I’m sure this has been said here a million times and in a million ways but it’s something I’ve thought about often throughout my career. Every project, no matter how good or bad, no matter what the budget deserves the best you can give. Not only for you reputation and for the opportunity to grow but because you never know who is listening.
Some of my first professional work was scoring direct to video B movies. I did a lot of them and this was right when the CGI monster genre was born, the one that paved the way for movies like Sharknado. I scored a killer cockroach movie, a killer wasp movie, even a movie with giant komodo dragons whose saliva would turn anyone who came in contact with it into a violent zombie. I scored movies that reused footage from other movies including Rambo and Terminator 2. In fact, I scored the same scenes from those movies over and over again, each time with different lead actors being cut in. And each time I wrote a new theme and somehow found a new way to say the same thing musically. This was my music school.
None of these movies had any chance of winning an Oscar but each an every one was an opportunity to write the best score I could. And I did, every time. I’m not saying the scores were amazing either but they were the best I was capable of doing at the time and hey, some of the themes are actually pretty decent even 20 years later. I once scored a scene in a monster movie where a woman swam topless in a lagoon for 5 minutes. 5 minutes! A completely gratuitous and cringey scene but I scored it like it was Legends of the Fall.
Each film led to another film because the director saw how much I put into every score. The producers took notice and hired me on their next films. The directors of those films hired me for their next films. I’m sure there were other factors as well but if I had phoned in any one of those scores them that would have been the end of the ripple.
You might be wondering now what happens if you don’t want a career that consists of an endless stream of B movies (not that a steady career making music for a living is a bad thing however you look at it). Well, along the way the right people hear the music I wrote for these films. They didn’t see imperfections of the films I was writing to because I wasn’t scoring the imperfections, I was scoring the emotions. They heard the themes that I had pulled my hair out to make the best they could be and the sonic detail that I added to every scene, even the ones I knew would be buried under sound effects. Somewhere along the way the B movie music I had written took me beyond the projects I had written it for.