What is community? How do we define it? Do we actually know what it is? Ever thought about why we as humans think it is important? With a big h/t to Greg Lexiphanic here are a few thoughts to consider. I will try to paraphrase this great ebook. For more detail please go here
Key criteria to establish a “sense of community” (as defined by David McMillan & David Chavis- “sense of community: a theory and definition”) are:
1. Membership 2. Influence 3. Fulfilment of needs 4. Shared emotional connection.
For a community to exist members must experience a sense of community.
How can you create a community around who you are, your business, your interests? Take the time to understand how these 4 elements relate to each other and what they mean individually.
Membership implies exclusivity (a barrier to entry or boundary). Either you are in or you are out. Implied in membership is a trust that you will be safe and taken care of within the boundaries and definitions of the group.
Influence is gained by having an affecting change on the group. Influence is only achieved by listening as well as expressing your beliefs.
“People who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members, while those who always push to influence, try to dominate others, and ignore the wishes and opinions of others are often the least powerful members.” —McMillan & Chavis, 1986
The fuel to drive a community is reinforcement. To receive reinforcement requires participation by the members. If participation focuses on the betterment of the group then reinforcement and a “sense of community” can be achieved. it is a two way street of give and take within the boundaries created by the group. No matter which side of the coin you are on (giving or receiving), if you feel fulfilled by taking part, the group will fill satisfy your need to belong and a bond will develop.
Shared Emotional Connection. There is a great line from the film Local Color that talks about art: “A shared experience is more meaningful than one experienced alone.”
Why is it we seek out group experience rather than isolation?
Intimacy, acknowledgement, sharing of views in a defined format, reward for your investment of time and energy and spiritual bonding ties us together in groups creating a more powerfulexperience than trying to do it alone. Its why we identify with an join groups in the first place. We are tribal animals…it is intrinsic to our nature.
Attempting to create an online or offline community is difficult and time consuming. However, the rewards can be far outweigh the investment. The pot of gold will come from the bonds you create in your community.
Look at your business and personal relationships. Question the drivers and quality of the interactions, what value you derive from feeling connected and reward you receive in return.. Most of us blithely stumble into situations that are driven by habit and conditioning rather than conscious thought.
The opportunity for all of us who are interested in creating community is not only to succeed but also the learn more about ourselves.
I don’t have to worry about technique
Let me ask you: Have you every tried to build anything? Have you ever tried to put something together without reading directions? Have you ever cheated on a test or tried to get some one to do homework for you?
Let’s say you wanted to build a simple box out of wood. Sounds simple enough. But, if you look a little deeper there are many, many things you need to do to successfully build a square box out of raw wood. First you need a design with dimensions. Then you will need to figure out how to purchase the wood, what kind wood you want. Then you will have to cut the wood to size. Assembly is next followed by finishing. Building a box from scratch out of wood requires expertise (or at least working knowledge) of many tasks. If you are a carpenter for hire there is another dynamic to consider: you are building this box to suit some one else’s taste!
This is not as crazy as it may sound.
Direction (what type of score does the director want) = Design
Budgeting for production/ instrumentation = What type of wood do you want?
Writing cues that fit the film = cutting the wood to size
Recording your score = assembly
Mixing = applying finishes
I meet a lot of songwriters and entry level composers. Invariably when they find out I’m a film composer their eyes drift off as they daydream about hearing their music in film, darkened rooms, tv etc. Internally I chuckle because they have no idea what is actually entailed. If they only knew.
There is very little glamour in being a film composer. It’s just a lot of hard work.
Unfortunately the only way to survive in this business is to have a deep seated passion for it. I always say: “the only thing that will keep you company at 3am while working on deadline is your passion for what you are doing”.
So much to know…so little time.
The truth of the matter is that to be a good if not great composer requires a lifetime of learning and maturing. It never ends. Therein lies the attraction for me…every day is different. As a creative person this is why I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning.
Of course there are the obvious musical disciplines to be aware of. Add learning about relationships, networking and people to the list. This will carry you as far if not further than any musical chops you may have.
The 80’s were boom times. There was so much work that it became acceptable for less than competent composers to be hired to score films. If you needed help there was enough money to hire a support staff.
Times have changed.
As fees continue to slide it is more important than ever to become the best you can be. From a purely selfish, pragmatic point of view: the more hats you can wear….the more money will stay in your pocket.
From an emotional point of view….there seems to be a direct relationship between knowledge and anxiety. The more you know the more comfortable you will be in every part of the process.
From a creative point of view….if you embrace learning as a lifetime endeavor you will never be bored. There’s always something new!
“I’m the composer- I’ll write what I think is best…”
Is there truth to this statement? Yes. Most of us, save songwriters who are accustomed to collaboration, are the masters of our universe. We spend a HUGE amount of time alone…we even talk to ourselves or our muse. One famous composer friend even has a name for his muse. He calls her Shirley. Long durations of muteness (being wrapped up in the moment) can create problems. When I was young I would spend hours upon hours, by myself in my studio. When I would take a break if the phone rang it felt like I had a mouth full of cotton balls. Long hours spent alone is something we all face in different ways.
I’m going to assume that you have already gone through the interview process, made a deal, spotted your project and are now left alone in your room to begin work. An empty canvas waiting to be filled with paint.
Early on in my career I had the attitude: “I’m the expert. I’ll make the musical decisions. I’ll be in charge of what music the direction the music takes. After all, I’m the one who has spent a lifetime becoming an expert. Right? WRONG!!!
Film is a collaborative medium
It became apparent to me almost immediately that I was uncomfortable and ineffective in a collaborative environment. I didn’t know how to ask questions.
More importantly- I really didn’t know how to listen.
I was so used to making decisions by myself I was a fish out of water. Sure, I was confident that I could write great music. But to be an effective film composer there are a couple of things to consider:
- The director (or producer) will not only have an idea about what the music should be- they will have strong opinions.
- Chances are if the director could do it themselves, that would…and you wouldn’t be needed.
- Directors are control oriented people. Talking about something they can’t control (music) can be very intimidating
- We, as composers, are not hired to be “right” about our opinions. We are hired to serve the vision of the director/producer.
- Arguing with your boss about this lick or that sound is career limiting. It works for some…but they are the exception
We are hired to bring our expertise….but our experience and expert opinions must always be expressed in a way that supports the director/producer’s vision be it correct, misguided or flat out wrong. I’ve heard it expressed in these analogies:
“I layed a lot of carpet today”
Where do you want the couch? The same place it was before we moved or where it is now?
Making a movie is a study in collaboration and compromise.
The quickest way to get fired is to argue about your vision being better than the director’s. I am not suggesting that you be entirely subservient (although it can be that at times). I am suggesting that you learn how to communicate in language that the film maker understands. Learn the language of storytelling.
If you express yourself by extolling the virtue of this chord progression, or the incredibly clever musical solution you’ve come up with…chances are the response will be a blank stare. If you learn the language of the film maker: plot, protagonist, subplot, character development, story arc, spine, backstory etc. you will be easily understood by the director and thus be able to communicate effectively.
The art of the film composer is this to:
- take direction
- understand the story that is being told
- bring the sum total of your experience and talent to bear to serve the direction you have been given
- collaborate with those you are working with effectively
- fashion a creative compromise that is satisfying to those who are paying your bills.
To paraphrase Carter Burwell: “I’m in the business of making people happy”.
The biggest challenge for the film composer is connecting the dots….learning how to integrate all of these non-musical elements successfully into a piece of music. (Yes…you ARE being paid to write music…not wallpaper as some might suggest).
Learn to identify all of the different pieces of the puzzle, serve them jointly and independently, and you will on the road to becoming a competent film composer (which means you are a “safe” hire).
Tip of the day will come on Thursday.
Next week: Top 10 Myths About Being A Film Composer-#7 “I don’t have to have any technique…I can hire someone to do that”
If you are interested in a private lesson or consultation via Skype email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week: “I don’t have to worry about technique”