Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you come from and what do you do?
Hi, I am a French soundtrack composer, now living in Los Angeles. I started working as a full time composer in 2002. I got very lucky, as my first long feature film, « Les Yeux Secs », released in 2003, got nominated at Cannes, at the Directors Fortnight, which gave me immediately some credibility. It was still a bit hard during the first four years, though, when I was earning a few thousands bucks each year only, but around the end of 2006, I actually started earning enough for a living. In 2009, I got contacted by Disney. Which decided me to move to LA, which I finally did in 2012. With time, I developped new activities : not only fictions (I scored my 3rd long feature film last year), but also commercials, documentaries, TV shows, videogames, and trailers.
When and how did you make the move to being a full time composer?
Even if I’ve played music since I was 5, I actually decided that I wanted to be a full time composer around 2000 only, and I made the big move in 2002. At first, I was thinking on getting a job in a movie production company, not as a composer, in order to network enough to actually get some music opportunities. But I didn’t find any, so I took a ‘regular’ job in a consultant company. For one year, I read books, I met people from the movie industry, in order to understand better the world I wanted to get in. And after, I dropped my job, and I started putting all my efforts on composing.
You’ve written music for a wide range of mediums from film and TV to trailers and video games. How does each medium vary when scoring them?
Film is the support with most constraints, as you need to synchronize all your musics to images. While in videogames, it happens only during cinematics, and for trailers, when I’m given the footage, which happens less than 20% of the time. Constraints aren’t a bad thing, though, as they can be a source of inspiration. But it’s true that, depending on if you need to synchronize or not, you won’t score exactly the same way. At the end, I really find pleasure in all supports, so I hope I’ll keep on being active on each one of them.
For the trailers, did you score them directly, or have your music placed through music libraries?
Both, actually. I scored directly for Transformers 3, Green Lantern, or Lone Survivor, for instance, while for trailers like Sarah’s Key or Prometheus, it was music that I proposed, without a specific project.
What was your favourite project to have worked on so far?
That’s not an easy question. It was really exciting to be on a movie nominated at Cannes. I also really have a lot of fun working for trailers, as I’m a big epic music fan. Having a music used on some Ridley Scott images (Prometheus) was an honor, for instance ! Scoring videogames also was a lot of fun. That’s actually a part of my activity I want to develop more in the future. Finally, I really enjoy releasing albums, as it is a way for me to develop more personal musical ideas.
What do you do in between projects when you don’t currently have something to work on?
That hasn’t happened for years ! In between big projects, I’m working on smaller projects, like shortcuts or stuff like that. But I always compose. Or, if I have the time, I work on albums I want to release. However, what changes is the way I work. If I am on big projects, or many small, I tend to spend all my time working, while, when I have more time, I spend more time seeing friends, playing videogames, watching TV shows and movies.
What does your studio currently consist of hardware/software wise?
I have a very simple hardware : PC and keyboard. That’s it. I’m convinced that simple is better. As for the softwares, I use Cubase, with MANY libraries !
What’s your favourite software right now and what software are you looking forward to most in the future?
I’m a fan of libraries developed by 8Dio, Heavyocity, ProjectSam, Cinesamples, for instance, and I also use a lot of Sonokinetic or Sonuscore. So basically, almost all the libraries I use are Kontakt libraries, even if there are a few exceptions. I am looking forward to new voices libraries. There already are some great ones, but the choice is still limited for now.
How do you use social media as a musician to get work/promote yourself?
I use Facebook. I actually got some gigs with it, so it definitely works. The downside is that I waste too much time on it !
What does your daily routine consist of?
Really depends if I’m on a big project or not. If I am, or if I have close deadlines, I wake up around 11am-noon, I eat, I work. Then, later on, I eat again, and I work again, until around 5 am. So basically, I’m doing nothing else. When I really need a break, I’m watching one or two TV shows episodes, and that’s it. If I’m not on an emergency, then, except if I have meetings, I also wake up at the same hour. I will do more or less the same, but I’ll also go out a lot for lunches and dinners (I love restaurants!), take drinks with friends, and I’ll play videogames (I always have a pile of videogames near my TV, waiting to be played) and watch TV shows and movies.
What’s your definition of success?
I would put 3 criteria : recognition, money, and the possibility to work on projects you dream to work on.
How do you stay fresh as a composer?
By listening a lot ! And also by working on unexpected projects. Regularly, I’m asked to compose music quite different from my usual line of work (dark, epic, emotional). And each time, it allows me to discover new musical universes, new ideas. So I end up working on comedies, sweet romances, family oriented animations…Etc. Each of these projects is an opportunity for me to stay fresh.
Where do you see the scoring (film/game/tv) industry in 5-10 years time?
I wish I had a witty comment, a wise idea, or something. But truth is : I don’t know. I don’t expect huge modifications. But I could be wrong. I know some composers who disagree with me on that topic.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to when you were originally starting off?
I would advise myselft to be more aggressive in order to get some jobs. That being said, that’s an advise I could still give myself today, and that I’m still not following. I know I’m wrong. But knowing is one thing. Being wise enough to change your behaviour is something else. I’m working on it. But the change is slow. I’m always worried that I could bother people when contacting them. I guess that’s very European.
Your studio is on fire and you only have time to grab one thing – what do you take?
Without hesitation, my backup hardrive. With it, I just need to buy a new computer and a new keyboard, and in less than a week, I can be operational again !
Can you recommend any useful books on composition/mastering/business etc. that you’ve read and enjoyed?
I have in France (where I still go one third of the time) a great treaty on instrumentation that I sometimes use. But I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember who wrote it. For people willing to learn about orchestration, though, there is this music I am advising : “Variation and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell“, by Benjamin Britten. First, it is a very nice music. But also, if you buy the score sheet, it is actually at the same time a great lesson teaching you the function of each instrument in an orchestra. A must have !
For business, there is a small book by Dereck Sivers (the foundator of CDBaby) which is a source of inspiration : “Anything you Want“. Probably more useful for producers and distributors than composers, but still, I think it is worth being read for anyone.
Get more from Guy-Roger Duvert on his website http://www.grduvert.com