Professionalism for Composers

Posted on August 4, 2011 at 11:54 pm, by Ben

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In the field of film scoring, as in all fields, raw talent or ability is entirely worthless if it is unaccompanied by professional integrity.

Too often I see talented and skilled students of composition who sabotage their own efforts and success because when the first whiff of difficulty comes, they wimp out. They whine. They lie, slander, throw tantrums and run from responsibility, pulling the rug out from under someone else on their cowardly dash out the door and out of the trust of the professional community. Some display their poor character more obviously than others, but the problem is widespread.

For a director, the ability to work well with and trust your composer is so key that many of the more successful composers I know are not the ones who write the best music or ooze the most raw talent… they’re the ones who are quick to hear, slow to speak, willing to summit to authority, redo a tough cue, who are prepared to do what it takes to give a client happiness, even if it comes at the expense of their own. Inside and outside the film industry I have friends who have been offered high-paying jobs at positions totally outside their fields of expertise based solely on the reputation they had as confidential men of character. In this day and age, integrity is in lesser supply than skill, which is saying something.

For a culture that has rejected Christ’s word as the foundation (i.e. source of definition) for all morality and character, this isn’t really much of a surprise–the absence of God must necessitate the absence of anything godly, which the attributes of professionalism most certainly are. The pathetic result is a generation of men unable to reliably reason, commit, honor a contract, persevere, guard a trust, serve others, be faithful with the little things, rejoice in trial, or love.

To clarify in advance for those who may think I’m belittling talent or skill, I’m assuming that honing and sharpening your chops as a composer is already a given. I mean to address the other half of the coin: the oft-neglected and/or mis-defined role of true professionalism, which is not just a factor for those desiring business success (though it certainly is), but is a factor necessary for the Lord to be pleased with us and our work. I don’t really make much of a distinction between the word “professional” and “righteousness”, which is basically just doing what is right in regards to God, man and duty all the time. Why is there a difference perceived between the two? Why should there be a difference?

It’s time to re-evaluate our assumptions of what determines professional conduct. This has been on my mind a lot over the last few months as I’ve noticed a number of genuinely unprofessional attitudes and habits in myself that I’m working to eliminate. I will be starting a series of posts on this topic, varying from general concepts to ones specifically applicable to the craft and business of film scoring.

What things do my readers see as key points to address?

3 Comments

  • Wow. Well said, although I believe that professionalism is a relative term.

    I would say that it would be righteous to make the most of what God has given us, including the tools He has provided to achieve professionalism.

    God may bless some with the tools and resources to achieve professionalism, and others not so much. There is potential for those who have been given more to be judgmental towards those who are simply in a different stage in their lives.

    I believe that while you have a good point, there should be a distinction between ‘professionalism’ and ‘righteousness’- professionalism is not directly correlated with righteousness, rather righteousness has more to do with how one uses the gifts God has given him, regardless of whether or not in doing so he achieves man’s idea of professionalism.

    I hope that makes sense. 🙂

    Great post! Keep it up.

    Posted by Daniel Lamb on August 5th, 2011 at 12:52 pm
  • Amen and amen! Who wants to work with an “untouchable genius”? “I work alone” doesn’t go well in the filmmaking industry, and neither is it a Kingdom-based perspective. We’re members of The Body.

    So maybe an appropriate parallel would be “eye work alone”…

    Posted by Gabriel H. on August 17th, 2011 at 10:58 pm
  • From my limited professional experience in the music industry, I can say that I’ve noticed a serious problem with both performers and composers (both Christians and unbelievers) who expect to become an instant success. Rather than devoting time and effort to their projects, they throw something together and then complain when their work is rejected. In other words, I think it’s important for someone to respect his profession and take some amount of pride in his work, making an effort to create something meaningful and beautiful rather than looking for a chance to “get rich quick.”

    Posted by Jenny on September 5th, 2011 at 12:34 am