Many of us are looking to jump into our industry by assisting someone more established. This is a great idea.
I wrote this in reply to composers looking to find jobs at studios, with other composers, or just generally looking for a job in the music industry.
Really though, we can use this for any starter to mid-level job in any industry.
I’ve only ever been an assistant once in my life, and I got it through a mutual friend. After that, I knew that I didn’t want to be an assistant to someone… but I did want teammates. So the caveat is I don’t have direct experience getting hired to be a composer’s assistant.
That said, I do have a lot of knowledge and experience with getting hired for a job AND hiring/working with people like teammates, interns, assistants.
Here’s what I would do if I wanted to get a job with a composer…
I think the most important step for this is not cold call every composer you can find, but instead be super focused and intentional about who you want to work with. This way, you’re channeling all of your energy to presenting a very compelling proposal to the people you DO contact.
Once you find the people you’d love to work with, figure out what they’re all about. If they work in a team-based studio environment, figure out what the studio culture might be like.
Dig into what this composer has done, what they currently do, and what their goals are. You can learn a lot by looking them up online or asking a current/past employee about their experience there.
Concurrently, write up and design (to the best of your ability) a resume. There are services like canva.com that make it really easy to make great-looking resumes. I recently used one of their templates as a jump-off point for one I recently made. The template is attached.
In addition to your resume and cover letter, write up a one page proposal regarding specific things you think you can help with (according to their goals).
If they’re a company that sells products, write up a “Next Three Products” proposal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t initially have amazing ideas. The goal behind this is to show them you’re in it for them – you’re in it for their success.
If they’re a team that supplies a service, figure out possible ways to make their processes more efficient. See if you can think outside the box – not knowing how a company operates and coming in with fresh eyes is sometimes the best way to introduce new ideas.
If you haven’t been able to figure out what their goals or problems are – ask them. As an employer, finding someone who’s actually interested in tackling these subjects is super desirable, and something any growing business would want.
*An Email Template*
Here’s the email that helped my team and me build a bunch of great relationships with clients – sound design libraries more specifically.
Again, I haven’t tested this with composers I wanted to assist, but it’s the kind of email I wish people would send me – it’d make hiring them a lot easier.
1. Include an introduction explaining how you heard of the composer and what you like about what they do.
2. Write about how you’ve served others in your potential employer’s position – even if it’s smaller scale work. This will take some “pre-work” a few months before contacting your future employer.
Pre-work can be something like helping your colleagues/friends with tasks you enjoy (and don’t enjoy), or even creating something for yourself to use. It can be stuff like designing sounds on a synthesizer, making charts to promote efficiency on Google Sheets, transcribing your favorite score by ear, or anything that you find interesting.
A friend of mine literally programmed software meant to organize cues when he joined a team working on a Netflix series. Talk about a team player.
Do a lot of potentially valuable work – enough so that it feels substantial and noteworthy.
3. Ask your potential employer questions that show them you understand their goals. This can be a call-to-action that will jump start a conversation.
Lastly, length does matter – simple and short is preferred. But if there’s potential value in it for the reader, it’s worth saying more.
I’m a composer and sound designer, so if I wanted to work with an experienced full-on working composer, this is what I’d write…
Subject Line: Hey [Composer Name] – how can I contribute?
Hey [Composer Name],
My name’s Daniel and I’m a composer and sound designer [hyperlink to your website on “I’m a composer and sound designer”]. I’ve been a long-time fan of the way you provide so much value to the people you work with – particularly with your film scores (something I love to do) [hyperlink to your IMDb (if you have one) on “something I love to do”]. You and your team have accomplished a lot of fantastic work and I’m really interested in your future goals.
In the past few months, I’ve helped 6 of my colleagues on their film scores by taking on sound design & additional music tasks. This led to an awesome workflow where we were able to establish a delivery system that made us super efficient for our filmmakers.
I did all that in preparation for my current goal. My main priority right now is to find composers doing great things and explore possible ways to contribute to their results.
A few questions about you [or “the team,” if they have one]:
1. What could a composer or sound designer do to add value to you and your team? How can I help with your objectives?
2. From what I’ve seen, it looks like you already have a solid workflow, but I’m interested to know if you’re looking to work with an additional assistant or sound designer. Maybe even as a supplemental team member that’s on-call?
Thanks for your time, [Composer Name]. Looking forward to hearing more about you![Sign off with contact info]
*My Experience with this Process*
This isn’t the only process we can use to get a job, but it’s one that I’ve used for years with great results. Additionally, the people my team and I used it with really appreciated how much time we took to do the research and assemble materials. It’s just hard to say no to someone that’s so willing to make things happen.
My most memorable moments with it were talking and meeting with the creative guys at Output, the prolific team at 8dio, the hard-working folks at Umlaut Audio, and so many different filmmakers and collaborators. Fun, fulfilling, and meaningful relationships were built.
I hope this helps you the next time you’re looking for your next awesome job! Let me know if you’ve got questions on any of this. Would love to dig in and elaborate!