Alex Redfern

Alex Redfern 5 Salvador Ochoa 3.JPG

Photo Credit: Salvador Ochoa

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Production)

Year of Graduation: 2012

Top Career Highlights:

  • Being selected to part of the ASCAP 2019 Film Scoring Workshop, Los Angeles
  • Recording and conducting my music with orchestras at the Newman Scoring Stage at Fox Studios and the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros Studios.  
  • Working alongside Roger Neil, Ben Decter and Jeff Russo on many different films and TV shows

Alex Redfern has recently participated in the 2019 ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop in Los Angeles. The month-long, immersive programme provided opportunity to receive mentorship from leading industry figures, and culminated in a recording session at one of the oldest and largest recording studios in the world - the ‘Newman Scoring Stage’ at FOX Studios.

An accomplished producer, engineer and composer for moving image, Alex has spent time in Leeds, Valencia and Los Angeles and worked alongside industry giants including Jeff Russo, Ben Decter and Roger Neill.

Below, Alex provides some advice for budding film composers and shares his most important lessons learnt from his time spent studying with us.

How has your musical grounding as a pianist and guitarist helped you establish a career?

I’ve never been a great performer in either guitar or piano, but I play well enough to be a composer. The main thing playing these gave me was that I was around music a lot growing up. Learning piano as a child exposed me to tons of music (mainly classical and jazz) that I still keep in my inspiration tanks. It also gave me a foundation of music theory which I now rely on every day. Saying that, I do play piano and guitar on my music, as well as playing all of the midi in on the keyboard, though sometimes I have to slow it down and do a bit of editing to tidy it up!

What was your initial inspiration for wanting to pursue a career as a composer?

Growing up, I had always been interested in orchestral and film music. I enjoyed the usual big film scores: Jurassic Park, Star Wars, E.T. and Lord of the Rings. I remember there being a film music module while studying Music Tech at A Level, playing around with the orchestral samples in Cubase and being really interested but at the time, I wanted to pursue Music Production. When I went to Leeds College of Music, Film Music was part of the Music Production course and having the option to explore that area was one of the main reasons Leeds College of Music appealed to me. Initially, I was all in on the Music Production side, but in my second year, I had my first Film Scoring module. My first project was to re-score a scene from the 2009 Star Trek film, and at that moment, I discovered a love for composing and that people seemed to respond to what I was writing. That caused me to change all of my future optional modules to those related to film music and it set me on the path to becoming a film and TV composer. 

You’ve spent time in Leeds, Valencia and Los Angeles. How has this set of international experiences affected your artistic output?

Spending time internationally has helped me to build up a network of people - I now know people within the film and music industries from all around the world. I think having a good base between Los Angeles and the UK - probably the two best locations for film and TV composers - has allowed me to spread the net farther than if I was just in one place. Los Angeles really gave me experience of how the industry works, how to manage projects and how to develop my sound, but that began in Leeds and continued in Valencia. So it was building blocks as a result of my experiences, interactions and collaborations with other people in these locations that has allowed me to grow as both a composer and a professional. 

What was the most important thing you learnt during your time at LCoM that has helped you progress in your career?

Learning how to analyse music was probably the most important thing I learnt at LCoM. This gave me the tools to determine how other music is made up - in terms of the composition, orchestration, production and how emotion and meaning can be conveyed in music. Additionally, that helped me analyse my own music, to see what causes reactions in audiences, both positively and negatively, so I can develop and improve the music. I also learnt a lot about how harmony is used, particularly in film music.

Another thing that really gave me a head start, was learning about music production. I learnt a lot about the technology, DAWs, sampling, midi, mixing, synthesisers and recording that a lot of my colleagues (at least early on) did not have. This meant I was regularly asked to help on projects with that side of things, and my music often stood out because it sounded professional even on very low budgets. 

How has time spent with composers such as Roger Neill, Jeff Russo and Ben Decter affected your own approach to composition?

I have been lucky to have some amazing mentors during my time as a composer - each with their own approach to their role as a composer for film and television. I have spent the most time working with Roger Neill. I first met him in 2014 and started working for him when I moved out to LA in 2015 and I continue to work with him now, even since moving back to the UK. Roger has always been very open with his approach. From working with him, I learned about the art and subtlety of spotting, how to deal with notes and different versions and how to refine and polish the music to push that last 10%. He always let me sit-in on and contribute to meetings with producers, directors, actors, editors and music department guys, so I learnt how to handle these meetings and the overall collaboration process.

With Ben Decter, I learnt how to balance work and personal life, and how to write quickly and efficiently. We were working on up to 4 episodes per week so we had to streamline how we worked whilst maintaining decent working hours - something that many composers miss.

With Jeff Russo, I again learnt how he manages many simultaneous projects, but this time with a larger team. He works closely with a music engineer, orchestrator and multiple assistants. He also does a lot of recording, so experiencing that process under such tight deadlines was very useful for me. 

Tell us about your involvement in the Music Department for various films and TV series. What does each role involve (i.e. Composer Assistant, Music Recording Assistant, Music Arrangement, Orchestrator etc.)?

I’ve had many different roles as part of the music department on various projects. Being a ‘Composer Assistant’ for Roger and Ben really allowed me to diversify my skill set. Initially, that might have just involved getting lunch, jobs around their studios or tech support. But quickly my responsibilities expanded into many different roles, such as Midi Orchestration and Music Production - taking their drafts and polishing the midi or orchestrating with midi to make it sound more complete while they work on other things. I have done a lot of Music Editing and Tracking where I’ll be using Pro Tools to make temp tracks and edit music into different parts of the episode or film. On one show with Roger, we had to cut up bits of classical music into short 1-5 second snippets, making them sound like standalone pieces using reverb, automation and creative fades, then spotting them to hit the drama correctly. I have done some additional music as well, where certain cues might be assigned to me on a project for me to tackle.

How do you secure future work?

Most projects that I get are based from existing relationships or previous projects that I have done. I try to be reliable and deliver the best possible score, as I feel that people will be more likely to work with me again if I deliver the best quality work. Outside of that, networking, meeting new people and trying to maintain a good reputation. It is something I am always working on, whether in the middle of a project, or not. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into composing for moving image?

You have to learn to be a jack of all trades in terms of skills (composition, spotting, mixing, orchestration, notation/engraving, synthesis, production etc.) and genre. There will be some things that you will be less strong at. However, especially in the beginning, you need to learn how to do everything at least to a moderate level. Learning all of this takes an entire career, but learn as much as you can, as early as you can, as it will give you a big boost at the beginning when this knowledge is most required. Collaborate with other composers and musicians if there is something you feel you are less confident with. This will help on a number of levels: you can get a project finished to a higher level by working with people who are more experienced with certain skills, you can learn those skills from them, they can help by suggesting ideas in other areas or skills and you will both get experience collaborating with other creative people. 

What’s coming up next for you in terms of projects?

I just got back from doing the 2019 ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop in Los Angeles, where I got to learn a lot from some of the best composers and industry pros in the business, and I had a recording session at the Newman Scoring Stage at FOX Studios with 64 players.

Now I’m back in the UK, I’m due to start composing on a WW2 documentary called ‘No Roses on a Sailor’s Grave’. It is about a young historian who promises a 92-year-old veteran (Patrick) that he will find his ship that was wrecked just after D-Day in the English Channel, of which he was one of the only survivors and the only remaining survivor around today. It looks like it will be a really interesting film and I have some great ideas of where to take it musically. 

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Follow Alex via his website

Learn more about the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop

Find out more about our BA (Hons) Music (Production) programme

If you’re a graduate of Leeds College of Music, join our mentoring portal here.

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