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'Know how to stand up for yourself' Orange is the New Black composer shares trade secrets

Scott Doherty is an award-winning television series composer known for Weeds, Real World and hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black – here he talks to Mandy News about crafting music for TV.

8th November 2017
/ By Diedre Johnson

Netflix Orange is the New Black composer Scott Doherty SCOTT DOHERTY

Scott, describe what you do, and how long you’ve been doing it.
I am a music composer for film and TV. I’ve been working as a composer for just under 10 years and my job is to assist in storytelling through music.

Describe your good feelings about the work that you do, some of the perks and the great things.
I think the biggest feel-good that I get from the job is being part of a team and serving a purpose bigger than myself. 

I spent years as a musician and as a performer and it was always a pressure to express from within. I get to deal with other people’s art, their stories, their expressions and react to them and I get to kind of recycle their vision into mine. The collaborative effort is one of the most thrilling things that I get to do.

What are the greatest challenges in your work?
The schedule. As composers we’re part of post-production, usually one of the last accents to go onto a TV or film, so you usually have very little time and you’re always trying to chase inspiration and make sure that the work is coming from a genuinely inspired place but as everyone knows, inspiration strikes. It’s not usually commanded.

You've composed for the highly acclaimed Orange is the New Black. How does it feel to be doing that?
I’m so grateful for the experience. It’s an incredible ensemble of actors and writers and it’s one of the most incredible production teams that I’ve learnt so much from. 

When I first started, Netflix hadn’t released any shows yet and so it was unknown what could come of it. I was really excited about working on a show with a large female ensemble cast and a lot of female writers. I definitely was raised by my mum and my sister and so related to the feminine voice but at the same time, it’s such a male-dominated world. I was really unsure how the general public would digest a show like Orange is the New Black.

When we first started working on the project, it felt really special and my fear was that, once it was released, that I couldn’t hold onto that. Within a few months of its release, it became such a great success, was talked about and I found that it became even more special.

What’s a typical day like?
A typical day is kind of business hours, most of the time. I start my week at a production meeting watching the episode with several producers, the writer of the episode and post-production team members. We watch the episode and we stop after every piece of music that the editor has temped in. We decide if the music’s working and if it’s not working, what could be changed, if there’s a character or a storyline theme that could be implemented to better suit the moment. Then I go back to the studio and I have a list of anywhere between 15 or 30 pieces of music to generate within five days. 

Now that I’m in the sixth season, it’s a lot easier to navigate but earlier in the process you’re constantly looking to create a world; what the general world is and then break that down into what each character’s voice will be. 

A typical week for me now is just managing themes I’ve written and managing storyline themes. Then, the following week, we go to another meeting and watch all of the scenes with music and see how things are working. Sometimes there’s a couple of things to adjust and then wash, rinse and repeat.

Specific advice to those aspiring to go into this field?
I feel like I’ve had a lot of success from being a team player, being grateful and being willing to learn. At the same time, I think you also have to know how to stand up for yourself and I think there’s a balance between the two because it’s very important to be easy to work with. That will get people gigs more than any technical ability they have. 

Then outside of that, finding your own voice. Finding what you have to say that no one else says the way you do.

Comments

Joel Someillan

09-11-2017

I'm a composer as well and have worked on several indie films and one network TV show, but I'm having a lot of trouble connecting now for a new job. I live and work in Miami, Florida and have no plans to move my family across the country. How can I reach TV and film producers and convince them to work with me even though I'm far away from their productions?