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Confessions of an FSM Intern Installation #4

Duties of an Intern, and Musings on the System

By Jason Comerford

It's rough being an intern here. I get to listen to film music all day, interview composers, write about film music. In my free time, I run around LA, meeting film-industry folks, playing volleyball and softball on the weekends, delighting in the variety of things to do around here.

Yeah, I can hear it now, from the peanut gallery: "Boo-hoo."

But being around here for just three weeks now has shown me how easy it is to get jaded very, very quickly. Of all that film music I've listened to (namely, everything Jon and Jeff don't want to review), there hasn't been much that's good. Composers are hard to track down sometimes, and they sometimes don't want to talk to us, for one reason or another. Writing about mediocrity is challenging -- you don't want to cross the line into personal attacks, but the sheer amount of crap that's around here is both exhausting and frustrating. Meeting industry people, more often than not, leads to dead ends. You can always lose at volleyball and softball. And as for those fun things to do, well, those fun things cost money that I don't have.

We want so much for things to be good all the time, to the point where our expectations far outweigh the simple reality of situations. Plato, in The Republic, tried to hypothesize a perfect society, and he couldn't do it, for human nature simply will not allow perfection to exist. There will always be imperfections, deviations. We strive vainly for that which is unattainable, and our reach always exceeds our grasp.

I suppose this is fancy way to illustrate how life sucks sometimes. Around here, fortune and glory is a hard thing to achieve. One of the hardest lessons that I've learned about this business -- both for composers, and filmmakers in general -- is that so many people are simply churning away as hard as they can, just trying to get to the paycheck at the end of the month so they can put food on the table and send their kids to school. There's plenty of money in this town, but there are plenty of people, too. Sometimes the scales are tipped unfavorably. It's just how things are. An accomplishment for anyone around here -- a credit on a hit movie, a popular score, what have you -- are nice for a week or so, then it's back to work, getting the next job, looking ahead. Employment in this business is, much of the time, as ethereal as the clouds; one minute it's there, the next, it's gone. The trick is, following the weather and forecasting, and planning your trips accordingly.

"Intern!" Jeff Bond hollered the other day. "Call Howard Shore, Michael Kamen, and David Arnold! Get comments on their summer music!" My thought: Damn, I've got enough work to do already.

Comments from the peanut gallery: "Boo-hoo."

Sure, the luster has gone away, and only the practicality remains: get everything done on time, keep everything running smoothly, make sure that no mistakes are made. Dennis Leary has a great riff on happiness (profanity alert): "Nobody's happy! Happiness comes in small doses, folks. It's a cigarette, or a chocolate-chip-cookie, or a five-second orgasm. You smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you come, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to fuckin' work. That's it, end of list."

What's the secret? There's not one. This business is as draining and frustrating and disillusioning as any other. You can only keep shoving on and hoping for the best. You might get lucky and find a great score. You might get in touch with that composer after all. You might write a great article that people like. You might meet the right person. You might just win that softball game. And you might just end up okay after all.

Optimism is harder than pessimism, but as my friends have always told me, success is so much sweeter when it comes, and you knew it all along.

Next week: Some final thoughts as my Los Angeles journey comes to a close.

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