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Backstage - Archived Interview
 
Shirley Walker: Woman of Action
Spotlight by Helan San
Originally published on Cinemusic.net in 1999 (site no longer online)

Shirley Walker is a cornerstone in the film music industry as a composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and "score doctor" extraordinaire. A pioneer for women film composers, she stood at the podium at a time when no women were doing so in the industry. Although a number of women have written music for film before Walker was hired to write for Memoirs of an Invisible Man in 1992, her credit was groundbreaking in that it was the first time a major Hollywood studio hired a woman as the sole composer. The project was so significant to various Hollywood insiders that an audience gathered at the scoring stage during the first scoring sessions to witness the historical occasion and experience the lore.

Always a highly visible role model as a woman in a man's world, Walker continues to tackle projects traditionally assigned to male composers, such as action, superhero, and science fiction pictures. After Memoirs, Walker followed her solo debut with the highly acclaimed score to the animated feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. A critical favorite with its grand orchestral fanfare and gothic themes, Mask of the Phantasm is indisputably one of the best Batman music ever to be composed. In 1995, she co-wrote the score to Escape from L.A. with John Carpenter, successfully inventing a dark, industrial action atmosphere for the film while capturing an "old west," futuristic, and world music feel. Walker followed this synthesizer action with the intense and chilling orchestral score to MGM's 1997 suspense thriller, Turbulence (starring Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly). This year, she continues to establish herself as one of the leading talents in superhero action music with the greatly anticipated Batman Beyond, a futuristic, techno/grunge rock underscore.

Her cutting edge work in scoring is critically loved in television as well as film. She won a Daytime Emmy Award as musical director on the praised animated Batman series, and received nominations for composition for both the Batman and Superman series. She received a Cable ACE nomination for the Blair Brown film Majority Rule, a Prime Time Emmy nomination for the popular Fox series, Space: Above and Beyond, and two Annie nominations--one for the animated Superman Main Title Theme and one for her original score for HBO's Spawn series. She also scored NBC's highest-rated television Mini Series of the season, Asteroid, and a TV movie for Disney entitled, The Garbage Picking, Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon.

Before film music, Walker had a distinguished career as a piano soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, beginning while she was still in high school. She got her first big break as a synthesist on Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 feature Apocalypse Now, and co-composing credit on Coppola's Black Stallion, in that same year. Throughout the years, she has secured a place for herself in the industry as a leading orchestrator and conductor, and worked in extensive collaborations with such illustrious composers as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. Her work in these roles can be heard in such hit films as Batman, Days of Thunder, A League of Their Own, Backdraft, and True Lies.

As a film composer, Walker has invented an intriguing, original sound: the bombastic underscore. Her music often finds that delicate balance between thematic fanfare for the superhero and suggestive ambience for the superhero's world, not in separate cues, but simultaneously. Rather than being limited to a certain character or scene, Walker's themes tend to serve the larger purpose of creating a musical world and atmosphere for the film. The result is an intense and penetrating musical backdrop that cleverly captures the futuristic, eerie, industrial, or fantastic feel of the story setting. Walker has a special facility for dark, superhero scores, as evidenced by her prolific and profound work for Batman, Superman, and Spawn. Actually, it is quite easy to understand why she worked so well with Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman--her own style reflects the same kind of emotional power characteristic of Zimmer and portentous darkness typical of Elfman. But no matter what genre she writes for, it is clear her music will always go for the gusto, just like her.

You've been in film music for a long time, doing everything from orchestrating, to conducting, to composing. How did you did you get interested in film music?

I actually got interested by doing some industrial film scoring. By that, we mean the stuff that isn't theatrical. I had the opportunity to do music for a historical documentary that was being done at one of the museums in San Francisco and an underwater movie by photographer Al Giddings, who has gone on to have quite a career as an underwater photographer. Having no awareness of any craft or an industry in Los Angeles that for many many years had been doing this before I was doing it, just those two experiences were such a kick that I was hooked from that point on.

What did you like so much about it?

It was fascinating to me that something visual could become part of the music. And I looked at it that way. I didn't look at it like my music was becoming part of the image. For me it was completely the other way around. It was like, wow, this is a whole other component. I have melody, I have rhythm, I have harmonic structure. But wow, now there is a whole other thing that I can use as a spice to my cooking.

So it was kind of like a music video for you.

Very much so. And the nature of those particular projects was very much that way. The archeological thing had narrative that was separate and montages where they wanted to have the music supporting an era--unlike now, where you have music everywhere, all the time. Likewise the underwater one had very little voice over and lots of visual imagery that the photographer wanted to just speak for itself.

Did you have a career in music before this?

Yes. Actually, I was a professional pianist. I had been playing in hotels and piano bars since I was 15 years old. I joined the union when I was 15, because at that time, music was very unionized in most cities. If you were working the top gigs, you became a union member. Then I worked as a symphony pianist and an orchestra pianist at Oakland Symphony, at a time when they were a new music orchestra. I soloed with the San Francisco Symphony when I was in high school by winning one of those competitions. So I really did have a considerable music background as a performer.

When did you know you wanted to be a musician? You must have started really young.

Oh yeah. I didn't ever think of wanting to be a musician. I always was. Some of my earliest memories as a child were sitting at a piano and making up stuff and having stories in my mind to go along with the music.

How old were you?

My feet weren't reaching even half way to the floor, and it was before I was in school as a preschooler.

So you were kind of a little prodigy then. A little musical prodigy.

I think so, within the context of my own background. Yes.

What kind of musical training did you pursue?

Both my mother and father were amateur musicians. There is quite a streak of music and visual arts running in both sides of my family. My mother was teaching piano on the neighborhood level, and there was another piano teacher that she traded lessons with. So the other teacher's daughter took lessons from my mom, and I took lessons from this woman. She had a more professionally oriented background. She graduated me to a teacher who had been hers, and then this teacher graduated me to a teacher who had been hers. And this gentleman was a serious teacher whose students were mostly concert pianists. He had a few young people like myself who were clearly gifted in a musical way.

What do you like best of all the roles you have played in music, as a performer, orchestrator, conductor....?

You know, that's a tough one to answer. I don't know that I have a best, because each one of them is so much fun to do. I'm having a lot of fun right now taking conducting lessons, because I was self taught as a conductor, and I had no technique and no craft. Now I am having the opportunity to study that, and it is always wonderful to be expanding my musical horizons. I cherish that.

Your first feature film was Apocalypse Now, in 1979.

Right, that was the first theatrical project that I worked on as a synthesist.

Did you know you wanted to compose back then?

By then, I had already been composing. I had a teacher in high school who had me writing for our jazz band, which was a credited course. We had a band that had a concert and did a record every year. Quite a few of the students went on into professional music. John Faddis went through that band. He's an established New York musician. So as early as high school, I was being asked to compose. We had a modern dance class also that I wrote music for and improvised performances for. Actually, I wrote a musical with one of the teachers in high school, who had it performed. He was teaching at Southern Illinois University, and they did it there as well.

So Apocalypse Now was an opportunity to get your feet wet in the industry.

Yes. Absolutely. Overlapping that, I also had the experience on The Black Stallion, which is where I met Dan Carlin Jr, who has Segue, a music editing company that is associated with Zomba Music now. He was second generation industry, and he and his father mentored me into the industry here in Los Angeles. Without that connection, I don't know what would have happened, because I certainly had no knowledge of the industry and the opportunities that it held for composers.

Looking back, how many women were in the film music industry at the time? Rough guess?

Most of the women who were working in the business, in the music end of the business when I came in were either musicians or music editors. There was quite a string of very famous women music editors who had really very strong and dynamic careers. Women musicians related to me their shock and pride at seeing me on the podium, in my first years in the business. It was such an unusual sight to see a woman composer who had written stuff that musicians were hired to perform--instead of maybe knowing that a woman had written something, but the credit was being given to the man standing on the podium. As the years have gone by, I have learned that there were other women working as orchestrators and arrangers who did ghost writing that I was completely unaware of at the time.

You were a pioneer even back then.

I was. Not that I intended to be. It just kind of worked out that way. Of course, Bebe Barron--she and her husband wrote the score to, I think it was Forbidden Planet--has never forgiven me for being credited as the pioneer woman film composer, because she feels like she's entitled to that, based on that one score, that was electronic. They actually just made tubes feed back and recorded it. They made such wonderfully strange sounds that they made a score out of that. It was quite a bit different than what I was doing.

I think you had much more visibility than any other woman.

Totally. Absolutely. The other women who were getting to do feature film scores before I got to do mine were song writers. For example, I think Carly Simon did a film score, or was credited as doing one, when in fact it was primarily her orchestrator and she did themes, and certainly did all the songs. Carole King did a score which had, I believe, a similar situation where it wasn't where she was scoring the film, she was doing the songs. Susan Ciani did that movie for Universal, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and I think she perhaps came the closest to scoring the film but she was a New Yorker and the Hollywood industry out here wasn't going to let her do the score. So they had her working with an orchestrator and people out here were kind of doing more than maybe she even wanted them to be doing. But she was kept away from the opportunity, in the sense that we recognize it now.

Was there a political status associated with being the "head composer" on a film that women just couldn't get to?

I think that's absolutely correct. Yeah, definitely. Then as film music itself changed, we had songs being used more in films. Certainly in the last 10 years, where we had music supervisors coming into the picture, being hired even before composers are, the role of the composer has been diluted. So that something that was exclusively male, mostly with some kind of European music background, for many many years has finally broadened out and has quite a bit more diversity to it now.

If this is perhaps one of the reasons there are so few women in the industry, what do you think might be some other reasons? I know there are no definitive answers, but if you were to speculate, why are there so few women composers out there?

Well, I think that question has to be answered in the context of why aren't there many new film composers, period. When you look at the profession, and how many people want to be doing it, the number that can actually create a career for themselves that will last for years over a broad range of projects is very, very small.* If I were to guess at a percentage, I would say maybe 3% of the people that attempt to put a career together actually can create one that lasts for years. And so in that 3%, we're talking about both men and women. That's the larger dynamic, right there.

When we look at, within that context, why aren't there more women, I don't really have an answer for that. There are so many things that people make choices about in their lives, and timing is one of them. Perception is something that we don't have a big choice about. We can influence it to some extent but I think perception is the main thing that allows people to succeed or not succeed in this industry, in this profession.

When you say perception, are you talking about perhaps a prejudice? Is there a prejudice?

Not so much that, but more...who's the hot new person? Who is that? Wow, so and so just did this film and we gotta get them. They're the one we want to have. Or so and so has been around for years, and they worked on every successful movie that has a box office over a hundred million dollars domestically, we've got to have them. That is the kind of perception that drives decision making in Hollywood.

Do you think there is an equal number of women interested in composition as men?

I don't know the answer to that. I can tell you that there are more women who are making a run at the profession. I've really seen that accumulate and build up over the years that I've been watching, and people attempt to contact me, and stuff like that. And I find that very exciting. It was a thrill to have Rachel win an Oscar. You know? That is just fantastic!

And then the following year with Anne.

Yeah! Exactly. That's amazing.

I've noticed there is a larger number of women doing behind the scenes work such as orchestrating, arranging, editing. Do you know if some of them are aspiring composers, just doing anything they can to get into the industry?

I have the opportunity to work with some women music editors, and most of them have either a background in music or film editing. I think some of them, at some point thought they might have wanted to be a composer, but they realized that music editing is a great way for them to be part of the process without having to go through what it takes to become a film composer. I think it's more common for the women who want to be composers to be orchestrators. So you see more women orchestrators who are saying, "Yeah, I'm headed towards being a film composer, and I just haven't gotten my shots yet."

I am going to ask this straight out. Do you think there is a glass ceiling in Hollywood for women who want to work in film music?

I think the glass ceiling has more to do with relationships than gender. It's an industry that thrives on working with your friends and working with your family. And we all get to that place. In the beginning, we're much more fair minded than we are when we achieve success. When I started in the business, I had a mindset that was far more inclusive than what I operate under today at this point in my career. I'm much more selective about who I work with. I'm much more selective about which phone calls I'll answer. That just naturally happens. Your life speeds up so much as you become established and have some measure of success.

Right. So you go with who you know.

Yeah. Absolutely. And you go with people who they know. If I'm looking for a new orchestrator, I'm not going to go out on the internet and call a college that has a course in film music composing. I'm going to talk to other composers and ask about what orchestrators they're working with. I'm going to talk to other orchestrators about who they've seen coming on the scene, that might be new in town that I hadn't heard of. And I'm going to talk to the libraries that do all the copy work and find out what's going on.

Of course, since women got a late start, they are not as much in the loop as men.

I think that is fair to say. I certainly see a lot of them working very hard to close that gap.

1992 was a historical moment in Hollywood, when you were the first woman hired to score a major studio film.

Right, if you qualify it carefully enough.

Keeping in mind all the women you have mentioned before, and composers for films produced outside of Hollywood.

Yes, exactly.

I was stunned when I read that. I mean, 1992! Do you think the film music industry might be a little behind the times here?

Well, it was then. But look how much it's changed in the ensuing 6 to 7 years. It still was not looking out into the world at large and seeing anything about what kind of projects women were making. Women have made strides as film editors, as writers, as art directors, as producers. The film music and the composing end just seem to ... there just wasn't a whole bunch of women trying to go after it. There really weren't. There weren't five other women that came into the business at the same time I did that were trying to do what I was trying to do. I was pretty much by myself. That's how the pioneering aspect gets brought into it, I guess.

Do you have any advice for young women composers trying to break into the industry, that is beyond what you would tell aspiring composers in general?

Boy, that's a good one. I don't know that I would say anything different than on the general platitudes only level. I would say the same thing, just speaking in this sort of BS kind of way that would pertain to anybody trying to be a film composer. The whole thing about releationships, and you're the one who has to keep your career going, because there's no reason for anybody else to. You have to be the driver. You're in the driver's seat, and you have to keep your gas tank full, and you have to be able to afford to be a film composer. You can't come and desperately need work, and think you're going to get to put those 2 ideas together in your first year in Los Angeles. Most of the people who are making a run at it have established themselves financially where they can afford to be out of work for years, or getting very little support from their profession.

Did you have to do any of that? Work in other fields while you're trying to make a career?

I was completely in music, but I was working as an orchestrator and as a pianist.

Is that the reason you spent so much time orchestrating and conducting rather than composing for yourself?

Yeah, I think probably so, because that was a great money machine for me for many, many years. It allowed me to be somewhat selective about the films I was doing. There are all kinds of products that you can score for nothing. I tell people that you can have a brilliant career as a film composer, working for nothing. There are lots of people who want you to do music for their movie for nothing. Those are the kind of credits that, as soon as you start to get somewhere, you get them off of your resume. Because they end up hurting you.

It seems like women are usually hired to score dramas and comedies. You're another pioneer here in that you were hired to score Turbulence, an action thriller.

Actually, Memoirs of an Invisible Man had quite a bit of action too.

Yeah, that's true. Do you think scoring big action movies might become a more common opportunity for women composers in the future? Or is the typecast a bit too strong?

It certainly comes up. Even when I was considered for Turbulence, that was part of the consideration. Even then, when I had other action things. If you listen to Mask of the Phantasm, what can be more action than some of that stuff? But even having that, as a product that's out there in the marketplace, they still think, "Oh, I don't know, could she carry the burden of the stress of all those notes that action films have?" But the industry changes so fast. We may not have that many action products that's out. It's kind of narrowed down to the Bruckheimer stuff, that Hans Zimmer kind of specializes in. His group, Media Ventures, kind of has the corner on that market. I think if a woman wanted to do the action stuff, she should go work for him.

Was Turbulence ever released as a soundtrack?

No. It never was. The film did not do well enough for them to put out a soundtrack, because we did have a large orchestra. It would be on the expensive side as far as soundtrack releases go.

What was your experience on the score like?

I loved the people that I got to work with. David Valdez produced and Bob Butler directed and John Duffy was the editor. The three of them worked together in a really great way. They were the creative committee on that film. The three of them would come out and look at the cues and all of us would work together. Which was pretty darn satisfying, because you got four thinkers really mulling things around. There is a lot of stimulus. It was a film that my music editor, Tom Milano, had done such a great temp score for that there were several places in that movie where for the first time, I found myself pretty much mimicking the temp track, and I had never done that before. I was horrified to find myself in that position, and I was embarrassed at how closely I regurgitated the temp track. For that reason alone, I was kind of relieved that it didn't get a lot of attention. Because I pride myself on being a person who really fights very hard to get my concept of the score in place on the projects that I work on. I'm not happy to just go, wow, that temp works great, I'm just going to do that cause that will get me through this, and I won't get in trouble, and I won't have people getting nervous, and needing a lot of hand holding. I'll just stick to what they are showing me they like.

I understand that the temp track included Jerry Goldsmith...

It had a lot of things. It wasn't exclusively Jerry at all.

I was just thinking, he is such a great composer, I can understand...

It wasn't so much that the composing was great. It was the way that Tom had used it to support the scenes that was great. You can have terrible composing, but if it supports the dramatic need of the film well, it's just unbeatable. When you see something that supports the story telling, and the visual flow of things, and the line readings of the actors, that is very very hard to beat. You go, wow, look how well this works. That was what I was fighting against. In fact, there's a guy in Europe who actually emailed me. He knew the area in the film, and said gee, that sounds so much like so and so, which is exactly what had been temped in there, and I'm going, "Oh no!" Only film music fans can really pull this out, "Look what you did here!" He was right on the money. On the demo CD I made for my own promotional purposes, I'd left those cues off of there. I didn't want them representing anything I had ever done. I felt so strongly about that. I talk to friends about these things. We talk to our peers that we call. Like Carter Burwell, I still talk to him about things that are bugging me. I call people...I am moping and say, "Oh this is horrible, I'm so embarrassed, and people are going to see this and they're going to know." They would just laugh and say, "Look at composer X, that's what he's done in his entire career. Look at so and so, don't think twice about it." My music editor was great that way too. "Well, if you had more time, you probably would have beaten what I had done, it's just the flow of the project and everything. You just had to get it on tape."

Besides Mask of the Phantasm, Spawn was another dark, superhero animated story that you composed. Is this genre something that you like to do?

I actually do, and I do think I'm quite good at it. That sort of introspective dark stuff. I'm certainly recognized for that amongst animators especially. I do get calls for doing weird stuff.

What kind of genre would your dream score be?

I don't torture myself with that. Because I just don't know if I will ever be in a position to where I could get something that wonderful. Even at the time when I did The Black Stallion, before I knew anything about the Hollywood film industry. Even then, I could recognize that that might be the best film that I got to do any work on, because it was such a phenomenal movie.

I understand that Mask of the Phantasm is your favorite score to date, of the ones that you've composed?

It is, because that's the one where I think I did my best work to date. For a variety of reasons. Again, the support of the film making team was fantastic. We had success on the animated half hour shows, we knew how to talk to each other, and they trusted me to do great job. Warner supported me with a huge orchestra and a choir. I had time to write the thematic material before I was writing cues, so I gave a lot of thought to all the musical structure that went into the cues. That really was the best thing I've been able to do so far.

I think everyone has moments where they achieve that satisfied sense of accomplishment after a hard day's work. It sounds like part of that for you is being able to be original and have some input into the musical ideas, the musical structure of the film.

Yeah, I really think of myself as a film maker. What I aspire to as a composer is to create a musical universe and context that is unique to the film that I'm scoring. And that's not something that the industry relates to well. They relate better to composers that write music that sounds like them all the time. Composer X, you hire them because they have a sound, and when you want that sound and that approach, that's who you go to. Someone like me, who wants to come up with a completely different music vocabulary, music texture, music timbres, and sound for each project I do. People listen to that for their movie, and they say, "Well, it's interesting, but I can't imagine it working for my film." So I'm a very tough sell.

I don't know if they have a term for this, but it sounds like you're kind of musical director at heart.

Oh yeah. I would agree with that. But music direction actually is a specific concept coming out of theatre and variety type shows. So, that term has already been taken, in a different way. Music directors are the guys that run things like the music for the Academy Award show and stuff like that.

I see. They should have a term like that for film, because I think what you're describing is something bigger than just composing what other people want you to write.

Right. The best composers, the really successful film music composers, all have that ability. They may have a style that they have created that they are true to, that represents their sound, and how they want to be perceived. But they still have the capacity to look at the storytelling and know what the music needs to deal with. The best ones are like that. Hans Zimmer was great that way. I would love to see him directing movies frankly. I think he is so much more than a film composer. I hope in the near future, we see him emerge as a producer or director or something because he is so much in that place. Of course, I would want to compose the score for his movie!

He has an intuitive vision for a film.

Absolutely! I think all of us that really treasure film making act as a fresh sounding board for the director and editor as they get to the tail end of the process.

Hans Zimmer and you seem to have a very close relationship. One can sense a strong respect and admiration for each other.

Yeah. That's true certainly from my point of view. I had some wonderful years working with Hans. We had some outlandish and wonderful experiences together professionally. We aren't working together today, because I'm choosing to be out there standing alone as my own film composer self. I didn't fit into the style of the guys he has mentored along like Mark Mancina and Nick Glennie-Smith, the guys who were willing to be similar to Hans in their sound, in order to get their start. That wasn't ever something I was interested in doing. Hans actually got me doing Chicago Joe and the Showgirls, so he did make an attempt to get my composing career past the sputter point. Then I went off on my own. I swear we can read each other's minds. We hardly needed to say anything to each other. The music always spoke for itself. I would come, and listen to what he was doing, and we'd talk about what kind of an orchestra we wanted to utilize, and then it just went on from there. It's very unusual to have that kind of compatibility musically.

Do you plan to maybe work with him again someday?

Well, I love working with him now. He has been of assistance to me on a couple of my scores. He did all of the synthesizing on Memoirs of an Invisible Man. He did some of that for Mask of the Phantasm. That's really fun for me. I love calling him to see if he could work on something I am doing.

It sounds like you complement him. You bring in the orchestral aspect. He brings in the electronic part.

Yeah, totally.

Which sound do you prefer in film music, orchestral or electronic? It would be orchestral, I would guess.

Well I'm finding that as I have more opportunity to do electronics, that I have finally gotten to the point where I have a way to express myself in that medium, that carries a similar emotional power to what I've been able to do with an orchestra. It took me a long time to get to where I can honestly say that. But the orchestra is more fun for me because it's one of the last team arts that's out there. Like being on a football team. There's nothing like being part of a team that does something breathtakingly moving together. That is what the orchestra experience is. That's why it's so addicting-- with the electronics, I'm more just sitting here by myself with a bunch of cool sounds and getting them to work together, and deliver the goods for the movie.

Are there any challenges you haven't tackled yet?

I would love to be able to do a really synthy sounding score, where I could use all of the sounds the synthesizers make. Unfortunately, so many of them have such a bad reputation, that people hear them and say, "Oh, that's too cheesy, I hate that. Don't do that." So I haven't found a way to convince people to let me do really weird sounding stuff yet with synthesizers.

Just on a broader musical leve., I am hoping that by the time I am ready to quit being a film composer, that I would like to set up some things for myself in the concert world, where I could make some kind of a segue to that world. That would be wonderful.

You worked on an animated comedy, A Goofy Movie, which was quite different from the dark, dramatic Mask of the Phantasm or Spawn.

A Goofy Movie, now that was Carter Burwell's score. I orchestrated and conducted for Carter. I think Carter wasn't necessarily a great choice for that movie, and I think he would say the same thing. I don't think I am insulting him in any way to say that. Disney has a tradition with their cartoon music, they really do. They have a very strong tradition of it being "cartoony" and really hitting a lot of stuff, a lot of the picture. And their reaching out to Carter to do that score was hoping they would get some kind of a twist on the wacky part of the story, but they weren't realistic about his ability to do the cartoony part of it. So in fact, what they ended up doing, as you know, is that they had Don Davis come in, and redo the area where they wanted the music to be more cartoony. I'm constantly using the word "cartoony"--and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense.

Right, I understand. It has a sound.


Yes. When Carter knew this was going to happen, he spoke to me about me doing the rewrites, and I told him I really didn't think I would be the right choice and didn't think Disney would ask me to do it because I had a loyalty to Carter's approach and his score, and they really needed somebody to come in and be fresh with it and do what Disney wanted.

Would you be interested in doing something like that though, if Carter hadn't been involved? Doing something light and fluffy?

No, I have gotten out of the score doctor end of the industry too. That was also something I was known for, within the business and looked to and called in to be part of. There are some uncredited things that I have done that I'm never going to talk about. That was very hard for me to turn that down, because it is very lucrative. If you're a person that can come in and write at the last minute and get something to work, and still protect a score and the composer whose name is on it, the studios need that and I was very good at it. I had to say no for three years, because people kept calling me, "Please would you just help with this? Just this one last one, please." But I realized that they weren't turning around and giving me a film to do, which is what I was hoping that would buy me. Once I realized it wasn't buying me anything except continuing to do the same thing, I thought, OK, this isn't affordable for me anymore. If I'm going to be a composer, I've got to be submitting my work on projects and going after projects and getting hired as a composer, not as a person who is going to fix it, or a person who is going to work with another composer.

Well, good for you!

Yeah, and I've been out of work ever since. (Laughs) Again, I'm being facetious. I havent' been out of work. But you take a big dive every time you step away from the pinnacle of what industry sees you as being good at. When you walk away from that, then wow, boy, your career goes right down to the beginning again, and you have to build it all back up.

One last question, what do you like to do to relax?

I like to go to our gopher ranch/weed farm and drive the John Deere tractor around all day.

Thanks for your time!

Originally published on the Cinemusic.net website, which is no longer online (Note: Still offline as of 2021)



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