In her last post Sylvie Simhon talked about transitioning into her career. Now, she shares her experience as a composer’s assistant!
In March I took a part-time unpaid internship with composer Jeff Russo. It was fairly straightforward “intern work” in the beginning. Make coffee, pick up lunch, learn the setup, etc. Eventually my duties extended to engineering and editing when I became familiar with everything. We worked on some re-writes and edits for Lifetime’s Meet Jane pilot. (Status of the series is unknown.)
Jeff’s assistant at the time had been juggling this job with his own composition career, and was too busy to stay on. Just as he was leaving, Jeff got hired to score the Charlie’s Angels pilot. Timing was on my side. I basically had been training for the assistant job all this time, so I approached Jeff and told him I was interested in the full-time position. I made myself available, which meant leaving my other internship, and began the month-long journey.
The pilot was delivered to us with temp music. When we watched it, we sort of knew what the producers were looking for. For most of the cues, though, there would also be spotting notes. Something like, “We like this sort of feeling, but want more energy when they start shooting.” Their overall musical concept was Ocean’s Eleven, meets Bourne Identity, meets Salt. This changed throughout the process as Jeff began to develop the show’s unique sound.
As a side note, I should say that Jeff sequences as he writes. By no means a pen and paper composer, he relies on his instincts as a guitarist and producer. He scores to picture and plays around with melodic ideas, which are then layered and supported by different types of percussion and harmonic pads, until the cue is built. He also mixes as he goes along. It’s amazing to watch the picture come to life in this way…
I would get to the studio at 10 a.m. to turn on the hardware and open the Pro Tools session we’d be working on that day. On a pilot with more than 20 cues, consistent file naming was a big part of my job. I also kept a detailed notebook with all the plug-ins and presets used on all the sessions, in case something needed to be recreated. When a cue was done printing, I would name and deliver the stems to Dan Evans Farkas, the music editor. And of course, coffee, lunch, dinner, and errands still had to be taken care of by yours truly. The day would go by, and before we knew it, it was 1:00 AM! This pace continued consistently until all the music was approved for the up-fronts. It was exhausting, but by the end of it I felt like I could do anything!
Charlie’s Angels got picked up by ABC, and will premier this fall! I’m excited to work on the series. But I am on hiatus for the summer, waiting for production to start in August. I’ll still be doing Sylviesongs and freelance projects.
Tune in for Sylvie’s next post on her work as a freelancer!
COMPOSER’S ASSISTANT TIPS:
- Choose a naming convention and stick to it.
- Listen 3 times through before you deliver anything.
- Always save incrementally.
- Be careful with your coffee!
Sylvie Simhon is a Composer/Songwriter/Music Editor based in Los Angeles. She writes custom songs and jingles through www.sylviesongs.com and is currently working as Jeff Russo’s assistant on the upcoming ABC show, Charlie’s Angels. Visit www.sylviesimhon.com for the full scoop!