We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexa Borden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexa, what makes you happy? Why?
Art-print socks. Painting for my grandmothers. Collecting facts about random things like the lifespan of Greenland sharks (300+). Going on walks and talking about movies with my husband. Being told “I love it!” after sending a cue to a filmmaker whose project I’m working on. Getting funny texts from my brother. Making lists and spreadsheets. Volunteering. Having a group of friends who I know have my back. Those rare days when my hair miraculously decides to not frizz. I used to chase after markers like, “If I can just get into my dream school I’ll be happy,” or “If I can just get this gig I’ve been after I’ll be happy.” But I figured out waiting for happiness from “if I can just etc. etc. etc.” statements set me up to bypass joy from the everyday things. I no longer believe there’s one big thing that will magically lead to lasting happiness—instead I’m learning that the more you look for happiness around you the easier it is to find (a big lesson for someone who’s been a lifelong pessimist).
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve always wanted to be a composer for film and stage, so I’m excited every time I work on a cue for a project, because I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to get to do this on a regular basis. It wasn’t easy to get this far (it would be crazy if it was). Perseverance is what it took. I’ve worked as a server, an assistant, and a bartender to stay afloat while pushing through the long periods of not having any projects and hoping for the next film or show to come along (which I’m sure I’ll encounter again), and the harder part of hammering away while my inner monologue tells me I don’t belong in this industry at all or that I’m not good enough. I guess I’m lucky that I have a really strong work ethic and that I’m so stubborn, which is probably the reason I’ve persisted thus far. That negative inner voice hasn’t defeated me yet! The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there’s no standard timeline for success, so comparing myself to my peers who seem more successful is not healthy. Also, it’s okay to take chances and fail, as long as I’m always learning from everything I do. In terms of my work composing, I love the collaborative process and discovering the artistic language of the filmmakers and directors I work with, creating a musical language unique for each project. Sometimes that means recording everyday sounds and turning them into a unique synth for the film (like the sound of an old movie projector for the film Limerence by Dan Pedersen), multi-tracking tons of my own vocals to create a choir (The Blue Cave by Muhammad Bilal), finding the one instrument that can tell a story entirely on its own in the simplest terms (the piano in Blush by Em Johnson), and sometimes that means finding some truly out there combinations like Gregorian chant + prog rock + harpsichord + theremin (Hell’s Kitty the Musical). I play a lot of instruments and have a pretty wide range of musical influences in terms of style and genre, which allows me to be pretty versatile when writing and lets me find a specific musical language that reflects what makes each project unique.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Some of my favorite haunts and easily missed places I’d love to share with a friend from out of town: the Tar Pits near LACMA, The Last Bookstore, The Old Zoo, The New Bev, and The Museum of Jurassic Technology. They show a more curious and extremely eclectic side of LA you’d miss if you only hit up touristy Hollywood places. You can’t miss a hike up to Griffith Observatory for the views (and the Observatory itself) or a show at The Bowl. A sunset on an LA beach next to a bonfire is a must. For food, definitely grab a donut from SK’s in Mid Wilshire and hit up Smorgasburg in DTLA on Sunday. Last but not least, a day trip to the Vasquez Rocks to reenact that scene where Captain Kirk fights the Gorn. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents, brother, and friends deserve acknowledgement. My childhood piano teacher, Paul Fisher. They’ve always encouraged me, and I wouldn’t have gotten this far without them. My husband, Dan, definitely deserves a shoutout. He’s a more supportive partner than I could imagine. He’s completely understanding when I have those long work hours during a fast-approaching deadline and we don’t see much of each other, he makes sure I remember to eat when my brain is totally work-focused, and he encourages me to be myself in all things. I’m always grateful for him and all that he does for me.
Other: IMDB: imdb.me/alexaborden