New year, new you: time for thinking and dreaming big. Will moving to Los Angeles increase your chances of making it big time in the film industry as a composer? And how do you know when it’s time to go? The panel Time To Go? The Dutch in LA on the BMIM x ADE Pro Conference zooms in on that question, centering the experiences of composer Joep Sporck and NBSO Los Angeles’ Peter Post. We’re sharing the most important do’s and don’ts of moving to Los Angeles for music, and hopefully provide you with an answer to the question if it’s time to go. The key takeaways:
Peter Post: ‘Networking and building relationships are crucial – of course everywhere but more so in LA. Be aware of your Dutchness, the Netherlands is very different from the USA and even within the US, the West Coast is very different from the East Coast. For example, you have to think non-linear in LA. As Dutch, we tend to think very linear and go straight after our goal and if things seem to be useless, we directly put them aside or ignore them, risking the opportunity to miss a great opportunity. Moreover, ask the question “how you can help others in their ambitions”, show genuine interest in how you can contribute to their dreams, make a real connection. You might find that in LA people know people that know people that would otherwise be inaccessible for you – and an introduction from a trusted person is GOLD!
Also, people here are very positive and mostly don’t do negativity – they are not fake, they are polite. Or in other words, Californian Courtesy, whether they like it / you or not, they will always give you positive feedback – don’t judge and join the positive growth mindset and you might be surprised. As Dutch we like to spread around our opinions, how things could / should / would be (even) better, which might lead to a certain form of judgement which is mostly not considered positive if unsolicited. It’s okay to be direct, but keep it constructive and positive and try to stay away from unsolicited and sarcastic remarks, judgements and opinions that don’t contribute to the conversation when you just meet people.
Don’t: Wait for the work to come to you, go to the work
Joep Sporck: ‘I concluded that I only wanted to write music for film anymore. After years of waiting, I decided not to stay in the Netherlands and wait any longer for work to find me, but to look further afield. I participated in competitions for young talent in film music and came in third at the Krakow Film Music Festival with a piece I wrote for Shrek. I got to know people from LA that invited me over, and I said yes to every invitation I got. At one point, in addition to my regular job at ProjectSAM, I had so many jobs that I worked all through the night to get all my work from LA done. I quickly had more work there than I had in the Netherlands, and it became clear what I needed to do.’
Do: Go if The Netherlands feel too small for you
Joep Sporck: ‘My mission was creating film music only, and I couldn’t do that in The Netherlands. I started looking for a migration lawyer, because I wanted to get my visa. You immediately notice a difference in mentality: you must start selling yourself to the US migration department. I made a huge file with letters of recommendation and media coverage I got, so that I could prove I was going to add something to their market, rather than only taking something.’
‘I had been there many times before moving there, which helps. I already had plenty of things in the works in LA while I was still in the Netherlands. Within a month of moving there, I made new contacts, which is also important. For instance, I got to co-write the score of Jurassic World Live Show. I would never have got that if I had stayed in the Netherlands.’
Do: Ask for advice (from other composers)
Joep Sporck: ‘Composers in LA help each other a lot with jobs; there is much less competition than in the Netherlands. People work in big teams and empower each other. Make sure you gather a good team around you. A lawyer like the one I had helps, you need someone to root for you.’
‘My advice would be: if you want to move to LA and don’t want to work for just one composer, don’t apply for an O1 visa, as you will be stuck with that one client for the three years the visa is valid. Rather, find an agency so you can work for anyone you want. An agent can help negotiate moneywise. Back in the day, I used to get rates where I felt I was exploited, but now I am less likely to sign up for things that quickly. Asking for advice helps.’
Do: Only go if you’ve saved up and have a plan
Joep Sporck: Los Angeles is a costly city. You have to be able to get around there for a while, when you arrive.’
Peter Post: ‘There are many Dutch entrepreneurs and people that want to make it in the US and Los Angeles in particular. They reach out to us and ask if we know director X, CEO Y and Celebirty Z…this is not how it works and there are no shortcuts!! It is really important to be prepared, know how the ecosystems work in which you participate, who the key players are, what the groundworks to even be able to deliver, to see the how your unique product, solution, talent, service fits the market you are targeting (or if there are other markets / ecosystems) and mostly, that you are ready to deliver! Of course – as the American Dream dictates – this requires perseverance, dedication and commitment and not just a “one-try-but-it-didn’t-work” mentality… Find a way to be present in LA, perhaps studying or a small collaboration, one (or more) trips and be out there and share your dreams and find like minded people. If you really want to be successful here, it is possible!
‘It’s hard work, but I see plenty of Dutch entrepreneurs being really successful in terms fame, recognition, money, quality of live, self-actualization, impact or however you want to measure success.
We work closely with BMIM to expand our knowledge, contacts and relations so we are better able to prepare and eventually connect you more easily – but the journey starts and remains with yourself having to do the heavy lifting.”
About Peter Post and Joep Sporck
Peter Post moved to LA in 2020, to open the Netherlands Business Support Office, where the Dutch government helps businesses to set foot in LA. Before he moved to the West Coast, he helped large companies develop in other countries. Joep Sporck studied to be a music teacher at the conservatory of Maastricht, and later enrolled in Composition for the Media at HKU. They met through a zoom session hosted by BMIM about entrepreneurship in LA.