We had the good fortune of connecting with Alex Winkler and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alex, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
To me, it’s about recognizing that, most likely, the person you’re working for knows something you don’t know yet. And it’s your job to be humble enough to learn what that might be.

As a film composer, your job is uniquely different from any other type of composer, songwriter, or arranger. Whereas an individual artist or songwriter is accountable to themselves and their craft first and foremost, a film composer is one member of a very large family necessary in making a film. You are the one who, at the tail end of a sometimes-years-long process, is supposed to help breathe life back into a film that your director may be sick of looking at for the thousandth time. After months of criticizing their own work, testing it with audiences, and having to fight with their producers over every little decision, you’re the one who should bring optimism back into their lives. Their movie is AWESOME, and your music is there to remind them how worthy their script was to be made into a real, live motion picture.

At least, that’s what I’ve realized the more I’ve done this job, and the more time I’ve invested in learning about the process of making a movie. But when most of us start out, we don’t think that way. In fact, most of us come from a discipline of music-making that prioritizes the “auteur” vision of the composer, compromising for no one, and making music that first and foremost YOU like to listen to. And if other people don’t like it, well screw them! Of course, nobody says that part out loud, but after 4 years of studying classical music composition in college, I learned to read between the lines. And that same idea permeated much of my musical upbringing. In jazz music, if the audience didn’t “get it,” well that’s just because they aren’t smart enough to comprehend the genius I’m revealing to the world. And the thought of having a director, AKA someone with close to zero formal musical training, tell YOU what you should do in your music?!? Well, that’s called “selling out.”

The problem is, with this sort of thinking, all collaboration is made largely impossible. In classical music composition, the word “collaboration” roughly translated to “finding musicians who will do the best job of playing exactly what you wrote on the page”, executing your vision exactly without contributing to it. But that is the most surface-level kind of collaboration. Collaboration to me meant learning from someone else’s expertise and legitimately sculpting what you do with another person’s vision in mind. And in film, this kind of collaboration is found everywhere. Even with controlling directors who have a clear vision, they are relying 100% on this type of collaboration because of this simple fact: They don’t have the expertise to EXECUTE every job on a film team. Many could legitimately DP their own film and perhaps do the sound design or edit as well. But no one director can execute a film without other talented people shaping their vision. Not limiting or muddling their vision, but showing them a better way forward than they could have initially pictured. And this same openness in collaboration I’ve found to be the heart of what I do.

When a director says that my approach in scoring a scene is wrong, I don’t want my gut reaction to be “Well she/he doesn’t understand my music.” They DO understand my music. I just don’t yet understand their film. And being open to being wrong is the pre-requisite to finding a space to collaborate and be better than you could have initially pictured.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started out writing songs and performing live jazz music, growing more and more interested in collaborating with others and making things that felt bigger than myself. This led me to a love of film music and working with the best filmmakers. The best filmmakers I knew were in LA, so I applied to the USC masters in screen scoring where I learned a ton and met a lot of great people. Now I’m living in LA making a living from writing scores for original films and couldn’t be happier!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Franklin Canyon Park, Fat Sal’s, and The Egyptian Theatre The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Lizz Marshall, my partner in life, and the one who’s taught me most about making art.

Website: alexwinklermusic.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/winky_pants/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aWinky

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRKh6aXHzkiGm_akb8BfT6Q

Image Credits
Kevin Stiller Lizz Marshall

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