Ah, so you want to become a successful composer in Film, TV, Games and Media do you? Well, then you have found the perfect article to guide you on your journey.
Because I had the honor to interview Michael Kruk, professional composer, educator and recent author of one of the most practical and real-world knowledge packed books I have ever read:
1. Hello Michael, who are you, and what is your experience in this industry?
Hello! I’m Michael Kruk, I’m a professional TV composer. I have written and produced the music for many major documentary series which have been seen by millions of viewers worldwide.
These include award winning David Attenborough documentaries through to series for the BBC Natural History Unit. My music has been performed by a 75 piece orchestra, but I have also delivered entire soundtracks crafted solely from my home studio.
2. What are the upsides of scoring music for TV and media. Why choose this path as a composer?
I love the challenges that composing to picture presents. I’ve always needed a context and a brief to compose to, I find it inspiring. I much prefer that than someone going “just compose anything!”.
It’s great to be part of a creative team and bounce ideas off people, plus there’s nothing quite like watching your music on a TV show at home. I’ve done this so many times but I still get a kick out of it.
3. What goes into scoring music for TV and media? What main steps are involved for the composer?
First of all you usually have to pitch to get the show. Once you are successful, you’ll meet with the creative team: usually the director and maybe the producers too.
They’ll tell you about the project, what they are looking to create and what part they think music will play in that. They are usually open to hearing ideas from you and this can be a really fun and creative time.
You’ll then go and write some ideas for them before you start getting footage, just to agree on a tone for the show. Then they’ll start sending footage through for you to score to.
4. If you would pick the 3 most essential skills a composer for media can have for long term success in this industry, what would those be?
That’s a great question! Firstly, ditch your ego. Realise that music is not the most important thing to the show. Sure it is important, but keep the bigger picture in mind and realise that sometimes all that is needed is something very simple.
Don’t impress by writing big and clever music for the sake of it. Impress by writing music that sets the right tone for the scene. This might be simple. (It might even me an angle that you don’t like or don’t agree with!) They will reject quite a bit of your music along the way. That’s ok – it’s the same for all of us. Don’t take it personally.
Secondly, always ask yourself before you write a single note what it is you are trying to accomplish with this piece of music. In fact, check in with that question regularly throughout the writing process. Know what you’re going for ahead of time. Don’t be tempted to rush in – you’ll only end up having to go back to the beginning.
Thirdly, be a team player. This ties in with point one above. Be positive, friendly and on side to help your producer solve problems and try out ideas. Be supportive – he or she probably have been on this project for ages by the time they get to deal with you and may well be worn out. Being a nice person who writes good music will get you their next job more than being an awesome composer who isn’t friendly or is difficult to deal with.
5. How would you get into this industry as an aspiring composer without a track record?
You have two criteria to take care of. Firstly, get as much experience as possible. Student films, free work if need be, just scoring as much to picture as you can.
Secondly, get yourself out there and meeting the people who matter: directors and producers. You might want to spend some time googling these people in your area and see if you can take them for a coffee. Start small. Small shows for small networks and channels are a great way to start off. Writing Library Music also can build up your credits which helps when you approach directors.
6. Why did you decide to write the book An Introduction to Writing Music For Television?
As contrived as it may sound, the truth is that I really wanted to write the book that I so wish I’d read before I got my first few jobs writing for TV. I made so many mistakes and no composer really writes about this side of things. (Maybe they want you to fail so you don’t steal their jobs! Ha ha – just kidding!) I also wanted readers of this book to hear the views of composers across different genres; documentaries, drama and animation, as things can differ. So I called in three brilliant, Emmy winning composers to share their tips too – Walter Murphy (Family Guy/American Dad), Michael Price (Sherlock) and Mac Quayle (Mr Robot, American Horror Story.)
7. Thank you so much Michael for sharing your great insights, and for writing this amazing book. Any final words of motivation and wisdom you can share with aspiring composers?
Two things, really. Get good at what you do. The road becomes so much easier and quicker if you work on your craft and get really good. After that, don’t give up. Be tenacious and keep going and opportunities will come up for you. When they do, work as hard as you can to deliver the best score you can. Good luck!