I scored my first short film, This Modern Love, in 2000. It was written and directed by Andrew Koenig (who played “Boner” on Growing Pains, and whose father, Walter Koenig, was the legendary “Ensign Pavel Chekov” on Star Trek), and you can screen it online. Andrew had posted an ad on the Hollywood Creative Directory, and I was the first to answer. Despite the distance (Andrew lived in Los Angeles, and I in New York), and my lack of experience, we committed to working together. That year, I posted some flyers at NYU, and scored several more shorts. A few months later, an ad I posted on led to my first feature film score for Michael DiPaolo, which in turn led to two more feature scores, both of which offered much creative freedom and a great education. That year, I also made my 3-minute demo, showcasing a multitude of styles, which you can hear (along with other oldies), here.
For better or worse, the student-film angle of getting into film scoring now seems to be drying up. At best, major film-production sites like Mandy, Film Music Network and the local sections of Craigslist offer 2 to 3 postings a week that are seeking music, and each othese is answered by 300+ applicants. None of these postings (regardless of short film or feature) offer any particular budget for composing/producing/arranging/recording, and many offer none or deferred pay.
Elsewhere, I see many a music supervisor’s notice, seeking “upbeat indie-rock and hip-hop”, generally with a fee around $1,000 for an all-in all-territories license. Filmmakers have realized that instead of collaborating with a composer, they can simply pad their films with temp music of their dreams, and then license something similar if/when the film gets distribution, or is screened at a festival where music clearances are a pre-requisite. In an era of sluggish CD sales, even a major record label may easily be persuaded to license for a bargain, as any film with distribution is potential exposure and record sales.
Rather than dwell on the negative any longer, I’d like to list a few really great positive items which stem from this:
1) If you’re a composer who loves to produce indie-rock or hip-hop, this is the era for you to thrive and change the world of music forever.
2) If you’re not into indie-rock or hip-hop, then discover and learn to promote your creative vision. Don’t cave into becoming a “chameleon”, an all-around immitator, unless of course that is what you like to do best. To be a “chameleon” means that you’ll be copying everyone’s temp music, and your fee will decrease daily, as there is no shortage of fans and immitators. Your competition will become the big-time music library, with thousands of easily-licenseable and affordable tracks in any genre and tempo.
3) Now is the best time in film-music history to start a band, a record label, and create music you’re actually excited about! Your excitement and authenticity will carry far higher than any temp-music replacement.