Sterling Maffe, a junior composition major, had the incredible opportunity to intern for Hans Zimmer last fall. Chosen from a pool of nearly 60 applicants, Maffe served Zimmer’s company, Remote Control Productions, for five weeks at the beginning of Fall 2017.
Maffe’s application and interview process illustrates the importance of persistence and of networking.
“I had known about Hans’ company for several years, and reached out to the head of operations inquiring about a job in the internship capacity,” said Maffe. “After persistent emails, and a personal recommendation from Lolita Ritmanis, a guest presenter at Biola and prominent figure in the industry, I was offered an interview… my interview lasted all of ten minutes.”
After being chosen for the job, Maffe spent the first third of the semester juggling this internship and his schoolwork. He remarks that sometimes school took the back burner during his internship, but through hard work and diligence he was able to catch up during the remainder of the semester.
Maffe reflects on the positive experiences of his internship with Zimmer and his entire production company during those weeks.
“The best part for me, was my interaction with Hans himself,” he said. “It was a surreal experience to meet one of my childhood heroes… our conversations, while brief, were very productive and encouraging. It felt empowering to contribute my small pebble to the mountain needed to create the soundtrack for a film.”
Maffe made meaningful connections during his time with Zimmer as well.
“I was able to meet many influential figures in the Hollywood industry and de-romanticize some of the myth that we all believe about their brilliance,” said Maffe. “No doubt there are genius minds building artistic monoliths, which will stand for generations, but they are all still simply human.”
Maffe also recognizes professional and spiritual growth he experienced, even when the internship seemed hard.
“The hardest part of the internship was being very clearly the bottom of the ‘totem pole’ of the company…[and] reinforced in me a spirit of humility,” said Maffe. “This was a distinction God made very apparent as part of His ‘program of studies’ for my time there. It is important for those going into the Hollywood business not to deify colleagues, and keep the focus on Jesus.”
After graduation, Maffe hopes to have a career as a film composer here in Los Angeles. He even has high hopes of winning an Academy Award for Best Original Score one day. He remarks that his studies at Biola and this internship have prepared him in different ways for a film composition career in the real world.
“The staff and faculty here [at Biola] have provided mentorship and biblical guidance in addition to knowledge of theory and composition that has developed my character as well as my craft,” said Maffe. “Without this, I would be simply a determined, but misguided, young mind, lost in unrealistic dreams...the work ethic of the musicians at Hans’ studio is unmatched, as they have very demanding jobs.”
The internship showed Maffe the realities of working in the film industry first-hand.
“The intensity and quantity of the work is inspiring, but it takes an unbelievable amount of effort to achieve,” he said. “It’s not a nine to five job, and my experience… further instilled this truth in me. It gave me a clear picture of what I have to look forward to having chosen this career.”
Maffe’s internship experience taught him more about his passions and career options. Throughout this process, Maffe recognized the significance of networking and making personal connections before graduation. Here is some advice from Maffe for other college or high school students interested in a career in film scoring,
- Make mistakes: This is the only way to grow as a composer. Instead of dwelling on what is safe, take risks and learn by trial and error. College is an excellent time to do this.
- Find your own voice, but master the voices of others: Be able to produce a sound that is unlike that of the competition. Finding a personal sound is a task that seems impossible, but consider that you need not reinvent the wheel, but simply steer it in a new direction. Mastering the voices of others comes by listening to them. All of these artists have something to offer you as a composer.
- Start your career now: You are not a candidate, you are not a prospect, but you are a composer now. Your only limits are self-imposed. Avoid thinking that opportunities are unavailable to you because you are a student. Apply for competitions, scholarships and internship opportunities, invest in state-of-the-art equipment and study both audio production and the film scoring process. Finally, seek Godly mentors, and most importantly, give credit where it is due: render all the glory to God.
To learn more about the composition major at Biola visit the Conservatory of Music website.