We had the good fortune of connecting with Caitlin Foster and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caitlin, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Composing music is often a love-hate relationship. There are moments when you might be in the middle of a conversation with someone and the most lovely sounding inspiration for a piece of music pops into your head. But try as hard as you can to hang onto it, it usually disappears from memory before you can write it down. On the other side of the coin, I’ve sat for hours in front of my home studio trying to write a short jingle and nothing seems to work. Frustration and self-doubt are unwelcome but ever-present guests. Making a sustainable income as a film composer is more often a dream then reality unless you reach the heights of such musical giants as Hans Zimmer or John Williams. So why would one want to pursue composing as a career? Why don’t I give up when I’ve only had six gigs since graduating college with tens of thousands in student debt? Stories. The art of film storytelling is incomplete without music. I believe God gave me a unique talent to give a musical voice to the stories I have the honor of working on. My job as a film composer is to understand the director’s emotional intent behind a scene, capture that idea in the music and convey that to the audience. I have written music for films with powerful stories that wrestle with difficult and sensitive topics such as domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault. These are stories that need to be told. These are stories that need a musical voice to successfully make an impact and leave a lasting impression on their audiences. If I have the ability and opportunity to create that voice, why would I give up?
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Deciding to pursue a degree in composition was the easy part. Fulfilling that dream has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding times of my life. The college I decided to attend was a classically-based conservatory tailored for concert music. While it did give me a solid foundation in the art of composing it lacked the resources, equipment, and classes to prepare me for a career in the film industry. I had to work hard to make connections and collaborate with students in the film department to begin establishing a portfolio I could use once I graduated. I had many sleepless nights juggling homework and scoring independent projects between a full load of classes and ensembles. The skills, knowledge and connections I gained from these experiences far outweighed the temporal difficulties I felt in the moment. I learned that perseverance and hard work is key to “making it” in this industry. My services encompass a wide variety of specific talents – from film scoring to arranging pop tunes for weddings to music prep. What sets me apart is my unique “sound” as a composer and my commitment to delivering quality music. I am always looking for ways to bring original ideas to the table while capturing the essence of the story and the director’s intent. A great example of this is the soon-to-be released soundtrack I wrote for the webisode “Sam” from the series Gen Mental directed by sibling-duo Hailey and Brendan Shannon. They approached me with the idea of creating a hybrid soundtrack of orchestral and electronic elements. I jumped at the chance and started researching for synth samples to use (shoutout to Legowelt for the free libraries). The result was a mix of classic orchestral underscoring and nostalgic synth pads sampled from iconic analog equipment such as the Roland Juno 106 and Minimoog. I also had to write a 1960s-70s style jingle for a pharmaceutical commercial in the film. It was relatively easy to put together a short orchestral motif and add some effects to attain that “vintage” sound but I felt something was missing. If you picked any jingle from tv’s golden age at random the brand or product name would almost always be sung in a barbershop quartet style to get it stuck in people’s heads. I knew this is what the jingle needed. Since I didn’t have a barbershop quartet on hand I pulled my sisters into my room, gave them the words and two notes to sing, and hit record. After some editing, mixing and effects I achieved exactly what I was envisioning. Every composer has their own way of approaching a project and writing music. Everyone writes melodies, harmonizes and orchestrates differently – that’s what sets each composer apart. I tend to gravitate towards thematic music and orchestral instrumentations due to my experience as a violinist and orchestra member. Having played violin for over 15 years, it has given me a unique insight into writing for strings and the inner-workings of symphonic music. I often record myself playing violin on the films I’ve scored to add more realism and depth to the music. I am very excited about the upcoming release of the latest film I worked on directed by sibling-duo Hailey and Brendan Shannon. As I mentioned above, the soundtrack is a hybrid of acoustic instruments and 1970s-80s style Synthwave. Keep an eye out on my SoundCloud for its release!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favourite spot in the city is the Last Bookstore in DTLA. I am a sucker for used bookstores and this one is by far the best one in the area (if not all of SoCal)! They have an amazing selection of used and new books, vinyl records, and host regular events such as book readings and live music. While your there why not visit the Grand Central Market for an amazing selection of food and desserts? The Broad, Getty, and Getty Villa are three of my personal favourite museums. The Infinity Room is a must-see at The Broad. The gardens, architecture and diverse art collections of the Getty and Villa offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. If your a film buff I would also recommend the studio tours at one of the film production lots – Warner Brothers, Universal or Fox.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It’s so difficult for me to pinpoint just one person out of the many that have supported and mentored me throughout this journey. My parents have always been my biggest supporters – allowing me to pursue my dream, encouraging me when I feel like I can’t keep going, and providing me with the foundation I need to be successful in life and my career. Mike Watts, a well known film orchestrator and studio musician, became my mentor in college and helped me to hone my craft and gave me invaluable advice and skills to navigate Hollywood. My composer friend and fellow Biolan, Joel Santos, has been a constant source of knowledge – from tech support to passing along job listings – as I’ve begun my professional career. All of these people and many more deserve more credit than I can give for supporting and inspiring me.
Other: SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/caitlinfoster_esselda