2006 In Review

I’ve been reflecting as of late about 2006, and what I’ve accomplished this year. Normally, I don’t go for the whole resolution crap, everyone picking the same time of the year to improve themselves. I’d rather choose some random date, like June 14th or October 3rd, to make big changes. But from a business standpoint it’s convenient to look at things from a year to year perspective, so here we are.

2006 was a good year for me in terms of soliciting my own work in the field of composing music for film and television. It was the year of coming up with a business plan, setting up a brand and registering a business name, and getting things legal.

I wrote music for sixteen projects in 2006, not including the pieces I wrote for demos, auditions, projects that didn’t survive and remixed versions of tracks. I learned something new from every project I worked on, and I feel lucky when I say that everyone was easy to work with, and most of the projects were actually fun. I won’t go over everything, some of the projects are already chronicled here in the blog, but I wanted to go over the highlights of the last year for you, the reader, and for myself.

The first project I got was in Feb of 2006, a documentary for three students in Washington DC. The film was about a teen named Napoleon Beazley who, at age 17, was put to death for murder in 2005. The film was supposed to show both sides of the incident equally, although the interviews with Napoleon’s family were, in my opinion, more emotionally charged than those of the murdered couple. I wrote a half dozen cues for the film, most of them channeling my sadness over both tragedies, the deaths of a supreme court judge’s parents in a botched robbery, and the death of a teen who’s choice in friends cost him his life. I have since remixed three of the cues as my sample library upgraded; listening to them reminds me of my beginnings and Napoleon’s ending at the same time.

Mechan Wars was the second project I worked on. A sci-fi short written and directed by Gino Do for DeAnza College in San Francisco, it was a 23 minute film that demanded 22 minutes of score. I got the gig with the condition that I could score the project in 3 days. They were in a bind and needed someone to bail them out with the score, so I said yes. The first thing I learned (and heard first from composer Christopher Young) was to never say no. There’s always time to figure out how to accomplish the impossible later. I got the footage for Mechan Wars on Thursday and spent the first 12 hours trying to come up with something viable and coming up empty. Then, out of nowhere, I got an idea, which turned into a theme, and then I was running full speed. I scored the project through the night Thursday to Friday afternoon, and turned it in with enough time to make changes on Saturday, and the film was finished by late Sunday night for the Monday deadline. The film has significance to me in part because it’s the first time in my life that I realized that I work better under extreme deadlines. On future projects that had open or wide deadlines, I chose my own deadline and promised the score by that date. My love is television composing, and I feel that my penchant for intense deadlines will give me an advantage when I eventually score my first series.

I scored a short entitled “321″ for a New York based director in the spring. It was entered into the 60 Second Film Competition for Zoetrope, and the director, Byron Karl, got to the Fed Ex office minutes after they locked the doors, missing the deadline for overnighting the film to Hollywood. He called me the next morning, FTP’d me the file, and I drove it to Zoetrope headquarters off Sunset. Although it didn’t win, it’s a beautiful black and white piece that needed a score that built upon itself, one piece of music that gained strength over the course of the one minute film. I’d like to think I accomplished the task.

The highest profile work I did this year was for the PBS show Roadtrip Nation. The show follows a group of college students as they interview people from coast to coast riding in an RV. The interviews range from the CEO of Starbucks to a lobster fisherman, asking everyone the same questions: How did you find your calling in life and what was your journey like that brought you there. I worked with Editor Blake Hodges and the music team, and one of my cues made the final cut and appeared in episode 9. 2006 was the first year Roadtrip Nation was broadcast nationally by PBS, and I’m excited to be a part of the process and a part of their history. I hope to work with the team again in 2007.

One of the projects I’m most proud of musically was the kung-fu satire Legend of Drunken Monk. The score was written in a full week of 14 hour days, and it’s the most diverse musically of the films I worked on this year. The music ranges from unsettling to thoughtful to intense action, all within the confines of 35 minutes. Director Robert Jordan was so easy to work with, and the hours and hours we spent discussing the film felt like minutes. Bobby was very detailed with everything he did, and it showed in the final product. The cue I wrote over the climactic final fight, the last one I wrote because I was having a problem coming up with something fitting, actually came to me in a dream. I jumped out of bed and started writing, and had it finished 4 hours later. Bobby’s working on the screenplay for his first full length feature, Silent Retreat, as I type this, and the trailer should be out in the spring of 2007.

Finally, I scored a film this fall called 3 Down, which had an amazing script written by Kristyn Benedyk. The film was a beautiful short depicting the grief a family goes through after losing their son. When I’m able to write from the soul I usually produce the best work, and the cues I wrote for this film were among the most emotional I’ve written all year. Kristyn and Trevor Jones of Reel Farm Films are working on their next short this winter; it’s being filmed in Chicago right now.

I went from a very small studio space in late 2005 to a large dedicated room at the end of 2006. When the opportunity presented itself to rent a larger space next to my home, I jumped at the chance to sign a lease and convert the space into a creative environment. I still have a punch list of touch ups and small fix-its to do before the end of the year, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. I now have room for the new equipment I’ve purchased, as well as a relaxed environment for directors to sit and watch footage. By the middle of 2007 I’ll have a dedicated section of the studio for live recording, whether it’s a guitarist, cellist, violinist, or flutist.

I had the opportunity in October of 2005 to study under composer Christopher Young, who among many, many films recently scored The Grudge 2, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and is currently working on Spider Man 3. Chris is an amazing man, and is the most generous person I’ve met in this industry. Not only did he give his and his staffs time freely, he provided copies of his work and study materials free of cost. To spend one-on-one time with him and hear him praise my music is beyond words. The 8 months I spent listening to him helped shaped me into the composer I am today.

I wrote a goal list for 2006 at the beginning of the year, and I’ve surpassed everything I wrote, many things before the year hit the halfway point. I continue to learn new things every time I sit down at the keyboard or open a book. I have yet to write my goal list for 2007, but I have written down a list of projects I’ve either secured or are pursuing for next year, and there are already 8 on the list. I want to thank everyone I’ve worked with this year, for both the opportunity and your friendship. My goal has always been to develop relationships over quantity of films scored, and nothing would please me more than to work with the same filmmakers on new projects.

My blogs this year have been sporadic, and in the upcoming 12 months I’m going to attempt a more regular interaction with the MySpace blog. There are many people on my friends list that I don’t know as well as I’d like to yet, but I’m getting there. There are also a few people I’ve met recently that I’m excited to work with in the upcoming year, which is in my opinion worth every minute I spend working MySpace.

Thanks for listening to me rave about the past 12 months, I enjoy reading the blogs of others chronicling their film adventures and I wanted to return the favor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book on music theory and a cup of coffee waiting for me.

Rob