FIRST GIGS AND SERENDIPITY

A couple of recent posts and emails from people starting out got me thinking about my own first gig and serendipitous opportunity and I wondering what everyone else’s experiences were. I’ve always found these kinds of stories inspiring and I imagine that young people starting out might benefit from hearing about them.  Richard’s open invitation to contribute to this forum inspired me to share this thought out loud so please forgive me if this topic has been covered previously. When I think back on it, my first opportunity to score a film was as true of a case of serendipity as I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve experienced a few). I was in my early 20s and had recently decided that I wanted to be a composer. In the absence of opportunities to score films I decided to hone my chops by re-scoring films like The Usual Suspects. I even co-directed, acted in and edited a silly horror film with some friends just to have something to score but I don’t count that as my first gig since I technically hired myself. I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for something to happen, I was working really hard to prepare myself for when it did. One day I overheard two brothers talking in the driveway behind the townhouse complex I was living in at the time. They had just moved in about 20 feet away from me and were editing a short film they had recently shot. They even had an Avid bay set up in their living room. It was a real film shot on 35mm (this was before digital) with locations and everything. I had been racking my brain trying to find my first scoring opportunity and it literally moved into my back yard. I’m not always the most outgoing person and probably even less so back then but I recognized the golden opportunity that this was. I apologized for listening in on their conversation and introduced myself as a composer. I asked if they had hired a composer for their film and as luck would have it, they had only just started looking. They were apprehensive about my lack of experience but were impressed enough with my demo of re-scored scenes to consider me. I offered to score it for free and that sealed the deal. I realize that they didn’t have anything to lose financially by using me but this was their first film and they had a lot riding on it. They could easily have went with someone else but I was persistent and promised to give it my all which I did. I scored the film with nothing but a JV-1080 and Studio Vision Pro running on a Mac Plus. For those who don’t know that is a 16 channel synth and a very outdated computer for the time but somehow I made it work. They were very happy with the score and it led to other projects. Most importantly, I had my first real credit and some new material for my demo. Also, that was the last time I worked for free. On each subsequent project I asked for a little more. Sure, it was as little as $100 on the early short films but it was important to me that some kind of financial value be placed on the music. Eventually this led the way to real gigs but not before I was able to put together a few credits and a decent demo. For my experienced composer friends that are still reading this, what was your first gig or an important serendipitous opportunity in your career? For anyone starting out, what are you doing to prepare yourself for when your next big opportunity comes along? Thanks for listening! Discussion