Michael Afanasiev
About trailer music library industry
Each curator of the Sound Design Institute has his own path to the sound and music industry. Someone started scoring from childhood, someone came to the profession at a conscious age.
Recently, Mikhael Afanasiev, curator of "Music for visual media", shared his story with us.
— How did you come to the profession?

— It all started with a music school. Then I entered the military music school, where I received a basic education. I studied there for a performer and teacher, and began composing music only at the end of the studies. At that time, I could not even imagine that I would be seriously engaged in this.

After some time, I entered a state university to become a conductor. I was not at all satisfied with the musical education that was given there. I quit that educational center. However, in the course of training, I understood that I wanted to compose music. I began to explore the creative market. Around this time, I started creating my own music library and continue to work on it to this day.
— What was your first major work and how did you manage to get it?

— If we talk about the music library and the field of trailer music, the first major project was the film "Attraction" by Fyodor Bondarchuk. My team has licensed a large amount of music material for this project. "Balkan line" is my feature film debut. All the music for the film was written by me. I was invited to audition for the project by my friends and they liked my work.

If we talk about games, this is Shadow Fight 3 — a popular game with a million users from Banzai Games and Nekki, with whom I work to this day as a sound designer.
— How did you start working with Western colleagues?

— All I did was writting a million letters. A process started with small pieces of music: 5 seconds of a track per TV clip. Then more, and more. Gradually, the demand for our music was growing.

We wrote the first album of a trailer music. One of the tracks appeared on the trailer for the movie "Godzilla 2". For this track, I received one of the most prestigious Hollywood awards in the field of advertising, Clio Awards. It's only now that I've really become someone that they recognize and know my music personally.
— Is there a difference in working with the domestic and foreign markets?

The difference in experience. Russia is just beginning to develop new areas that previously could not afford due to small budgets. This is almost the first time we have made computer graphics on a large scale. While abroad — this is already a well-established scheme and people know the work process.
The same thong with music. If every time we learn something new is a sensation, for them it is a normal job. There everything is brought to Shine, there is more responsibility, and the tasks are set more clearly. They know much better what they want. In other words: people can do it there, but they only learn from us.
— What is happening in your creative life now?

I am developing my library and working on new films. I recently made some of the music for the movie "Ice 2", and now I'm making the soundtrack for the movie "We". At the same time, my music library is gaining momentum in the foreign market and is regularly licensed. I'm working on a new game from Banzai Games called Spine. Very interesting project. Let's see what will come of it.
As I have gained experience I could take responsibility as a teacher and pass on my knowledge. And just like that, the Sound Design Institute invited me to become the curator of the "Music for visual media" direction.
— Tell us, how did you come up with the idea of adapting academic music to modern trailers?

— I have a series of personal albums in my library. It's not only my music, but also a space to test my competence as a trailer composer. I can be a publisher. But to be a realy good publisher, you have to be "in the subject" as a composer.
I have a rule: an album always consists of 9 tracks, one of which must always be a cover of a famous classical work. This idea came about spontaneously, as a tribute to great composers. I love classical music very much. On the second album, I did a cover of Debussy's "Moonlight", which was included in the Godzilla 2 trailer. And this technique become a trand as it was something new. Before that, classical music in epic processing was not heard in big Hollywood movies and trailers. Later, colleagues started creating albums with classical music in their libraries. Art–house films, major Hollywood blockbusters and many others began to use covers of classical music.
Producers are looking for talented composers,
not just a craftsman
— What positive and negative changes do you see in the domestic visual media market over the past 10 years?

— On the positive side, interest in movies is growing. Budgets are growing, and everything is rising from the "homemade" level. The domestic market is slowly beginning to turn into an industry that works as a single mechanism. Producers are getting bolder, starting to make expensive fiction that they would have given up on before. Shooting a pilot TV series. It's the same in music — producers are looking for talented composers, not just craftsmen.
On the negative side, you may encounter people who can't change their view of certain things and are afraid to take risks. This greatly hinders development. However, in their defense, their concerns are justified: they risk a lot of money.
— What advice would you give to young composers who are just starting out?

— You must learn to do the work well. Many people start offering themselves to the market before they become professionals. If they succeed, they immediately offer their services to the industry and form a negative opinion about themselves, which they will have to refute later.
I would advise you to be honest with yourself. And if you hear that the quality of tracks does not meet international standards, then you need to tell yourself: "Yes, my tracks don't pull the bar", and continue to improve your skills.
— To what extent does the Russian music education system meet the world's needs?

— As a person who has left a state university, I can say that our famous educational institutions have a very good performing and theoretical school. However, they do not prepare their students for the realities of the market: they will teach you to play the violin well. However, how to earn money for bread will not be explained. This is not included in the education system. A diploma will not help you survive, and this is the main problem.
— What should the Russian market do to catch up with the Western one?

— We need to create an industry. The Russian market needs to create this smooth mechanism, and everything is slowly moving towards this. New companies are being created. They produce content that is interesting to the audience and makes money. This is not the endless series for sad housewives and shows like Comedy Club. We need to learn from our Western colleagues, and not pretend that we are the smartest. Many people say: "What does this Hans Zimmer understand? Here Schnittke wrote music much better than all your Hans Zimmers" — this definitely does not help to catch up with Western colleagues. When you start to think about why Hans Zimmer is popular all over the world, and our modern composers are unknown even in Russia, that's when development happens.