Here's an informal discussion on how I got started in the industry. Have questions? Feel free to ask! Have advice or other info you wanna throw into the mix? Go for it! My first section will focus primarily on my background and how I made it into the industry. Later posts will discuss how I set up my demo reel, how I negotiate with clients and even later I'll discuss some of the nuts and bolts to the audio tasks I do daily.
So here's goes:
Back in 2005 I was an elementary school music teacher. That was it. I had no contacts or ins with the video game or film industries. I also had no experience making games and only amateur (at best) experience making films. What I did have was a severe passion for games, films and music. I had been creating music on the computer since 2000. I had been a part of performing groups (like choir, playing violin, recorder, band, jazz band and rock groups)
since I was in first grade. When I first started out I read some books by composer-sound designers that I admired. This game me a good understanding of the process, the business side and where I could start finding clients. I started this searching on websites listed in these books. After a while I extended my search to other websites and communities that I found on my own. Put yourself out there as much as possible!
At first I didn't land too many paying jobs. I was extremely lucky and did land a Nintendo DS project for my 3rd project and that was paying. I basically took on as much work as I could and did some PR and exposure-related stuff every day. Literally. I've been very lucky to get all of the clients I got. With my demo reel, I was able to impress paying clients and took on many projects that I found speckled all over the web. We'll talk about how to set up an effective demo reel in a later post.
My biggest break came when I was hired on at FUNimation Productions. I was a full time composer-sound designer for their trailer and promo dept. I was able to work on many A-list shows like Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Full Metal Alchemist and many others. I also learned a great deal about sound design and how to work on high-end equipment there. This also upped my industry standing and attracted even higher profile clients.
My second big break came with NetDevil hired me as their lead audio composer-sound designer. Now I'm working on Lego Universe, Jumpgate Evolution and other triple A titles. Now I'm lucky enough to have clients seeking me out, instead of me having to do all of the leg work. With each new job and position, I've been able to learn new skills that continue to make me more marketable and able to take on new challenges. Try not to limit yourself by only taking on jobs in one category! Not only does this limit your client pool, it limits your knowledge and experience potential.
It can be very, very hard to find work (especially paying work)
when just started out. My best advice to you is to continue pushing forward. There were times I felt I'd never make it to a full time gig. However, the more projects I took on and the more pros that I networked with, the easier it became. Another great thing is if you can find a job that gives you a steady income while chasing this dream job on the side. Teaching did that for me (especially during the summers)
. While I didn't love teaching that much, it gave me the flexibility to continue to freelance and eventually make it into the full time work.
It can be hard to tell which projects to take on and which to avoid. Here are some things I pay attention to:
How organized are they? What role(s) do the management play?
Do they have a proven record? Have they completed any projects before? What level(s) of education do they have? Ask to see samples of their work.
Having secured funding can always help, but I've also run into teams that mismanaged money very badly. Ask to see a business plan, if they have one drafted up.
*Pictures, Concepts, Scripts or Cuts of film:
If they have a decent amount of great looking concepts and pictures, this is always very encouraging. If they have noting to show you, then at look over their design doc. If they don't have that either.... then they're probably not ready to recruit freelancers. For films, ask to see any footage (rough or completed). Most of the time a composer will be brought in when a film is lock (or close to being locked).
If a team is structured enough to have set up contracts and NDA forms, then this shows a level of seriousness and planning.
I literally have a black list of clients that I'll not work for. If a close industry friend contacts me privately, I'll let them know if a studio has a positive or negative standing in my book. This is a very common practice. I've had mostly very positive experiences with clients, studios and companies but have had a few neglect to pay me, breach their contact or steal my work. It's a sad reality of this business- but it is reality. If you have peers in the industry, ask around before joining up with a new client or company. Save yourself the trouble and stress of dealing with a situation like that.
If a project doesn't seem to have much info or material to show when soliciting for services- then they're NOT ready! Politely ask them to consult you at a later point when the project is "ready for sound.
Even the most structured teams can fall apart. Heck, it even happens to studios with 10 published projects and large budgets. This is an important lesson for everyone to learn. This business is very up and down. A studio that is top dog for years can fall flat on it's face, then be back on top several years later. Try your best to get to know the people behind the team. Some folks are really big talkers, so if you can learn to spot these folks then it can save you some trouble. Some folks get way to excited and exaggerate how things are progressing. Early on I learned to not get excited about something until I had a signed contract in my hand and a check (that didn't bounce from a client)
I think that's enough reading for now. Feel free to respond with any comments, questions or donations (haha, I wish!)
that you have.