Skills for Success: What Composers Need to Know for a Successful Career in 2018


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August 8, 2018 –

The film, television and game industries are constantly evolving and composers must adapt to the changes to remain relevant and employable. This panel discussion examines the skills that composers need in 2018 to develop and maintain a successful career in the entertainment industry.


SCL Seminar Chair

Dan Carlin

Dan Carlin is a 35-year industry veteran who has collaborated as a music supervisor, conductor, Emmy®-nominated music director, Emmy®-winning music editor, song and soundtrack producer, and playback supervisor on hundreds of film and television projects, including Days of Heaven, The Black Stallion, Sister Act, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Temptations, Coming to America, The Body Guard, Bruce Almighty, Steel Magnolias, and The Last of the Mohicans.

He also provided musicology services to Disney Theatrical Productions on their Tony®-winning Broadway musicals, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and Newsies. For 25 years, Dan was the CEO of Segue Music, the largest independent provider of on-set and post-production music services in Hollywood. Among their achievements was beta testing and inaugurating Pro Tools.

After moving full-time into music-education in 2004, Dan served as Executive Director of the Henry Mancini Institute before taking the position of Chair of Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music (2007-2012). Since then he has been Director/Chair of Screen Scoring, now a master’s degree program that he adapted and launched at the USC’s Thornton School of Music. A longtime industry advocate and activist, Dan co-founded the Sundance Composer’s Lab and UCLA’s Film Scoring Extension Program, and he has served as an advisor for CINE (The Golden Eagle Awards), the Beijing International Film Music Festival, Ireland’s Pulse College, the Alliance for Women Film Composers, and the Krakow International Film Music Festival, which awarded him its coveted Ambassador Award in 2016. He also has served nearly 25 years on the Motion Picture Academy’s Music Branch Executive Committee, and, since 1995, has been both a regional and national leader of the Recording Academy, having twice been elected Chair of its Board of Trustees.

Mark Isham

Mark Isham is an electronic music innovator, jazz artist and prolific film composer. He traverses the musical landscape with unique performances and imaginative scores. His ability to create unforgettable melodies combined with his willingness to experiment with innovative musical palettes has earned him accolades including Grammy® and Emmy® awards, as well as Oscar® and Golden Globe® nominations.
Isham’s inimitable musical voice is evident in his memorable scores for award-winning features including the Oscar®-winning Crash, the Oscar® nominated score for A River Runs Through It, along with Golden Globe® winning Bobby, and The Black Dahlia. For The Black Dahlia Isham was awarded “Best Score” by the International Film Music Critics Association.

This past spring, Isham completed a 7-year run with the hit TV show Once Upon a Time, which has just recently garnered him another Emmy® nomination. Mark also completed the score for the hit Marvel show Cloak and Dagger, as well as a lush orchestral score recorded at Warner Bros for the film Bolden, centered on the life of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden. Isham lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children.

Trevor Morris

Trevor Morris is a two-time Emmy Award® winning composer for feature films, television, and interactive video games. Recent feature film work includes Olympus Has Fallen for director Antoine Fuqua, Brick Mansions for Luc Besson’s company, Immortals for director Tarsem Singh and Relativity Media, and London Has Fallen.

Largely known for his period television work on such titles as The Tudors, The Borgias and Vikings, Trevor’s prolific style extends to his electronic/hybrid work on such shows as Body of Proof, The Firm, and Dracula, as well as games like Dragon Age, recorded with full orchestra and choir.

Trevor has also entered the world stage as a concert conductor, conducting suites of his music adapted for the live concert venue, with performances at the Fimucite festival in Tenerife, Spain, and at the Los Angeles television music concert SCORE!. He has also performed at the FMF in Krakow, Poland, and at the first inaugural concert of Festival de Musica in Cordoba, Spain.

With over 15 solo feature film credits, 20 network television series and 5 interactive titles, Trevor is one of the most prolific and versatile young composers in Hollywood. He was also Hans Zimmer’s Head Technical Supervisor for 3 years.

Elizabeth Sellers

Elizabeth Sellers is a tenured full professor for the Department of Music at California State University, Northridge. She is founder and director of an internationally recognized B.M. degree option for the study of commercial music composition, one of less than a handful of such programs. She holds degrees with honors in composition and orchestral conducting including a graduate certificate in film and TV scoring. She has studied with teachers at Aspen and Juilliard and with major orchestral conductors. Her professional work has earned her the doctoral equivalent. Elizabeth has garnered Prime-time Emmy Award® recognition for her work on the opening ceremonies for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

Elizabeth’s extensive experience includes guest conducting for composers like Joan Tower, session conducting for Disney and musical theatre director/arranger work. She has written concertos, scored commissions for Shakespeare productions, choral ensembles and touring dance troupes, and has premiered new works each year at CSUN. In 2009 Elizabeth was awarded the Exceptional Creative Accomplishments Award from Northridge for a documentary music score and collaboration. Recently she conducted for John Debney at a concert in the CSUN Soraya Performing Arts Center.

Her scores have been showcased at the Palm Springs and LA Film Festivals as well as other local and international venues. Reviewers have noted that Elizabeth’s writing is eclectic and versatile, powerful and expressive. She continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and has directed the SCL LA Mentor/Intern program for the last five years.

Kubilay Uner

Kubilay Uner makes adventurous, eclectic, colorful music for media ranging from film and television to concerts and records. He blends acoustic, synthetic and found sounds, builds his own instruments, bends tempos, layers noise, mixes metaphors, and is generally convinced that good music only happens when you shake things up.
Credits include the Lionsgate-released Western Gone Are the Days, the film version of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, and a number of other narrative and documentary feature films; plus record productions for soul legend Bobby Womack, music for a theme park ride at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, and music for video art installations at LACMA and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Kubilay studied experimental composition in Cologne and at CalArts. He also played bass in soul and punk bands all over Germany, toured with singer-songwriters in southern Brazil, and explored a giant gong with a $2000 microphone on stage as part of a series of Stockhausen concerts in the Soviet Union. He currently lives and works in Chicago, where he also serves as the director of the Music Composition for the Screen MFA program at Columbia College Chicago.