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Topic: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

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  1. #1

    Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Hello everyone. I want to share a very recent experience (sorry for the length). I recently wrote a score for a short film--about 14 mins--for a first-time director. It was a freebie. I didn't have the film very long, probably only a couple of weeks (I have a day-job, so my composing hours are limited), when it was suddenly decided that the final mix had to be in a week. This put me into a terrible time crunch and I lost a lot of sleep, had to take time off work, and truly worked my darnedest to meet the deadline.

    Well, I made it by 8AM and handed the stems to the music editor at 8:30 who was due on the stage by 9:00. I had no idea how anyone reacted to the score. I was so exhausted, having only ten hours of sleep in a four-day period, that I wasn't able to attend the first day of the mix. So I went on the second day, during notes and fixes.

    As I sat there on the mix stage, I began to notice that some of the cues were faded out, ended early. Another one faded in later and also ended early. The final big cue, which had taken me the most time to write and program to get just right (and was clearly the most impressive--it was the finale, after all!) was not even in the film.

    Um... yeah, there appears to be a drop-out in the music... that lasts for the entire duration of the cue!!!

    I was very upset at having the cue thrown out. After all that work, and for free! The nerve! I sat there in silence, fuming about it. Such a slap in the face! Such an unprofessional, typical, first-time-director thing to do! With no apology or anything. This was the finale, for gods sake! I announced that I had to leave, made some lame excuse about dinner plans, and exited quite abruptly. At least I kept my head and was careful not to do or say anything I would later regret. It was very difficult to show restraint.

    I went home and drank a large martini. I spent a lot of time composing a large email to the director explaining my point of view, how he should have called me to discuss removing the cue from the film. I mean, as a composer, I have a tendency to overdo it from time to time, meaning I love to write music, and sometimes, I honestly over-cue. But this was perfect for the scene! It fit the mood exactly! He was completely off base!

    I tried to word my email in such a way as to let him know that I was upset, but also was sincere in my desire to explain the proper protocol in dealing with this sort of situation. After I thought about it a lot, and after the fiftieth revision to my novel, I placed a call to the mixer (who had recommended me for the job).

    The mixer, wise in his young years, offered much insight. First of all, he told me the director LOVED the score. He wanted to use it all, but for that last cue, he just couldn't make it all work with the FX he wanted for the scene and the overall tone he was after. Further, he told me the director just raved about me and already talked about using me for his next project. The mixer also understood my situation, having poured his heart into sound design for an earlier project only to have that director say, "No I want to hear only the score here." He finished our talk by mentioning that the low/no-budget projects are rarely about credit and a copy, or even the minimal payment you get, but the true reward is the relationship. The truly talented ones are going to make features soon, with real money, and when they do, if we play our cards right, they will call us.

    After I thought about it, I ultimately came to realize: this is the director's film. Just because I'm an artist, doesn't mean it's all about me. I had done my part to give him everything he wanted and more. I actually received a call from him earlier in the evening, thanking me for my hard work and reprising his desire to work with me again. I told him, that what was most important to me was that he was able to get the final product that he wanted. And as I think about it, it's not just lip-service. It's the truth.

    I don't have the music from the film posted for your listening pleasure yet, but when I do, I will edit this post.

    Do any of you have war stories about rejection? Do any of you have tips for dealing with it? I can't say that I am new to film scoring, but having only worked on short films with little or no budget probably keeps me in the amateur category. Anyway, it took me a full two days of thinking, a lot of gin, and running on the treadmill (though not at the same time) to get over the anger and hurt. It was truly at the 11th hour that I felt enlightenment, and was able to reconcile the situation. I'd love to hear about your own experiences.

    -Joe

  2. #2

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Quote Originally Posted by jmc
    The truly talented ones are going to make features soon, with real money, and when they do, if we play our cards right, they will call us.
    Thanks for sharing your story. On a scale of 1 - 10 in terms of rejection pain though, I would say this was pretty low on the scale. You had the good fortune to have a director that verbally expressed his appreciation for your music ( if not directly to you) and at least you did have your music used in the film.

    Directors and editors will always move music cues around, cut and fade in and out...etc...etc. Thats is very common.

    As for your quote above, this is a common carrot directors will dangle in front of composers noses. We have all poured our blood into music thinking it may lead to a relationship with a director who will become famous. But the reality, I think, is that when these directors do become famous and start having budgets for films, they go to the professional composers who are charging the big bucks.

    It sounds like you learned a lot from this job, so maybe that is the silver lining?
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  3. #3

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    I don't have any experience, but I know this happens to even the best, and its often difficult to understand what on earth is going through the director's mind. Take Star Wars, for instance. George Lucas has given countless interviews where he has said that it's the music that makes the films, that they're almost silent movies where the music tells the story, that they're 'space operas' etc, etc. And yet he hacks the music to death, turns it down to where it can't be heard, moves cues and uses them for other scenes, even re-uses music from the previous films in place of what John Williams has actually written for a scene. The reason that there was never a 'complete' double album release of the last two OSTs is that there wasn't enough new music used in the films, despite the fact that it had been recorded. What exactly George Lucas is thinking I have no idea, but, as you say, it's his film.

  4. #4

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Meh... I say just create your own film and use the music however you want.

  5. #5

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    meh

    it happens all the time, with everyone. did you see a list of rejected scores in Hollywood? it's huge! Every composer has such a score.

    one of the latest examples is score of Troy, initially composed by Yared. He spent almost 1 year(!) on it. And it was rejected and work was handed to Horner. Horner had about 1 month and half to complete full score.

    Not only Yared score was rejected, they also refused to publish it as add-on along with official score. Or another story - King Kong score. Shore made all work recorded in NZ, then score was rejected and Howard made new score in LA, deadline was about 5 weeks.

    There is also funny story about Kubrick's Shining, composer made a score according to temp track, and eventually Kubrick thrown out ALL score and returned to temp track, bought rights and voila!

    If you want to keep going in this bizz, better think about your music less personally. Bad thing you were doing it for free of course, so I feel your pain. Credit for something you are not decided upon, and not satisfied with, is not very good reward for your artistic ego. But think about it this way: maybe it will be noticed, and this very version will make soem doors open for you.

  6. #6

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Quote Originally Posted by jmc
    Such an unprofessional, typical, first-time-director thing to do! With no apology or anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by jmc
    After I thought about it, I ultimately came to realize: this is the director's film. Just because I'm an artist, doesn't mean it's all about me.
    -Joe
    Hi Joe,

    Sounds like your experience tore you in the above two directions, even if you felt it was resolved in the end.

    I cant know all the nuances of your situation there, but you know, I'd be inclned to give that student director a serve(when your head is cool), and not only to vent your frustrations.

    Doing that also tells him/her for future reference that you regard yourself as a quality worker, and that you dont want to be messed around. There's a fair degree of expediency operates in this occupation, and i think its good to set some ground rules, if your working relationship with that director is going anywhere.

    Also, that guy needs to understand that, as he isnt Stanley Kubrick, but just starting off, that he should be nurturing talent that gravitates towards him, who takes time off his day job, and then works for free.

    I'm revisiting student director memories here of my own and of the directors who were offhand, disorganised with few people management skills - none of those people to my knowledge are doing anything now. Just my experience.

    Better luck next time!
    Ciao.

  7. #7

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Quote Originally Posted by GunJinn
    meh

    There is also funny story about Kubrick's Shining, composer made a score according to temp track, and eventually Kubrick thrown out ALL score and returned to temp track, bought rights and voila!
    .
    Same thing happened with 2001 A Space Odyssey. A whole comissioned soundtrack was completed and then Kubrick decided to go with Ligeti and Johann Strauss.

  8. #8

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Quote Originally Posted by Pingu
    Same thing happened with 2001 A Space Odyssey. A whole comissioned soundtrack was completed and then Kubrick decided to go with Ligeti and Johann Strauss.
    ... and the 'modern' electronic stylings of Morton Subotnick . . .

    .
    — alanb

    ...........................

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  9. #9

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    Quote Originally Posted by Pingu
    Same thing happened with 2001 A Space Odyssey. A whole comissioned soundtrack was completed and then Kubrick decided to go with Ligeti and Johann Strauss.
    Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell Alex North, who was the composer of the commissioned soundtrack. He didn't find out until he was at the movie's premier hearing the temp score and not his. He stormed out of the theater.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  10. #10

    Re: Slightly OT: Dealing with rejection

    As others above have noted, this is part of life for a film composer. Cues get buried during last-minute mix decisions, and on occasion entire scores get thrown out - sometimes for no other reason than the film was doing badly in test screenings, and some panicked producer decided to change whatever could still be changed. (And to be fair, sometimes there's a composer mismatch and a score is legitimately not right for a film.)

    Your situation was actually far gentler than many, but kudos nonetheless for emerging from the experience with a professional and positive attitude.

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