Whose Advice Are You Taking?

As a composer, I believe it is important to pay attention to how different film directors think about and approach their craft, and ours. After all, we need to continually hone our collaborative skills since they are the focus for using our abilities successfully to serve and underscore the needs of the film, the TV show, or the video game.

For instance, I just spent last evening taking notes while once again reviewing the AFI Master Class where Spielberg and Williams discuss movie scenes that influenced their thinking and their collaborative process. My 34 years of teaching instrumental music, arranging and composing music, rewriting musical sections because they were too difficult or did not keep an audience focused, has everything to do with this business AND nothing to do with this business. In other words, I am still learning and making an effort to understand past the obvious. I’ve always truly believed that learning is a non-stop process; a continuous journey.

When I can, I prefer to learn from those that have already had success in this business. They have already forged ahead and are a wealth of knowledge and experiences. I have also discovered in my brief time of pursuing this path of composing for media that many within the category of experienced and proven directors and composers are more than willing to share their thoughts if the timing is correct for them. I would say to those just starting out to 1) zip the lips, 2) always be ready with your mind, 3) listen with empathy and deep interest, and 4) for Pete’s sake take good notes, 5) ask questions when the opportunity presents itself, and 6) be sincere as well as gracious with your compliments for their opinions and their time.

The attached Francis Ford Coppola interview presents his interesting perspective on the cinema. Some of the highlights include:
1) “If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?”
2) “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money.”
3) “When you make a movie, always discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words.” (His explanation of why is quite interesting.)
4) “Napoleon once said, ‘Use the weapons at hand,’ and this is what a film director has to do everyday.”
5) Coppola discusses his idea from theatre and his use of a prompt book for his ideas.
6) When asked what the best piece of advice that he’s given to his children he said, “Always make your work personal. And, you never have to lie… It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself.” He also discusses how to handle questions in work or in life when you would prefer to lie.
7) What’s the biggest barrier to being an artist? Coppola answers, “Self-confidence always. The artist always battles his own/her own feeling of inadequacy.”



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