We had the good fortune of connecting with Etienne Monsaingeon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Etienne, what role has risk played in your life or career?
In my opinion, risk taking is an essential component to a successful career. It can be defined into two concepts: expansion of your existing comfort zone and overt risk-taking. Firstly, it is important to always go beyond what you think you can do. As a film composer, that can be taking a gig in a music genre you’re not comfortable writing in, or accepting to do a project that has a deadline you would normally think impossible to meet (of course, you need to be realistic and evaluate the do-ability of the situation you put yourself into). By challenging yourself with situations that are out of your comfort zone, you will acquire more skills, diversify your work palette and gain in confidence. This will result into growing and learning faster. Secondly, the concept of brazen risk-taking comes from personal experiences. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, I was interviewed by a film composer named Trevor Morris. In the job description, I was asked to rate myself from 1 to 10 on several softwares and on my ability to do certain tasks. I had no experience in studio management, had never heard about some of the softwares and had never dealt with working at such a high level in the Hollywood industry. I really wanted the job so I lied on most of my answers. That was taking a risk considering that once hired, if I wasn’t able to complete the tasks, I would probably be fired. However, I made sure that I could “afford my lies”, which means, lie on the things you know you will be able to catch up on before or while you’re asked to do something. The same thing happened when I started working for Bear McCreary, even though I was hired as a writer and not an assistant (which was more in my field of studies), I had to go through a learning curve to be able to write in the style of the shows we were working on and had to adapt to the software we were using at the time, and understand the work flow. Since it’s an industry that rolls at a very fast pace, I had to push myself to learn everything at the same time and deliver the work according to the production deadlines. On a smaller scale and daily basis, getting out of my comfort zone has been to find extra energy to go out to social events or meet people. In a city like Los Angeles, it is crucial to network and put yourself out there. Sometimes, after a long day at work, you might not want to go out, but pushing yourself to do so will help you to broaden your horizons, get inspired through having new encounters and probably discover new fields of interests. Regarding major risk taking such as moving into a new city, quitting your current job because you’re seeking something else (which can mean losing your financial stability during the transition) or getting into a new field of work, you will have to put into perspective your life as it is currently and what you’re trying to reach. This will help you create possibilities that will lead you eventually to the goal you’re aiming for. Its a math problem with many variables. The outcome will probably result from the analysis of the risk you’re taking, combined to what your intuition tells you to do.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Most of my work consists of writing music for TV, film, and video games. I am currently a writer at Sparks and Shadows which is a film music production founded by Bear McCreary. I have been working on shows such as Agents Of SHIELD, Outlander, Snowpiercer, and The Walking Dead, among others. The beauty of working under a “major” composer such as Bear McCreary is that you learn the ropes on very high level projects which you don’t have access to when you start your career. On top of being mentored by a highly talented musician and experienced film composer, you develop your skills in project management, which is key in this business. One of the challenges I faced while getting into the film music world has been to understand client demands. The way a non musician perceives music and communicates about the thoughts he has towards it differs a lot from what a musician hears and feels. As a matter of fact, I found myself confused many times about notes I would receive from production regarding a track. The fun part is that each director or producer is different, so each project requires a new perspective. As well as being a film composer, I also write concert music and have different artistic projects that I am currently cooking up. One very exciting one is a classical festival I will be participating in called Endless Mountain Music Festival. This was supposed to happen this July but due to COVID-19 it has been postponed to July 2021. I will be performing a piece I wrote last year for Piano and Orchestra during the opening night. This is truly a dream come true to be playing piano alongside an orchestra!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The Sherman in Sherman Oaks, chill bar with a wonderful team! Great people, great conversation, great food, and a great atmosphere. Petit Ermitage – This one is a private rooftop, but if you have access to it, you will spend a magical time there. The Echo – Really cool venue and great line up most of the time. The Hi-Hat – Also a very cool venue in Highland Park (which is one of my favorite areas in LA). Romancing the Bean – Cool coffee shop in Burbank. Republic of Pie in NoHo – Also very cool coffee shop where you can work and relax while enjoying some artisanal food and good coffee. The Comedy Store – Great if you love stand up comedy. Charcoal Venice restaurant – Remarkable food… won’t say more, just go there!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A big shout out to Perrine Virgile without whom my career wouldn’t be where it is now. The whole team from Sparks and Shadows and Bear McCreary!
Ali Campbell Sandy Marisol