Helena - Film and TV Composer
Let's start light! What are 3-5 things you love to do on your days off or 3-5 quirky things about you?
1. I love making things other than music on my days off - I made a dining table over a weekend a few months ago out of some leftover timber floorboards. Next up I want to make some chairs to go with it.
2. Hiking in nature is one of my favourite ways to switch off and exercise.
3. Hiking (mentioned above) is sometimes hindered by my irrational fear of birds. I gave up cycling when I was young because of one too many stories of swooping magpies.
What are three creative tools you couldn't live without?
My piano, my computer and coffee.
What do you do?
I'm a film and TV composer. Most recently I've composed the music for the documentary The Queen & Zak Grieve and TV shows like Survivor on Channel Ten and Look Me In The Eye on SBS.
Is this your whole income or do you have other side hustles?
My side hustle is working as a case manager a couple of days a week at an aged care organisation. I like feeling as though for 2 days a week, I'm directly helping elderly people live happier lives.
How did you find composing?
When I was 10 years old, I went to a Cirque du Soleil performance which made me fall in love with the idea of writing music for anything visual. My music teacher at school told me I was a good composer and should pursue it. I loved music, but was terrified of performing. Thanks to my teacher's feedback I realised there was a place for me in music that didn't involve getting up on stage.
Can you describe a working day for you?
I start the morning with some admin on my laptop from a cafe, then I'll get into composing in the late morning and continue through to the night. I don't necessarily stop working on weekends.
How does this impact your lifestyle?
When I'm working on a project, I'll likely work 10:30am - 8pm. It impacts on my social life a bit and my life with my boyfriend. But we're all in creative fields so we're all facing the same lifestyle challenges.
What are the perks of your job?
Flexibility and working on some amazing projects with awesome creative people.
What are some of the challenges you encounter?
The instability and insecurity of the work.
Working from home.
Trying to attract more work.
What are 3 of the pitfalls you often see artists making?
Inability to network effectively.
Insecurities about their own abilities.
What tips do you have for creative artists out there?
1. You need to connect with the creative community in order to get work.
2. You need to engage with the creative community to lean on them for support and reduce the feeling of isolation.
3. If you're working from home, you need to set yourself a really good routine and get out of your PJs (I'm still working on this!).
4. Keep going to gigs/events/shows/movies to nurture your love for the creative field you're in.
5. Reach out for help when you feel isolated or insecure.
What advice would you give to someone who says they're feeling overwhelmed trying to self-manage their creative career and that they want to find a simpler way to do business?
Try getting a casual/part-time job in a completely different field to the one you're pursuing. It could help to give you mental space from your creativity so that when you're ready to tackle it, you're refreshed and clear-minded. Alternatively, you could find a way of using your creative skills in a more secure job where you're a part of a larger organisation and can lean on others for support.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to cope with the on-again off-again seasonal flow of freelancer work and who is doubting whether any more creative work is going to come their way?
It's definitely a challenge, but I do believe that having another job - even 1 day a week - that can take your mind off your creative goals and can bring in some money in a more consistent fashion can really help.
Why do you work in the arts and why do you create?
It makes me happy and I couldn't imagine dedicating my working life to anything else.
How do you balance business and creativity in your life? What do you think about the concept of 'selling out'?
I'm not concerned about 'selling out'. I believe it's about bringing a unique and creative approach to every project, regardless of what it is. For instance, I can gain a huge amount of satisfaction composing music for an ad campaign if I'm working with a great director who's enthusiastic about some creative risks. And, as always, there are times when I work on projects that aren't quite so satisfying. During these times I find it handy to work on my own passion projects, or go watch some great films or interesting gigs to balance it out.
What do you think it means to live a creative life?
Working really, really hard when you're in the middle of a big project, and then having periods of freedom and travel in between.