Young composers often ask me how to break into writing for film and television. One kind of work I advise them to pursue is a type I still enjoy doing myself: “industrials,” or non-broadcast films for corporate or nonprofit clients. I recently scored a piece on ethics for the Educational Testing Service; an exhibit piece for the Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York; and a labor of love by the director Cressandra Thibodeaux about a pair of art patrons in Houston, Texas.
The quality of these films is often very high. The directors are often very good. And, surprisingly, the music budget is sometimes bigger than it is on broadcast TV shows, which means more leeway to hire musicians for recording sessions. The trick to writing a successful score for these films is staying out of the way of the words. The right score will generally not have a prominent melody. It will be all about texture and pace. Films like these are a great training ground for any composer.