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I have a dream…: How to become a Hollywood Composer

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“I have a dream….”, although I’ve heard this one before, it certainly was the trigger for my project to leave Europe and to give it a try in the United States,  the capital of Entertainment !

I’m originally from Germany, moved to Paris at the age of twenty and had a good time there…probably up to 2005, when the music industry and the record industry in particular was hit by an unpredictable crisis that affected the revenue stream, mine among many others.

Strangely enough, living a dream is often connected to not having much to lose or let’s put it this way – I  had to come up with an idea and a new perspective. Not only did I have a family to feed but I also felt the timing was right to prove myself, that is, I was capable of taking chances again just the way I did it when I moved to Paris.

In 2007 I attended a coaching program for independents and self-employed. The purpose of this program was to build up a projection and a plan for the next five years. At the very beginning of the program, I was asked to write down my “dream-project for the next five years”…..quite unusual and not that easy to do. I wrote it down, my coach read it, then told me to forget about it and to move forward with  a program that consisted mainly of exercises in communication and a self-structuring schedule, projects etc…

At the end of the program (12 sessions later), my coach told me that I would notice significant changes within 2 years…a bit disappointing at first sight as I really needed to get things started but I didn’t really know how.

First steps in the U.S.

Late 2008, I started to collaborate with a NYC based artist that encouraged me to reach out for opportunities in New York. The strategy at the time was to hook me up with ad agencies, film productions as I already had a cool portfolio and to perform my piano compositions live.

In February 2009 I played Webster Hall, part of a charity for children in Haïti, as well as several clubs in Brooklyn and the East Village. I didn’t really notice at the time that my big project was already launched…

A few months later, back in New York, I started to record my second solo album in a funky, groovy studio in the Village. After one of the sessions I had dinner with a NY film producer who said : “You wanna do film score ? L.A. is the place you need to be. Establish yourself there and you’ll have opportunities in New York later on.” He gave me the contact information for is agent, which was a good starting point.

A few weeks later, I ran into a nice American couple in a Starbuck’s in Paris….she turned out to be a lawyer and her daughter was dating a director in LA…starting point #2

A few additional phone numbers and emails from my French friends made me feel ready for my first trip to LA in May 2010…starting point #3.

L.A. is calling

One week was scheduled, the meetings were mostly set up and it all felt very exciting, fresh and promising.  Friendly, relaxed people who seemed to like my work as well as me as a person…can it get any better ? Of course most of these very first contacts went nowhere. It took me a while to find out why and to get used to the way the business works in LA.

Compared to Europe, especially France or Germany, it’s very easy to make meetings in LA. The kindness of the people you meet in all domains is a bit confusing but very pleasant. Almost everybody is very open and interested in hearing what one has to say as there could be an opportunity of success. The optimism Iexperienced by meeting professionals in LA is extremely motivating and so is the impressive amount of work that is at one’s fingertips. Of course the flipside and also another big difference with Europe is the gigantic competition as LA is the place to be for every composer who “really wants to make it”. Imagine all this talent coming to LA from all over America but also from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia…

So how do you make a difference, how do you get your foot in the door ? Not sure there’s a recipe but meeting as many people as possible is definitely the way to go even if it really takes time to build up valuable relationships (business and personal). One’s personality will make a difference, not necessarily the talent alone.

A decisive encounter

In my case ONE encounter would be decisive : a French / American couple, both well established in the industry, offered to collaborate with me on an album of songs intended for placement in commercials, movies and television.

I came back to LA many times, more than ten times in 2010/11.  We produced the album and with my friends’ precious help I expanded my network as they introduced me to the right people.

It started to make sense to move as I understood that it would be difficult to get work out of LA without being there permanently. A renowned agent was interested in signing me. This would also help me in the process of obtaining a visa. My family had been travelling with me several times and they were all excited about the idea.

Getting ready to move

We made the decision on New Year’s Eve  2012. It was not really difficult as everything was well prepared and structured. It just felt “exciting and a little bit scary…”

My European clients would continue to work with me and my US contacts would expand and get confirmed by moving to LA.

In April 2012, I obtained a 3-year visa for me and my family. My wife and I took a trip in June to find an apartment and a school for our boy. In July we sold and gave away everything that seemed dispensable, i.e., furniture, household appliances…and after one last symbolic night in Germany, the country of my birth, we took off for LA on August 5th, 2012

To be continued….

I realized that I stuck to the 5-year plan that I had written down in 2007 and the “dream-project for the next 5 years”, the one my coach had told me to forget,  had become reality…. Of course I’ve read it many times since I made the decision to move and  I stay fascinated by the process and the power that drove it.

I’ve always had a problem with the word “luck” as I really think that one’s personal energy and consistency create opportunities rather than “destiny” being the master of everything that occurs in one’s life.

Of course, let’s discuss that  in a few years…I just obtained the Green Card for me and my family.

 

You’ll find more infos about composer Nicolas Neidhardt on his website.

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French-German Composer and Music Producer based in Los Angeles, California.

Discussion6 Comments

  1. No…i was lucky enough to be established in Europe. I always tried (and still try) to be as diversified as possible (commercials, TV, video games etc…) as there’s always something going on in one of the domains…

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