I am attending a film festival this week in LA to promote a film that I recently scored called “In the Eyes of a Killer” with my director Louis Mandylor. I have met a grip of great people at this fest and have seen many great films, all by talented filmmakers that at one time or another… needed film composers!! (Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink… Get out there and network!!)
In a conversation with a group of directors and producers yesterday, the talk turned to producing movies. One of them said, “Deane, why don’t you produce in addition to compose? You are a such a good producer… you should just do it as another career.”
I fumbled through some sort of answer like, “Aw shucks, guys… I just cannot think of anything I’d rather do than compose.” With a little more chiding and a little more dodging from me, they were finally satisfied and we changed the topic.
The more I thought about it throughout the day, however, the more that situation showed its true colors as a glaring example of what my dad often refers to as “good being the enemy of great”.
The truth is, I am a good producer. I have an incredibly solid sense of film and I know how to tell a story, and tell it well. I’ve been offered producer credits several times on films that I’ve been hired to score simply because I’ve talked directors, editors, and producers into doing things that they never would have done had someone like me not pitched them on it. But in the end, producing neither interests me or is what I am 100% passionate about. I am passionate about one thing, and one thing only: Scoring the film.
Here is the lesson in this for me: Being “good” at something doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. I’m a decent orchestrator, but I would much rather hire people like Brian Satterwhite or Susie Benchasil that are “great” at it. I can sit down and copy parts for the orchestra, but my attention to detail in that department is not anywhere in the same ball-park as someone like Steven Julliani’s. I’m also quite handy with a hammer and can keep a poker face like nobody’s business, but I’m not a housing contractor or a world-championship card shark, either!
Furthermore, I feel like since I am a solid businessman (which is what it takes to be a killer producer), I’d almost be playing it safe if I was to choose that career over this one. The honest truth is that when you are passionate about something, you are willing to risk it all to make it happen, and I’m not passionate about producing. Therefore, it would be a “sleepwalking” job for me that I know I wouldn’t throw my heart and soul into on a daily basis. I would be one of those cautionary tales you here about at cocktail parties where “Yeah, Deane is a great producer, but man… the lights are on but there’s nobody home anymore.” Not good.
Yet, I see it all the time… people in careers that are unfulfilling to them, and when called on the carpet for it, the answer is one that most often has to do with security and safety. The problem is that nobody gets anywhere by playing it safe.
“Good” is safe, but “great” is fulfilling. I left a very financially safe career playing drums in the pop music world to do what I’ve always wanted to do. Now I have a great life that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I’ve often said that I’d rather be homeless and living in a box if I still got to score films than be rich beyond belief in a job doing anything but.
So the challenge is this: If you aren’t doing what you are passionate about… why not? What’s the matter? Maybe it’s what people have told you you’re good at. Have you ever thought about that? People always seem to know what you should be doing with yourself. I hate that. It’s like “Live your own life and let me do my thing, will ya!” If you listen to what people say you ought to be when you grow up, then guess what? You’ll be old and fat and have a nice house and drive a nice car but still be miserable as hell. Any questions?
Maybe you are afraid of something. Are you scared that things might not be the way they are now… all nice and safe and secure… if you were to begin doing what you were made to do? It’s okay if you are… we have all been afraid at some point. That is a natural human response to a very realistic dilemma, and nobody can or should fault you for it. But, you have to move past it and you have to overcome that fear, otherwise it will keep you from doing what truly brings you the most joy in your life.
Now, go write some kick-ass music for something… you know… the kind only you can write!