In this incredible video, film composer Germaine Franco talks about what it takes to be a film composer in Hollywood. I was frustrated with my music career before watching this video, but hearing Franco talk about how she overcomes writer’s block and just keeps working extremely hard everyday has inspired me to keep going. She says that she started off as an orchestra musician and thought she was going to be an orchestra musician, but then realized she always had a passion for writing her own music, so she started writing for her own Latin jazz group. Here are some of the excellent lessons I took away from this video:
- Work on as much writing as you can so that you can be ready. Don’t figure it out when you get your first gig. This is important for me as a musician and as a writer because I sometimes worry that I’m not good enough to play more pieces, so I would just focus on Schumann’s Cello Concerto. But I have learned that if you want to make it as a musician, you can’t always play it safe. You have to explore lots of different kinds of writing, lots of different kinds of music. The reason so many folks in Hollywood are successful is that they keep working every day on something, even if it doesn’t get a lot of accolades, they just keep working at it.
- Get up early and work on your writing. Franco gets to the studio around 7 am, doesn’t check emails until lunch, and just writes. She says that you can’t worry about whether your writing is perfect at the beginning because you have a deadline you need to meet, so you just need to keep writing, working with different instruments and sounds. I find myself often checking emails a lot, and that it really stifles my creativity when I check emails every day, so I find when I don’t check my emails a lot I’m able to get a lot of writing in, especially during my break time at work.
- It really, really helps to spend some time in Hollywood if you want to write for film. There are many other places such as Nashville, your home town, Europe, but most people who work in Hollywood spend some time (if not all the time) in Los Angeles. At first, this was hard for me to wrap my head around because as things are now with the economy, it would be hard for me to move to Los Angeles, especially because it is pricing out low and middle income folks. But I am not giving up. I am stubborn like that, so I am still determined to get to Los Angeles somehow even if it’s just for a few weeks.
- You need a mentor. When Franco moved to LA she didn’t know anyone but she kept working and working and meeting people in the business who connected her with other composers in the business, so she was able to take all of these incredible opportunities. I have learned this throughout my life as a musician, as a student, as a person. Just keep collaborating with others, always ask for help and be open to receiving constructive criticism so you can improve your craft.
- Even when you don’t have a gig yet, work on your own personal library. This was incredibly inspiring advice to me because sometimes I feel that if I’m not performing my music that it means nothing. But a lot of times, most of the successful folks in the business keep working at their craft, they keep working on their own music, their own stuff, and then when they’re ready with their own portfolio, then they are able to get those opportunities. But if you just wait for inspiration to strike, you’re just kind of letting your talent grow dormant and just remain untapped. People nowadays don’t care about perfection; they just want someone who can meet deadlines and get work done. If they don’t like your writing, that’s fine. You just need to figure out what you could do better at and just keep writing. Basically, you can’t take things personally and you need to just keep doing a lot of work each day, whether you think it sounds good or not.
- Sometimes, it’s ok to step away from your work for a few days and come back to it, but a lot of the time you don’t have that luxury, so you just need to keep pushing past that writer’s block and just keep going. This was inspiring because I love to write and have always written since I was young, but I hit a snag in my 20s when I was just done turning in papers for grades and so I became a perfectionist, thinking if I didn’t have experience then it wasn’t worth my time to apply for certain jobs. But a lot of times, when you’re struggling to make ends meet, you got to speak from your heart. Yes, grammar, editing is important, but not everyone has the luxury of just crafting their work until it’s perfect. What’s most important is just working on something, even if you’ve set these unreasonably high expectations for how your writing is supposed to be the first time. Also, you don’t have the luxury of beating yourself up when you have writer’s block. You just have to keep going.