benefits of subscription websites, where you pay a monthly fee and have access to job applications. I thought it might be useful to anyone looking to get into the business of making music to talk about my experience of them. At this point I have to point out this is merely MY experience - I have no idea how successful they are as a whole.
Over the years I've dipped in and out of these services. I won't mention any by name as the experience has been the same. You pay a fee, read the slightly detached ads (major label requires...feature film needs an outstanding composer etc) and apply blind. This could be a cover letter or a pitch (yes, often you have to work without a pitch budget or even contact with the potential hirer). Many times I've done this and many times I've not succeeded. By the way, I've learned to not use the word 'failed' after realising it's usually nothing personal, more that your take on it doesn't fit with the hirer's take; it doesn't mean you're not good enough.
Anyway, I've never been hired through a subscription website, and I think I know why. If there are, let's say, 100 applications for a job, there's a one in 100 chance of getting it. In contrast, for a regular TV pitch process generally a handful of composers are invited to pitch (again, I'm talking about my own experience). In addition you should be able to speak to the producers and decision makers to find out how best to approach the project, either verbally or by finding out their likes and dislikes. Very often finding out what someone doesn't like is a good steer. The bottom line is that everyone wants the best for the project, so decision makers will want to give you the best chance to succeed.
But surely the subscription websites allow access to those companies. How will I be included otherwise?
My simple answer: take the tenner a month and save it for networking events, for conferences, for lunches and informal gatherings. Get to know who you want to work with. Do your research and make it personal.
How to network is another topic entirely, but ultimately talking with human beings about shared passions is much better than paying to become a number.
Although it's the start of a new year, my part in series 1 of Scream Street will soon come to a close. I've enjoyed my time on the show...well, I have a couple of months yet so I'll save it until then. Needless to say it's already busy!
By the way, you are reading this blog post on my website. I tend to post here every so often, and my new year resolution is to post here every more often. However, I use social media for everyday posts; so if you want to know the Norwegian for 'Scream Street', or find out where my music is being used around the world, then please do join me on Facebook and / or Twitter. And if you already do, tell your friends! I tend to keep posts music-related, so you won't find any political rantings (there's enough of that around already).
I hope you're having a good start to the year too, and hopefully see you on TwitFace.
The ramblings of a music man.