I’ve said it before in this very column: in the end, what we’re all playing for is time. One of the best uses for the money we make is to buy us a little more time here and there… more time to polish up a demo; more time to strengthen relationships with our filmmaker contacts; more time to spend outside of music, with family and friends. And all the thousand other things that make your life a life.
Running a professional composing business is a lot like running a restaurant—besides the amusing comparisons to junk food, fast food and kitchens full of too many cooks (!), there’s the idea that there’s always something to do. Whatever time exists will all get spent on a given (menu/project).
For example, I’m using my time right now to write this. I could have written it last night, but I needed that time to finish up demo edits on a few cues for a project demo I’m working on next week. I could have written it tomorrow morning, but that’s my time for taking care of business stuff.
So I’m writing this now, because it’s actually a pretty great use of my time: I’m on an airplane somewhere over New Mexico, updating this text file via the in-flight wi-fi (don’t worry; by the time you read this I’ll be back in action at the Gulag!).
I can’t really write music with the laptop all that effectively (although here in a few minutes I will be working on some scores and parts!), so being able to remain productive like this is what I consider time well spent.
Just a quick anecdote, but the point is an important one: part of being truly professional is building a subroutine into your thought process that automatically seeks out these kinds of efficiencies. Even when it’s not crucial. Because once it becomes crucial—i.e., once you’re down in the trenches of an actual gig, for pay, with actual deadlines—it’ll be too late to have to think about all the great ideas and habits we talk about constantly on here.
Build ‘em in beforehand, that’s what I’m saying. You perform like you practice… fake it till you make it… pick whatever cliché you like. But remember to be careful with the ultimate finite commodity for us all: time.
LEE SANDERS has scored hundreds of episodes of network television, including music for seven-time Emmy award-winner THE AMAZING RACE, THE BACHELOR, PROJECT RUNWAY, and numerous others. Lee has taught film scoring for UCLA Extension, and is a frequent lecturer for emerging composers and filmmakers at both USC and UCLA. He also serves as a member of the Music Peer Group Executive Committee of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. You can find his SCOREcast bio (and links to his other sites) here.