STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Tell us about your current projects.
Mark Evitts: I’m a workaholic. I’m always working on something, either for others or for myself. This week, I finished up a full orchestra suite with a Gaelic choir, composed a double quartet for a song by a Nashville songwriter, finished an album of string arrangements for a Christian pop artist, and am working on my own compositions when I can fit it in.
STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Can you share with us one of your projects, an achievement, or event that you feel has impacted your work and career in a significant way?
Mark Evitts: Several years ago, I was asked to work on the NBC show, SMASH (2013). I arranged the strings for several songs in the second season, and one ended up being nominated for an Emmy. It was my first time working for a major TV show, so it gave me some insight into deadlines, i.e., “We need it NOW!”), scoring to picture, using industry vernacular, and opened the doors to other film/tv projects.
STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Can you share with us a film composing or music- producing- related “Challenge and Solution”
Mark Evitts: I feel like working with budgets is always a challenge, but finding the solution is fun. Well, the solution isn’t the fun part. The challenge to make the score sound like it cost $1 million when we really had $5,000-$10,000… that’s the fun part. There have been several projects where I’ve recorded every instrument live by myself. Luckily, I’m a multi-instrumentalist, so it didn’t take as long as it sounds.
STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Can you share with us your thoughts on film composing, music, or the film/tv industry in Nashville?
Mark Evitts: Well, Nashville is “Music City.” I grew up in Kentucky and my closest connection to the music industry was Nashville. I played with a band during college and left to go on the road as the fiddle/mandolin/guitar player for multi-platinum, pop-country artist Rodney Atkins. After moving to Nashville full-time, I began playing violin in the studio more and arranging/scoring for artists all over the country and in all genres of music. I’ve produced several artists, some of whom have gone on to get frequent sync placements. All of these experiences, led me to film and TV. Now I think I’ve worked with directors and producers from the UK to Sweden to Atlanta to L.A. I’m in Los Angeles enough now that I need a second apartment! (But who can afford that, amiright??)
STUDENTFILMMAKERS: Can you describe your process for composing for film/video/media (or songwriting)?
Mark Evitts: For me, composing is all about the story. Whether I’m working on a film, musical, artist project or something commercial, I go to the director or music producer or artist to understand their vision first. Once I see the story from their perspective, I pick up a violin and play some melody ideas. Even if the song doesn’t need violin or strings, I can typically “sing” it better through a violin because it’s such an emotional instrument. I could nerd-out on you about my technical joys of the composing process, but overall I build out the track by finding the emotion within the parameters of the scene and story arc. That is true of all my music.
STUDENTFILMMAKERS:If you could share your Top 3 Tips related to film composing, songwriting, or working with film/tv projects what would they be?
- “Preparation + Opportunity = Success” — I heard this early on in my career and adopted it as my work ethic. It merely sounded like grandpa-advice at the time, but it’s actually paid off. I create templates and have my workflow in order so that I’m always ready for an unexpected opportunity. Someone else once told me, “it seems the harder you work, the luckier you get.” That’s so true! The more jobs I get or even create on my own, the more jobs or ideas just seem to appear serendipitously. And the next project seems easier and more efficient because all projects prepare you for the next one.
- “Never be the best musician in the band.” — My best friend told me this before moving to Nashville and it’s true. I’ve also heard this as, “Always be the dumbest person in the room.” If you surround yourself with people that are more experienced in your field, you’ll grow.
- “You have your own ears.” – I’ve come to a point in my career where people send me work and say, “do your thing,” with little direction attached. That’s because I’ve developed a sound that’s very me, and most people hire me for that sound. But, even with that reputation, I’m always evolving, being influenced by fresh ideas, and getting excited about working with new people who have their own “ears.” That’s the foundation of creating and the true reason we all sacrifice a lot to play this crazy game called entertainment.