ASCAP alumni: Where are they now?

<I>Variety</I> checks in on past workshop participants


Class of 2005

Credits include: “Juno,” additional music for “Thank You For Smoking” and “The Office”

“Just getting selected to be in the workshop is a bit of an arrival. There’s so many going for those 12 slots. It gave me the tools that I needed, the good lessons to be able to handle what was upcoming. It gave me a great idea and a great sense of what the business is about. Not just, ‘Oh, this is really cool’ — it was getting a great education all packed into a short amount of time.

“I was also the kid in the class that was raising his hands, just asking everything I could. Be very open and ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re not there to impress anybody. You are there to soak it in. It really is incredible that someone is going to bring to the table all the professionals who are doing it right now. Not only they are going to talk to you, they will work with you. Think of questions and be bold.

“(I remember) getting ready to conduct that orchestra on the Fox stage. Preparing and realizing I’ve never conducted before in my life. Working with Richard Bellis, being so patient and kind. Really just having that moment of fear, butterflies (as I’m) getting up on that podium for the first time. And hearing these players who were better musicians than I had ever heard in my life. Every player impeccable. And hearing my music come to life in a light that I never heard it before. Sometimes you work with an orchestra with a few stars, but every one of these players played so beautifully. To watch them shift gears between each of our cues. And then your cue comes up, and for them to put so much into it.

“The cue that I was doing was for “The Notebook” and at the end of the workshop you review the cues together. It just so happens for our cue, they brought in the composer that did the movie [Aaron Zigman] and that brought in a whole another level of ‘Oh, shit!’.

“I took a folder from there that they put together and for years I’ve gone back to that folder and look things up. How to budget out a score, budget out time, there’s so much good advice in there. I still have the folder, fond memories and great stuff in there.”


Class of 2004

Credits include: Soundtracks for the “Gods of War” videogame franchise

“When I first started looking at how to do things, almost every composer I researched, it came up that they had done [the ASCAP Composer’s Workshop].

“Standing in front of an orchestra is quite a moment. Not the first time, in college, but an orchestra of that stature, one that can play that well. The undergrad orchestras are really quite good, but none of them approach that level — c’mon, it’s the Hollywood studio symphony. And I wrote a pretty hard stinking piece — to have it go that well on the first take. A variable tempo map, it got faster and faster and faster, lots of tempo changes, meter changes… I was doing the whole Jerry Goldsmith thing where he throws in a 3/8 or 2/8 bar in between bars and it stops for a second for a drum fill. It really breaks up the beat, makes it more jagged. I had the woodwinds way up high and wrote really fast, syncopated lines, because that’s what they said [in the workshop] — “Don’t be afraid to write for these guys.” Being asked back to the workshop to pontificate, that’s a milestone as well.

“I applied for five years in a row before I got in. During that time, I had been furthering my career with a bunch of independent films, although ones no one had seen. When I was in the program, I started work on the video game that would be “Gods of War.” No one knew at the time. It was just a game that Sony was making. I was really swinging for the fences. If they ask you do to that, write really huge epic stuff, the Hollywood grandeur you always dreamed of doing. That’s what’s great about games. Usually when you start out, it’s gonna be lower budget, character-driven dramas, but in the video game the music always has to be giant. The game got attention, which shed a little attention on the score.


Class of 2001

Credits include: TV series “The Unit” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

“I couldn’t have a higher opinion of the workshop – it was really, really helpful to me. I was sort of a new transplant form Canada. The workshop was my first exposure to the industry in Los Angeles and it was a fantastic crash course. It really prepared me in a great way, not having studied with a mentor in LA, not having gone to a film scoring program in college — it was the next best thing to get me up to speed and get me some leads with valuable professional contacts. As a result of the workshop, I had some professional opportunities. I made connections with composers, I had some opportunities to submit for jobs assisting other composers. This particular composer looked to one of the people who ran the workshop and I ended up assisting. One of the reasons I think ASCAP is so valuable is they are a conduit to anyone else in the ASCAP family. My advice is nurture your relationship with ASCAP, it’s a very valuable one.”


Class of 2000

Credits include: Won an Emmy for Showtime series “The Tudors”

“I was moving from Canada to Los Angeles when the Workshop came to my attention because I had just joined ASCAP. During the workshop, I was still living and working in Canada (I was composing for a TV series ), so I would fly in – that’s how dedicated I was.

“When I wrote my final piece for the orchestra, I had [already] dismantled all my equipment. I literally wrote my piece on paper with no mock-up, as old school as it gets, but obviously rewarding in the end.

“The two biggest things from the Workshop were my first sense of community in the Los Angeles film and TV world; it felt like the beginning of me being a peer. It afforded me the opportunity to be in front of the best musicians, an exhilarating time. I’ve spent all my time since trying to get back to that moment.

” ‘The Tudors’ are back for season 3, the show I got my Emmy on. Also, I just got [hired on] ‘The Dark Knight’ video game, so I’m carrying the torch for Hans [Zimmer]. Getting to do a superhero project – how fun is that?”


Class of 2000

Credits include: “Law & Order,” “NYPD Blue,””Vantage Point” and “Stuart Little 3”

“The (workshop) highlight for me was getting to stand in front of the orchestra and conduct them with music you’ve been working on tirelessly for a few days. I did a scene from “102 Dalmatians.” It was very florid, comedy-action music. More notes that I had even written before. I seem to remember hoping I wouldn’t get the one I got. People were sort of bartering and trying to change clips, I almost did, but I thought — just get through it. A few years later, my first film I got on my own was “Stuart Little 3;” in hindsight, “102 Dalmatians” was a precursor to that.

“It was just a magnificent place to meet other composers. I really enjoyed listening to the established composers that came in — Alf Clauson and James Newton Howard and the late Shirley Walker. Just something about being in the same room and talking to these people makes you feel like you’re a step closer to having a career.

“I had to revamp the “Law& Order” “ching-ching” — a new sound for a new series, “Law& Order: Criminal Intent.” I had to go back and take the original one apart. I might add that’s one of the more effective devices in sound designing that I know of. There’s no doubt, when you hear that, what you’re watching.

“Currently I’m working on “Whiteout” starring Kate Beckinsale. It’s a hybrid, an electronic-orchestral action-horror score. It’s a thriller that takes place in Antarctica. Being from Iceland, I feel qualified to write this music. I’m also very excited about my score for a movie coming out on Labor Day called “Babylon A.D,” the new Vin Diesel movie. Parts of that take place in the Arctic, those northern regions, so I’ve covered the polar areas.”

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