Sundance Film Music and Sound Design Lab - the experience of a lifetime

“There are, it seems, two muses: The Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and The Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” - Wendell Berry

The above quote was included in Tabitha Jackson’s welcome message in our orientation materials. She is the director of the Documentary Film Program for the Sundance Institute. Every message in this orientation booklet was one of great interest to me, and great encouragement, but I was particularly intrigued by this one, and it stuck with me during my entire beautiful, fascinating, challenging, exhilarating two weeks at Skywalker Ranch. I was often baffled; but I often “sang” quite beautifully.

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I find it difficult to put into words how much this experience meant to me. How can I articulate how deeply meaningful it was to work with Harry Gregson-Williams, with Thomas Newman, with Mark Isham, Tyler Bates, Heather McIntosh, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, and Adam Smalley? What it was like to grow and learn and explore alongside the seven other composer fellows chosen for this amazing opportunity this year - people who are now lifelong friends? How grateful I am for the mentorship and guidance of the incredible Peter Golub, and how thankful I am to everyone at Sundance and BMI for affording this experience to me? How much I fell in love with Skywalker Ranch, especially the Tech Building and everyone who works inside of it?

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I came away from my two weeks at the Ranch a completely changed person. There were some days where I was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt like I was exploring a new planet - and in many ways we were, as both of our assignments the first week came from films that take place in outer space! I grew more as a composer and an artist than I could ever have imagined.

Please click the image below to shuffle through some images of my time at Skywalker.

I also would DEFINITELY be remiss if I didn’t mention how much it meant to me as the intense, obsessed Star Wars fan that I am and have been for thirty years, and how grateful I am to all of the guys who spent many hours with me discussing the saga and answering most of my questions - the ones they COULD, of course :)

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I will forever look back at this experience as a turning point in my life and career. I came back and wrote the two best film scores I’ve ever written in my life. I feel more confident in my voice as a composer than ever before. I truly learned so much from all of these magnificent people and I adored every single moment I spent as a part of the Sundance Lab 2018. An extra special big huge thanks to Daniel Hymanson, my filmmaker and friend, who trusted me with his powerful, intimate and thought provoking documentary, Queen of the Battling Butterfly Brigade. Our creative partnership was fun, silly, emotional, and mind-blowing. Love you Daniel!

Click below to see some group pics of the amazing folk participating in the program this year.

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I will close with the e.e. cummings quote that Thomas Newman relayed to me during our one-on-one session. “Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people; but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” Thank you to everyone who was a part of my experience at the Sundance Lab and Skywalker Sound - you are immeasurably helping me become nobody but myself, as a composer, an artist, and a person!