Greg Sims is an award-winning composer for film, television and advertising. He escaped to LA in 2015 where he has been scoring feature films and documentaries and blogging about his adventures in Los Angeles.
Mark is a composer from Nelson, New Zealand. He moved to to LA in 2013. I first met him at a composer / director show-and-tell and was dazzled by his gregariousness and amiable personality. He has been an important contributor to the success of the Society of Composer and Lyricists and is a swell bro to share a glass of European lager with.
Where did you move from? What did you leave behind?
I moved from Melbourne, Australia. Or Mel-bourne, as Americans like to say. I left behind stable employment and a marriage. And a lot of good friends.
“No doesn’t actually mean no. It just means not right now in this particular circumstance.”
Shie (rhymes with ‘sky’) escaped to LA when he was only 23 and has been working as a composer and music editor ever since. I first encountered him online giving some excellent advice on the practice of adding metadata to audio tracks. Shie has worked on major blockbuster films including Avengers: Age Of Ultron and 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Where did you move from? How old were you when you moved to Los Angeles?
I’m originally from Israel. I first moved to Boston where I lived for a couple of years while earning my BM in film scoring from Berklee College of Music. As soon as I graduated I moved to LA.
Do you feel like you were guided to move here? If so, what did that look like?
Sort of. I was a late bloomer when it comes to taking music seriously. I had been playing with synths and sequencing and making music since I was a kid, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was 21. I was nearing the end of my three year military service (mandatory in Israel) and was trying to figure out what to do with my life and realized I am a composer, so I’d better get an education and learn how to do it properly. Initially I thought I’d be a singer/songwriter, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t work because I’m a mediocre songwriter at best, not a very good singer and have terrible stage fright. After taking my first orchestration class I was hooked, so I decided a career as court composer for some archduke would be great. Only problem was that I was about 200 years late to that game, so I tried to figure out how I could work with orchestras and realized film music is the most direct and practical way to go about it. Once I got into film scoring I was hooked and knew that’s what I wanted to do, and LA is the best place to be for that.
How many years did it take until you felt you were “successful?”
How does one define success? For the purposes of what I think you probably mean, I’ll define success as being able to make a living 100% from music. I was very lucky and found full time work within weeks of coming to Los Angeles and while I didn’t earn much at all, it was enough to survive solely on music. So by that definition, I was successful in a matter of weeks. Though two years later, I went freelance and have had many times where I had to do other things to make ends meet, though I’ve been doing nothing but music for 15 years. So I guess you could say [it was] four years before I never had to do anything non-music to earn a buck. However all these years later, I still feel like I have a long way to go.
What was your breakthrough?
My first “big break” was getting hired as assistant music editor on Training Day. Thank you Richard Ford for hiring me, and thank you Angie Rubin and Virginia Ellsworth for the connection!
What do you love most about Los Angeles?
It’s where I met my wife and built a family. But professionally, I’d say going to studio lots. I still feel like I have to pinch myself whenever I’m at WB or Universal or any of the other lots – they’re magical places. Working with incredibly creative people, many of whom are also my friends. The weather doesn’t suck either!
What did you move here to do? Who did you move here to become? Are you still doing / being this?
Initially, I wasn’t sure. I knew I wanted to compose and music edit but I was also interested in orchestration, conducting, arranging, music supervision and music preparation. I wanted to know how to do everything that related to film music. Within a couple of years I realized my passions are composing and music editing, and those are my primary sources of income. So yes, I’m very fortunate that I am doing what I came here to do.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a move to Los Angeles?
First, I’d ask them a question: Can you imagine yourself doing anything else and being perfectly happy? If the answer were yes, I’d say go do that for a living. If you’re not the kind of person who simply cannot imagine doing anything else, you probably don’t belong in this business. Next, I’d ask how she/he feels about the word “no.” If they have a problem with it, I’d encourage them to get very used to hearing it often and repeatedly and not let it get them down. No doesn’t actually mean no. It just means not right now in this particular circumstance. You have to have a thick skin, not take things personally and just keep moving forward no matter what.
Shie’s website is shierozow.com. He’s got some very useful tips on his blog page.
One of my main objectives when I set up this blog was to chronicle my journey as a film composer in LA. Because of my chronic procrastination, this is my first post on that subject. (I will revisit some earlier experiences in later posts.)
Like many composers here, I am always looking for opportunities to expand, to forge new relationships and to learn. Earlier this year, I submitted my application to the Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive, an annual workshop founded by conductors David Newman and Angel Velez, “designed to create an opportunity for media composers to further their skills as conductors.” This sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to expand my skill set. I’ve conducted small recording sessions in the past, but have always chosen to hire conductors for large orchestra sessions. I’ve experienced first hand how valuable an experienced conductor’s skills are when recording a feature film score, especially when you only have a few days to record an hour’s worth of orchestral music. But it makes sense for the composer of the music being recorded to hold the baton. Who else is more passionate about the outcome and more knowledgeable about how the music should sound?
I was thrilled when I was accepted as one of twelve Fellows for this intensive which will be held at the iconic Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Brothers Studios. To be able to work directly under the tutelage of several of the most decorated conductors and orchestrators in Hollywood is a dream come true. (Day four will include conducting one of my own film score cues with a 62-piece orchestra.) I had the privilege of meeting two of the instructors of the LAFCI earlier this fall, Conrad Pope and William Ross. I’ve known about Conrad for years as the man John Williams calls on to orchestrate his iconic scores. A top composer in his own right, he has collaborated with a pantheon of composers that include Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. I met William (Bill) Ross at an ASMAC event and attended the 2016 Golden Score Awards where he was being honored alongside Alf Clausen. You know you have achieved greatness when luminaries such as film critic Leonard Maltin and composers David Foster, Alan Silvestri, Kenny G and John Williams attend the ceremony and testify in praise of your accomplishments and qualities as a human being.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to this workshop and will be posting updates…