Kevin Teasley on Scoring Movie Trailers

Kevin Teasley is a composer and the principal in the L.A. music company Distortion, which specializes in trailer music. He''s scored trailers for such movies as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Mummy 3, among many others.
Author:
Publish date:

Composer Kevin Teasley

Kevin Teasley is a composer and the principal in the L.A. music company Distortion, which specializes in trailer music. He''s scored trailers for such movies as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Mummy 3, among many others. An interview with Teasley will appear in the “Industry Insider” column of the April 2009 issue of EM. The following is a bonus section of the interview, which doesn''t appear in the print edition.

What was one of the keys to your becoming successful as a trailer composer?
I became friends with as many editors as I could. That for me was the most important thing. Because I thought I was writing good cues and all the editors said, “Hey Kevin—these are really good cues, but I can''t use them.” Why? Because there are certain things that editors love; there are certain things that they hate. There are certain tempos and structures that they love. Never do a fade-out. They [the editors] like button endings, and they like ring-outs. More important is a ring-out, and that your cues have pauses in them. Most trailers have four or five pieces of music in them. So what editors have problems with is, “How am I going to get out of this cue and get into the next one?” [A pause] helps them when they want to go into another cue.

So succeeding in trailer composing takes more than just musical talent?
Whether you''re a hip-hop producer or a trailer composer, after a certain level, everyone''s good. There are ten other composers who have studios on my block that could do it just like I do it, and even better. Humbly, but honestly, they could write circles around me. But after a certain level, it''s about who people want to work with. When they come work with me, am I the grumpy composer who goes, “These people don''t know what they''re talking about—they''re jerks”? No . . . I understand enough to be able to have a professional conversation with them [the film editors], because I want to respect what they do. All I can say is what worked for me, which was that I didn''t look at it as a competition. I became friends with as many other composers as I could who did what I did. One, I wanted to make sure that I charged what everyone else charged. I didn''t want to be “that guy” who charges $2,000 for a cue that everyone else is charging $20,000 for. Because when that happens, it hurts everyone.

Do you have a trailer-music [demo] reel that you send around?
I don''t have a reel in the traditional sense. Yes, I have a reel for trailer stuff, but I don''t send that reel to other trailer houses to let them know what I''ve done. I have it on my Web site. And I do have a physical DVD reel that I send out, but it''s mainly when I''m trying to get new business in commercials or film or TV. They can see the scope of the things they''re doing. I''m not saying not to do it; definitely, if you have a song in a very cool trailer, definitely put it on your reel. But that''s not going to make or break an editor or music supervisor to say they want to use your music.

Let''s say that a fledgling composer is finally offered a trailer-composing job, but it''s not in a style that he or she is particularly strong in. Would you recommend taking it anyway?
If you can''t do it, just say that''s not what you do. I know that as a composer, we all want to say, “Yeah, I can do that. I can write zydeco banjo music that''s played on didgeridoo. Sure, I can do that!” I know that''s a general thing, but it''s better to say, “That''s not really my thing. If you don''t find what you''re looking for, I''d love to take a stab at it, but that''s not what I do.” Trust me, they will so appreciate you for that.

(For more of this interview, read the “Industry Insider” column in the April 2009 issue of EM, available March 15.)