Interview With Jocelyn Ramos

Director Interview: Jocelyn Ramos

I had the privilege of interviewing an up-and-coming director who was able to share her unique and personal life experiences in the film world. Music and film directing are two very different disciplines, yet they do share a lot of similarities. Some of those similarities rely on the necessity of telling a story. This is something that I strive to accomplish in every note that I write, and I know for a fact that Jocelyn has the same goal when writing the script for and directing her creations. When both fields combine; that’s where the magic happens. Collaboration commences, and the film and music both are married together into a perfect harmony (pun intended).

Question #1

The first question that I asked Jocelyn was, “How did you come to be a director?” She exclaimed, “I came to be a director by initially knowing I wanted to be a part of the filmmaking process as a teenager. Directing piqued my interest because of their creative control over the story and the collaboration that takes place throughout departments. I have never been one for math or science but always thrived in any art class I took. I noticed that I found success when I wasn’t limited by rules but suggested guidelines. I also always had a fascination for behavior and psychology behind humans, which was influenced by my older sister who is a behavior therapist and have had countless conversations about humans, society, etc., that I now see has influenced my desire to direct as I now apply that knowledge to characters.”

Question #2

The next question that I asked was, “What qualities do you look for when hiring a composer for your project? Is there one quality or thing that will get you to consider someone more than others?” She replied, “When hiring a composer, I am looking for someone who is passionate about what they do. Talent and knowledge are important but most importantly I look for someone who is genuinely kind, respectful, and willing to set ego aside for what is best for the project.”

Question #3

My next question I asked her was, “In your opinion, is it more important for a composer to have a unique musical voice consistent in all of their work? Or is it important for the composer to have a broad range of compositional ability to draw from so they will likely be able to adapt to what the project needs stylistically in any given scene / scenario?” She answered, “In my opinion, I do not think one is more important than the other because both types of composers exist and there is a need and want for both. I believe it is up to the composer to find where their passion and natural skills shine and form it into a craft. Anything can be learned with enough grit, but I believe we all have a unique set of skills and talents that are innate.”

Question #4

A question that is on most composers’ minds is, “What do you want to see / hear in a demo cue from a composer? Something custom made for your project? Something from other projects in a composer’s past that might be similar? Live recordings? Are MIDI sampled recordings ok? What format do you want any demo material in? (Audio CD, flash drive with audio files, video files so you can see how well the composer scores to picture, etc…)” She answered, “Typically I like to see work from past projects similar to what I’m looking for and not, but I wouldn’t oppose live recordings, or custom made. MIDI recordings are fine, and I would accept audio files, video files on a flash drive or through a shared link or drive. However, the composer is responsible for sending their work rather than expecting the director to look for it or nag you for material.” I found this last part of the answer very relatable, as I conversed with a composer in the industry who urged me to display my music in a reel- like format on the front page of my website; which I now know after making the changes; it makes a huge difference.

Question #5

The next question I asked Jocelyn was, “How do you budget for the music in a film? Do you determine score costs ahead of time based on the kind of score you want or is it based on a flat percentage of the film’s budget? How do you determine what a composer’s involvement is worth on your project?” She replied, “I budget music for my films during pre-production and I try to budget for production and the postproduction as well. I always determine the pay with a composer when hiring. I think it can vary based on the work that is needed by the composer.”

Question #6

This next question is important, because it is something we ask ourselves on the daily as composers, “What is your opinion on a composer working for little to no monetary compensation (i.e., for free)? Many entertainment industry departments have union representation that sets a minimum pay “standard” for what those jobs cost from week-to-week or day-to-day. But composers do not have and cannot unionize by a National Labor Relations Board decision from the early 1980s. Does this affect at all your hiring or budgeting process for music? What is the lowest budget amount you have ever had for a music score? What is the highest amount?” She exclaimed, “I believe everyone should be compensated fairly for their work, especially if there is enough in the budget to do so. However, I do understand sometimes there is simply no money and I will always be fully transparent with my cast/crew. As a filmmaker I have worked for free countless times and am willing to do so for new passionate filmmakers and a story I believe in.” This is very genuine reply, because there are times where value can come from different forms, rather than being compensated monetarily.

Question #7

My next question for Jocelyn, which is essential in any personal or professional relationship, “How do you communicate with your composer regarding the creative process? What can the composer do to make that easier for you as a producer / director?” She replied, “I like to have a very open communication with composers, while editing I will tend to add temp music that emulates the sound I am looking for as well as make a music playlist with songs that inspires the story. After that I like to give the composer as much creative freedom to interpret it. So later, I can give notes based on what’s working and what’s not; and together we can creatively collaborate on what could work.”

Question #8

The next question that I had for Jocelyn was, “Is it a more important perception for a young composer to have credits assisting other “big name” composers on “big name” films even if their jobs and responsibilities on those films were more technical and nondescript like “scoring assistant” or “midi programmer”? Or is it a more important perception for a composer to have a list of feature films where they were the department head “composer” in charge and 100% responsible for music, even if those films were smaller, indie, “festival bound” projects that may not have had mass public appeal?” She replied, “I don’t believe one path is more important than the other or will grant success sooner. It is up to the composer to follow what path best suits or calls to them, what is most important is the consistency of networking, showing up, and putting in the work no matter what job you are doing. The best perception to a new composer is to make a plan that works for you and be open to it not going as planned or changing course. Do not limit yourself to believing there is a fool proof path to achieve success, there never is.”

Question #9

The next question, which could get a bit touchy for some directors out there is, “Have you ever had a bad experience with a composer? Did you learn anything from that? Has it affected how you work with a composer since?” She exclaimed, “I have a composer I regularly work with, so we have an open communication and haven’t had a bad experience.”

Question #10

Lastly, “From your perspective as a producer / director, what is the one piece of advice you would give a young composer working to build their career in this industry?” She replied, “My advice would be to follow your intuition and learn how to better listen for it whether with music, professional relationships, projects, etc. Don’t hesitate to reach out and make connections: email, direct message on social media, go to networking events. And most importantly be consistent, continue to create and put your work out there.”


In conclusion, Jocelyn gave me a much clearer picture into the mind of the director, as well as a different outlook in the film-making process and gave me practical ways to improve my practice in composing and communication. It was a pleasure having this discussion with her, and gleaning this wisdom she has learned during her time in film school; and beyond. She is currently working on completing her newest short, “Monday”, which will be pitched when completed, to several film-fests to be considered for awards.

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