We had the good fortune of connecting with Ian Honeyman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ian, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks and getting out of the comfort zone is super important for a creative career. Fearlessness is vital on every level – sticking to what’s “safe” creatively is easier, but results in art that could have been better. The only way to create meaningful art is to take risks, push ideas as far as they can go, do something that nobody has seen before. On a personal level, I believe the only way to see what you are capable of is to try something you’re not sure you can do. If you can do it, or can learn to do it, then build from that and try the next thing you’re not sure you can do – that’s how people become experts. One of the biggest risks I took was leaving a stable job and moving to Los Angeles with almost no money or connections, a move that changed my life and a risk I’m so happy I took. Learning to box was another risk and something I wasn’t sure I could do at all, would definitely be embarrassing and might actually injure me, but I ended up boxing for years and learned a lot about myself in the process. Creatively, most projects have a very limited schedule so on every project I try to take a lot of risks – try bold concepts – as fast as possible, to learn quickly what will work for a project and how far I can take it. Even though most of these will never be heard by anyone but me, it still takes a lot of confidence to even try bold ideas. Every attempt either gives me artistic progress or teaches me something. Over the years I built up confidence to try big ideas, but playing them to others can still feel like I’m on thin ice. Creatives constantly make statements about their taste. Putting a piece out there means saying “I think this is great” and hoping someone agrees with you. It takes courage. Overall, every risk I took led to growth and I’m glad I took every one of them. Risk is one of the most vital tools for creative professionals to grow.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a film composer, music producer and musician. My goal with every piece of music or film score is to take listeners on a journey, bring them into a new world, tell them a story, and hopefully inspire them to look at the world a little differently. I want to give people things they haven’t heard before. My techniques vary on each project but emotion, warmth and empathy with characters are very important to me, and I find them easier to achieve with organic, acoustic instruments. Aside from classical ensembles like orchestra and piano, I use a lot of instruments from my collection that I have bought while traveling around the world, and sometimes build custom instruments to help create a unique voice for a film score. Most recently I finished a score for a documentary called “Cured,” the story of the activists who fought to remove homosexuality’s classification as a mental illness. This was literally a life-or-death struggle, and one of the most important chapters in the fight for LGBTQ equality. My biggest goals in the film were to connect the activists with the audience – help the audience feel that they were going through what the activists went through, and continually raise the stakes, making it clear how serious this battle was. I wanted a sound that could range from very intimate, so the audience is right there with the characters, to big and dramatic – they’re in the fight of their lives. I recorded the score with the Spektral Quartet, a multi-grammy-nominated string quartet based in Chicago, who were the perfect partners to get this range of emotion. I’m super proud of this score and film, which premiered at Outfest this year and will play nationally on PBS next year. I don’t think any creative journey is easy and mine definitely hasn’t been. I was able to find a part time job at NPR that supported me while I tried to get a job – any job – in music or music production. After I started my career in film there have been endless challenges. The business is competitive and trying to get hired on projects, build and develop a creative identity and develop the business side at the same time meant that there was always a problem to solve. A few things I learned are that filmmakers really want to work with creatives who have a unique voice, so developing and constantly improving one is absolutely necessary. Enthusiasm is always a good thing. And networking and keeping in touch with people is essential.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Los Angeles and there’s so much to do in this city. The first time I came to LA I stayed in Venice, which became my favorite area for years. I would take a friend to breakfast at Shoops in Santa Monica, which has the best pancakes in the world. Then to LA Louver, an excellent art gallery/museum in Venice which represents really interesting artists, puts on good shows and is in a beautiful building half a block from the beach. Dinner at Hama Sushi, a Venice landmark with outstanding sushi and surf movies playing on the walls. Some other favorites are Moonshadows and Neptune’s Net in Malibu, LACMA, the arts district in Downtown LA for galleries, imaginative restaurants and genre-bending performance art/shows like the musical “Cages,” and the hilly neighborhoods of Echo Park and Beachwood Canyon.
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?
My wife Joanna is my creative partner. We realized right away that although we worked in different creative fields – her in design, me in music – our jobs were almost identical in terms of process and challenges and we could learn a lot from each other. She has a ton of musical, creative and career insight, we constantly give each other opinions and support and this partnership has added so much to my creative ability and life. In high school and college Leyla Sanyer and Chen Yi both taught me incredible amounts about music and inspired me to turn it into a career.
Joanna Paola Honeyman