A film composer works with a director, producers, sound team, and musicians to create the musical score for a film. In addition to writing music, a modern film composer needs to have good recording and music software skills, and be able to orchestrate music. Since most composers are freelance professionals, the day-to-day job requirements might include seeking new jobs, meeting with a film's creative team, composing, or finding musicians.
The job of a film composer is equally a creative and technical position. Creatively, the composer must be able to understand the atmosphere, story, and dramatic tension of a film in order to create music that suits and enhances the finished product. Technically, a composer must be able to write the music down, perform it for the creative team, and create an orchestrated version for a group of musicians to play.
Music software has become an important tool for scoring and can ease the job of a film composer considerably. Some programs allow users to hook electronic pianos or guitars into a computer, and will transpose the notes played onto a written staff. Composers may also need to use recording software, and understand the correct usage of microphones in order to create the best possible version of a score.
Most composers work on a freelance basis, which means they need to work hard to find jobs and advertise their skills. Some start out by creating a demo recording of different compositions to submit to directors and producers for projects. Many begin professional careers by working on student films or small independent productions, oftentimes for free. This tactic allows a composer to meet up-and-coming filmmakers and begin to establish a reputation and list of credits. After some professional work is done, a composer may be able to find an agent who will help him or her find jobs in exchange for a percentage of earnings.
When hired, a film composer will sit down with the creative team to establish basic ideas for the score. A composer may be hired while the film is still shooting, in order to start work on major musical themes, or may be brought on after shooting is completed. Once the film is cut together, the composer and director will go over each scene to determine where music should be added, how long it will last, and how to create the mood and desired effect. After the music is written, a composer may oversee the hiring of orchestra performers and even conduct recording sessions, though larger productions may hire additional professionals for these positions.