Use Deadlines to Create Predictable Results

Deadlines are a good thing, a blessing actually.

They will teach you how to condense your musical thought process and achieve predicable results. You should be able to call up creative inspiration anytime you choose and working with a deadline will make that possible.

Music is the Last Stop

When I started writing music for film, I learned that meeting deadlines was what made collaborations possible. I worked on 24 and 48-hour film festivals, which if you’ve ever participated in one, know that the limited time your team has to complete a project is daunting.

I found out quickly that I was the only one who was thinking about the music. Not that my team didn’t care, they were just focused on getting their job done. Sitting around and discussing how the score would sound was not a great use of time since scripts had to be written, locations had to be mapped out, and wardrobes had to be selected.

Music was usually the last thing that received any attention. It was considered icing on the cake and the least important in the chain of events that had to unfold. As a composer, this took me a while to digest, but when I did, I developed a greater appreciation for the roles that each individual plays.

Creativity—On Demand

As composer, we tend to think that our music is the most important element. The reality is that it’s usually the last thing that gets added to a project. Because of this, there is limited time to write and record the cues. 

With the film festivals, I would have less than an hour to get everything done. I didn’t have the luxury of hours of experimentation. This forced me to be able to execute my ideas immediately—a worthy skill that every composer should develop.

The same rule applies with commercial recording.

A typical session would last two hours. You'd meet with the producers to discuss their vision, listen to some examples that they provided, and then have about 5 to 10 minutes to compose the parts. Then you'd go record in the live room, all in a matter of minutes.

I didn’t have time to pre-plan. This taught me that my first response was usually the right one. I learned to trust my intuition and get creative immediately.

Before that time, my strategy was to wait for inspiration, which was not predicable. Instead, I learned how to use deadlines as a catalsyt for inspiration.

Function within a time-scale—it gives you the structure you need. It creates urgency, necessity, and you’ll be surprised on how much you can accomplish by setting a deadline.

Don’t strive for perfection. It’s impossible. Strive for excellence by delivering predicable results.