Industry Pro: Scoring Mixer Damon Tedesco
Today’s Inside Scoop profile subject is an example of someone who knew from a young age (17!) what he wanted to do. And though it took a long time and a lot of hard work to get where he is today, you can tell by the way he talks about the journey and about his current life and work that the passion for his job exists to this day.
Current position: Independent music scoring mixer for film and television.
College & degree: Loyola Marymount University, BA in Communication Arts
First job in the entertainment industry: I worked at a recording studio called Evergreen in Burbank in the late 1980’s. I started when I was a junior in college and hung in there to land a full time job when I graduated. The studio specialized in recording live music for films and tv shows. It was a great studio with incredible staff engineers, clients, contractors and musicians. It was hard work being at the bottom but I really learned from the best. There was a sense of being in a type of boot camp together – many of us who grew up in that studio are all still great friends.
Big break: When I got a call from a scoring mixer Bobby Fernandez, who was a staff engineer at Warner Bros. Scoring. They were looking for a full-time union stage manager position for the scoring stage. This job entails running mic cables, setting mics, music stands, chairs, and setup and operation during live orchestra sessions. It is a dream job that only a small handful of people get the opportunity to do! Bobby and I knew each other from working at Evergreen and he trusted that I would do a good job and he stuck his neck out for me.
Eureka moment: When I was about 17 years old, I went to a scoring session at Warner Bros. with my father Tommy Tedesco, who was a studio guitarist. The session was for “Benson” (the TV show) and it looked like the players were having such a great time (and getting paid for it besides!) I was introduced to Shawn Murphy, who was the engineer for that date, and I became fascinated with the technology. I already loved music and I thought, “I could do that!” Nobody told me it would take 20-plus years.
Career path: After a seven year run at Warner Bros Scoring, I was hired at the 20th Century Fox scoring stage as an assistant and had another great seven years. In 2002, I was starting to become busier as an independent engineer doing commercials and films. This was getting hectic because of my full-time assistant job. One day, percussionist Bob Zimmitti came up to me and said, “What are you still doing here?” – with a smile. That is when I had to make a move. I threw caution to the wind and built a 5.1 mix studio at my home and pursued my goal of becoming an independent scoring mixer. So far so good.
Describe a typical work day in your current position: Hmmm… A perfect typical day would be to wake up, run at the beach, go into my studio and mix for a few hours, eat lunch in the backyard with the family, go back in the studio and mix some more, realize my hair is growing back and I’ve gotten a few inches taller, then get a call from the clients to tell me to just post the mixes because they trust me.
Worst job (or day) in entertainment industry: Working for 50 hours straight on a set at $4.25 per hour and learning that in the California labor laws the “clock” resets itself after 24 hours. The big double time rate of $8.50 goes back to $4.25 on the 25th hour. That hurts.
Best job (or day) in entertainment industry: I have to say that my favorite client is from Sega Videogames in Japan. They come to Los Angeles to record about twice a year. They are incredible composers and orchestrators and very well organized. They like the “Hollywood sound” that we get here in Los Angeles all with live orchestras. They have always been so appreciative and gracious of my talent of recording and mixing.
Best thing about your current job: I enjoy working on different projects each and every week, so it keeps it interesting. I have been doing lots of re-recording mixing and sound design of short films and documentaries which has been fun. It gives me the flexibility to mix from home and spend time with my wife and two daughters.
Worst thing about your current job: The competition is pretty fierce and it seems to be getting tougher as budgets for live players and composers shrink. Everyone seems to be scrapping and clawing for the good gigs.
Brush with greatness: I was very fortunate to assist on sessions and watch great composers such as Michael Kamen, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, and Jerry Goldsmith craft a score with live orchestras. I was also able to learn from incredible scoring mixers such as Armin Steiner, Dan Wallin, Bobby Fernandez, Al Schmitt, Dennis Sands and Shawn Murphy.
Secret of your success/advice to the newbie: It all comes down to having a strong work ethic. Your clients need to know you have their back. Even if it is a low budget gig, treat it like it is a high budget gig with your attitude. People choose who they want to spend time to work with. Make it fun and don’t be a kill-joy. When starting out do not lie about your credits. It is a small industry and people can find out if you are bullshitting them or not. Try hard to learn something on each and every gig; a new technique, shortcut or keystroke. Do your best to learn your gear and become an expert at it.
Next move (or next five moves): Well it’s all about getting the next big gig. That comes from your clients getting better work and wanting you to come for the ride. I have a personalized license plate that says “Get ‘D Gig” and that keeps me grounded and motivated.
You can visit Damon’s website here for (even) more information about what he does!
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