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GEMS goes to Hollywood

Hey folks! This week, we’ve got something a bit different. We will be speaking to a past student, Damian Mizzi, who recently went up to L.A. and stayed with Christopher Young for a week! Damian is a Maltese film-composer who I met during the 2018 GEMS film scoring program, in Madrid.

Join up 2019 GEMS summer program in Madrid, Spain. July 1st- July 11th.

Check out the Christopher Young Film Scoring Program Spain 2019, meet Christopher Young and get yourself over to Hollywood just like our past students have. GEMS in Hollywood

What are you currently working on, what do you do?

I’m currently working on an interesting music concept for a hotel. I cannot say too much about it, but it is a sort of musical yet psychological/emotional way of getting more clients.

I’m also working on music for some commercials, which is pretty much business as usual for me. Also got some short movies coming up – a little bit of everything. A collaboration in the electronic music world too – last year I did a collaboration with a Maltese DJ for the opening of the Valletta City of Culture 2018, and the collaboration will be happening this year too!

How did you get invited to LA during last year’s summer program?

During the one-to-one mentoring session, Chris and I discussed me going to LA thoroughly, because it was something I really wanted to do for a very long time…but my priorities changed at a younger age, so that plan had to take a backseat at the time.

We had discussed various things and then he suggested that I go there and see if I would actually live there and go around and see the place.

When I went there, he involved me in the film that he is currently working on Pet Semetary; he was very helpful, and his assistants helped set me up with an extra computer he had in the same room, for me to see the film-in-progress with the temp music.

To be honest, when he asked me what kind of movies I like, I said ‘anything but horror’. Which is funny, since Chris specializes in horror.

What was it like staying with Christopher Young?

It was quite cool. The room I stayed in is kind of in his backyard - I remember, I was trying to get into the room at night when it was dark during the first night, I opened a door since Chris told me to open the door behind the garage. It turned out to be the door next to the bedroom, not the bedroom. As soon as I opened the door, a bunch of scary/Halloween masks fell out. It was terrifying! Very suited for Chris’ tastes!

After some more searching, I found the nice bedroom that Chris had in stock for me. It was a very colourful bedroom – it looked like a young girls’ bedroom, the room used to be his daughter’s. The area around Chris’ place was very clean, with a bunch of trees in the street and nice, wide roads too.

Damian conducting and recording on the 2018 GEMS program

What was it like meeting up with Andrew in LA?

(Andrew Kristy was another student in the 2018 summer program).

We met up around once or twice, during the last few days of my stay in LA, he stayed for longer after I left. We had a drink by the pier and then took a tour around Hollywood boulevard, Capital Records, and saw the TCL Chinese Theatre. We went around to see places where older iconic actresses used to live, like Marilyn Monroe and such.

When I was alone I also went to see Beverley Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Park, Griffith Observatory. It was pretty fun.

What did you think of LA?

It’s a nice place. I personally wouldn’t mind living there, but not alone to be honest. Although, t’s definitely a cool place and it’s always sunny… with no mosquitoes in sight – which is great.

Lifestyle wise, it’s also good. Santa Monica in particular seems like quite a safe place. The whole city is expensive though, I’ve been to the USA quite a few times, but it’s relatively more expensive than other places.

I also had a bit of an adventure on arrival. When I arrived at the airport, I had to go pick up the keys from Chris’ studios – so I just had an address to follow. I instantly got approached by a taxi guy, he told me it was about 20-30 minutes away. He told me it would cost like $200…Then I went upstairs eventually decided to turn to Uber. I met up with Chris Young at the address and he gave me a warm, hearty hello, and gave me the keys.

I then settled into Chris’ place. What was interesting were also the motorized scooters which are all over the place, it’s a pretty fun way to get around. I used them a couple of times and enjoyed it.

In a nutshell, that was my adventure – of course there were many other things.

For next time though, I’ll go with a different purpose. This time I just went to see what the culture and lifestyle and the city was like. When I go again, I want to make it more purposeful in terms of work. But there’s a lot you can do there – I can tell that there’s a place for everyone in L.A., just because there’s such a contrast between one area and the other as well as the fact it’s so cosmopolitan…There’s bound to be a location to someone’s liking.

Was Chris’ studio process much different from the way you’re used to?

Well I wouldn’t say it’s the same, but it’s not far off. His studio room was this large open space with a sofa and some trophies on one side. On the other side was a bookshelf with some eccentric tokens and hundreds of snowballs. There was around 4-5 computer workstations where his assistants and him prepare the film scores.

Then there’s 2 work studios – the main studio and the recording area – then there’s a room with just a piano. He just uses the piano to write the music then he gives the sheets to his assistants to create the mock-ups. That’s basically it in a nutshell.

I found it to be very similar to what I do, but obviously I have to do everything myself. Something else I noticed was that a few days before, his assistants were preparing for a spotting session. They made sure to make the environment very comfortable for the producers and directors. For example, leaving empty parking spaces in front of the building, making sure that food was available - these little things that keep them calm and in turn make a big difference on choosing a composer.

It was quite a nice experience to witness, but there are of course some differences between his process and mine.

Well that was Damian’s experience! What an interesting adventure, huh? Can’t wait to have another one in L.A. too!

Check out the Christopher Young Film Scoring Program Spain 2019. meet Christopher Young and get yourself over to Hollywood

Until next time, guys!


Writen by the one and only Maria Borg

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