Nov 16, 2010, 21:55

As a composer, it’s common to focus a great deal of mental energy only on the tools. With so many extraordinary plug-ins being released on a regular basis how could one NOT get excited about the new level of realism in your next virtual orchestral track or the latest software synth created by Eric Persing?

But a remark made last week during my interview with award-winning filmmaker Nick Mundy reminded me that what is valued most by film makers in the musicians they use is NOT their gear collection. Rather, it’s that musician’s high-level ideas.

Case Study: Team Tiger Awesome

The three principal members of LA-based comedy film makers Team Tiger Awesome (Clint Gage, Michael Ryan Truly, Nick Mundy) grew up together in Texas. As member Mundy recalls, “Clint was kinda scared of me because I’d play football on cement.”

“In 2005, we all moved to LA [to work in entertainment]. At first we mostly sat around and watched the Houston Astros have their best season ever. We decided to throw a Halloween party and made a video invite using Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time”. Within 24 hours, it got like 600 views. We were worried that 600 people were coming to our house. We figured if these stupid party invites are getting noticed, we might as well do this for real. So we launched Team Tiger ( in February 2006.”

Team Tiger has since proliferated more than half-a-dozen spoof TV series (Cramped Quarters, Rejected House Husbands of Hollywood, Pizza Robot) and has won over $6,000 in prize money from the website Tongal ( is a website where large companies (Lending Tree, Allstate) post creative specs for spots they need produced and then receive video submissions from producers trying to win the project.

Here’s a hilarious spot produced by Team Tiger and submitted to for a Binaca campaign. The spot took 4th place:

The Team Tiger Approach to Music

Team Tiger uses a variety of sources for their music including:

1) Apple Soundtrack: Standard with every Mac, but Mundy cautions, “We hear those same music tracks all over the place and we’re like……S**T”.

2) Original songs usually initiated with lyrics by Truly. “He will usually do the first, and most likely, only pass when it comes to a song”

3) Custom soundtracks created by Texas schoolmates Mark Lopez and Craig Douglas.

What advice would Mundy give to musicians trying to break into film-scoring?

“We like when people add their own stuff to a project…especially if it makes the project funnier”.

And there it is. Great film composers are expected to do more than make cool tracks. They are expected to converse and collaborate with directors and producers at a high conceptual level.

“The whole film making process in comedy and the way we work is a collaborative process.” Mundy continues. “Let’s say one of us has an idea. One of us might say, ‘I don’t get it’. We all have improv backgrounds so one person has an idea, the other person plays off of it. We keep building on it and building on it.”

“[When we choose who to work with on a project] being super-talented is just the base layer. For us, the best ideas win. We often joke that we should give our actors co-writing credit.”

“Just for an example, we did one series that didn’t get released. We were gonna have a girl sing the title song. But when Mark sang her part as a temp track, it was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I had to fight him to keep it.“


Film composer Hans Zimmer once disagreed with Jerry Bruckheimer over the musical direction for a scene in Crimson Tide. Zimmer said, “Bruckheimer and I all argued for a whole week…..with me doing no writing. We just sat there, we’d come in every day and we’d go at each other”.

Personally, I probably would have re-written the cue on the spot before Bruckheimer could even finish clearing his throat.

But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps there comes a point in every collaboration where the musician must open their mouth and argue for what their gut says is the best idea, not because they’re being difficult, but because they are being passionate. Perhaps there comes a point where your client relies far more on your personal taste and life experiences than the quality of your microphones.

More Conclusion

One of my very music scoring jobs was a comedy spot for Hair Cuttery. I knew the director socially and was in awe of his reel.

During our first music meeting, I took copious notes. I went back to the studio and worked tirelessly to ensure my demo contained his every idea. My music followed the onscreen action. My music contained elements from his favorite bands. My music was rich with layers of complexity my school professors would appreciate.

After watching playback at the 1st viewing, several minutes of awkward silence ensued as we both realized the soundtrack really sucked.

“Well”, I said, desperate for anything that could save this meeting, “I did have this one idea while driving in the car when you first told me about this spot…but it’s really simple.”

“We’ve got nothing to lose”, he said (I think).

I then played a child-like polka pattern using a pizzicato string patch.

His face lit up. I felt like Santa Claus. “That’s it!”, he yelled. It was nothing like what he originally directed me to do…….

…but it was the best idea in the room.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

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