I was fired once. Like Robert Shaw in The Sting I didn’t see it coming. This was the set up – a filmmaker was seeking a composer and so he sent the same 10 minute excerpt to various composers to try to score. Nobody got paid for that part but if your musical sketches were the most impressive to the delegates then you got the job and it would pay almost $20,000. So they picked the winner – me. I was very flattered. Finally not hired just for my good looks.
The tone of the film was surrealistic, the score I made reflected some Nino Rota love and seemed to make the picture flow better (CLICK HERE TO UNDERSTAND NINO ROTA LOVE). I was getting plenty of hi fives all around; the director, the producer, the sound designers. I guess I’m prejudice but I thought it was working splendidly.
Then a man came to town from Los Angeles, the director’s friend who co-starred in the film, let’s call him Assface. Nobody had included Assface in the earlier process or in these recent weeks of work….and Assface hated the music. The director who previously treated me like a brother now needed to check everything with Assface. The director became what Frank Magazine used to call a fart-catcher. I assured him he could relax and trust what he had started. Dude the reason you hired me was because it worked for you in a blind test and that was smart – don’t you remember when you were smart? It was just a couple months ago?
Assface wanted music that sounded like modern rock radio. What’s with the Fellini shit? So I did the best modern rock radio I could. But each thing I wrote now fell short of the mark. The director couldn’t quite put his finger on it ultimately he said it was no good. They paid me about $6000 for all I had done, for nothing. Very generous of them. I thought they might not pay me anything since they were firing me… I would have accepted that. I like doing the job well and if I’m not the right guy I’d rather move on. Years later I rented the DVD and the music they used was kind of amazing to me. No Felinni and no modern rock radio either. The style was predictable, felt like it had all been a bad joke. My first thoughts were if they had realized this is what they wanted I could have done it for them. What a peculiar arc the music had traveled.
A music producer friend of mine once told me a joke. “Question: How many producers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: I don’t know what do you think?” He thought it was hilarious but I don’t get it. I’m not insecure about my ideas or executing them. I do not know what it is like to have a well that is dry. Whether or not they are good ideas is another question but the joke suggests that certain artists are filled with doubt. I assume my friend laughed so hard because he is one of them. The Assfaces of the world are always waiting to say the worst thing to an insecure artist. I get a little nutty to this day about allowing the opinions of others into the room if the job isn’t in a strong place.