Internationally acclaimed composer and visual effects artist, Mike Verta, has a truly generous reason for launching his online studio. Read on for his impressions on Hollywood success, paying it forward, and appreciating downtime.
Powhow: You recently offered your first hugely successful online session to mentor upcoming composers around the world, Settling the Score: The Nexus. Why was it important to you to offer coaching to other composers?
Mike Verta: Be the change… The tremendously helpful and rewarding master/apprentice days of old are long gone. We no longer have commonplace opportunities at studios and production companies to be writing music daily under the tutelage of seasoned pros, and then carrying that music into the next room to have it performed by world-class musicians. For most of us, this was the way our heroes learned to write. I wished for that sort of guidance so often while I was coming up… I decided, now that I have 20-plus years of experiential knowledge to impart, I would pay that dream forward. And nothing helps cement and organize one’s thoughts like having to teach them. So it’s a win-win.
Powhow: The Nexus focuses on the music. Your next session Settling the Score- Career 101: The Gameplan is all business. How did you get your big break in Hollywood and what’s your secret to staying so busy?
Mike Verta: Build it and They Will Come. It’s an illusion to think you’re going to muscle Hollywood into doing what you want. My break came by following the advice I give up-and-comers: Be good, and be everywhere. In the very beginning, your abilities come second to your clout, and you build clout by seeming to be everywhere, known to everyone. Sooner or later, one of the thousands of seeds you plant sprouts, and that’s your first break. To stay busy, do a great job and be fun to work with. Both of those qualities ensure the phone will continue to ring after the first time.
Powhow: Your designs are amazing too! Does the inspiration for your art come from the same place as the inspiration for your music? How does the process for creating your visual work differ?
Mike Verta: One of the core concepts I teach is the common language that is shared by artists and audiences alike. In the end, as an artist, once you understand how to relate to your audience – how to talk to them – it matters very little whether you’re speaking the language of music, visuals, scriptwriting, etc. The message is the same; the process is the same. A piece of music has composition, tone, and style. Visual pieces have composition, tone, and style. One paints with sounds, the other paints with light, but they draw upon the same skills and understanding to get their messages across.
Powhow: What projects are you excited about right now?
Mike Verta: As usual, ones that are under Non-Disclosure Agreements. But I can say that what I really enjoy is being able to work on pieces across a wide array of disciplines. At any given time, I will be writing a piece of music, doing some visual effects work, doing lectures and consulting, some sound design and mixing… it keeps things from becoming stagnant. I usually find that when my music well is dry, my visual well is full and vice-versa. And sometimes dipping into one well helps fill another. And, again, each discipline informs the other, so there is a lot of crosstalk and inspiration to be handed around when the time comes.
Powhow: After a hard day, how do you like to unwind?
Mike Verta: I tell all my students: Don’t sit at home practicing your art 24 hours a day. If you don’t live your life, you’ll have nothing interesting to say through your art. So for me, the most relaxing things are not necessarily about unwinding, as much as they are about balance and contrast with my day-to-day. For example, working out is great – it’s so physical, versus the largely mental world of creating music. And getting together with friends and talking – just talking a lot – you know, writing music is a very solitary experience; I’m often by myself for days or weeks at a time. So those balancing moments of social interaction feel great, and welcome, and important. And doing them makes me feel complete, which is the essence of calm.
Powhow: How does your Online Studio differ from your podcasts and tutorials
Mike Verta: Obviously, the interactive aspect of it is key… the best communication is always bi-directional, and those in attendance actually shape, hone, and tailor the information precisely to their needs by interacting with me during the lesson. It’s far more effective and efficient than even the most well thought-out podcast could hope to be.
Sign up now to learn the ins and outs of the music business in Mike Verta’s Online Studio: http://www.powhow.com/classes/mike-verta
I’m honored to have just finished working on a piece for the Bob Marley charity foundation, 1Love – a worldwide organization which facilitates everything from bringing clean water to impoverished nations to supporting ecologically-sound sustainability projects at every corner of the Earth. My task was to create a 4-minute motion graphics piece that told just a bit about Bob’s career and philosophy, and then went on to explain the charity, its partners, and its mission of hope, unity, love, and responsibility for one another. The piece was narrated by Bob’s daughter, Cedella. As an aside, I recommend Kevin MacDonald’s biographical film, “Marley.” Great film!