Ep59: The Craft of Film Composing (And Working with Composers) | with Joseph Trapanese

Joe Trapanese is a friend, colleague, and film composer who has worked on some of the coolest project and film scores of the last 5-10 years including The Greatest Showman, Jean Claude Van Johnson, Straight Outta Compton, Tron: Legacy, Oblivion, Only the Brave, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., and The Raid series (which is my #1 secret weapon as a film editor). Rarely is there an episode of TV where I don’t use a track from The Raid if I’m working with a fight scene or a suspense sequence. It’s MONEY.

In this interview Joe and I break down his path from a kid in New Jersey to moving out to Los Angeles and how he climbed from nowhere to the top of his profession in record time. In addition, Joe and I also do a deep dive into the creative process of collaborating with composers.

If you have ever wondered how composers approach their work, or more importantly if you’re an editor like me and you want to know some cool tips for working with composers, this is an incredibly useful and insightful interview.

Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Focusing on what is in your control
  • It’s about who you know, so start meeting people
  • Establishing relationships rather than networking for jobs
  • “You won’t get hired until you are the solution to someone’s problem.”
  • Confidence vs. arrogance
  • Keeping your cool in the reputation-driven world of professional composing
  • How to searching for the best solutions in collaboration, rather than just inserting your own
  • Dedicating yourself to a specific career ladder
  • How to know when you’re not getting enough in return for your work
  • “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”

Useful Links:

Joe Trapanese’s IMDb Page

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:


Joseph Trapanese is best known for his sleek score work for blockbuster films like “Tron: Legacy,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Oblivion,” and the “Raid” series. As a composer, arranger, and producer for movie, television, theater, and video game music, he has collaborated with a number of mainstream musical acts. His first major break came in 2010 when he worked with Daft Punk on the sweeping digital soundtrack to Disney’s “Tron” reboot/sequel. Trapanese followed that success by creating a score with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park for the American release of the 2011 Indonesian martial arts film “The Raid: Redemption” (he would continue without Shinoda in 2014 with “The Raid 2”). That same year, he helped with arrangements on a handful of tracks for M83’s breakthrough hit “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” which led to the pair’s collaboration on the 2013 Tom Cruise sci­fi epic “Oblivion”. For 2017’s “The Greatest Showman,” Trapanese worked alongside Pasek & Paul and John Debney, producing songs and co­ composing the score.

Notable solo scores include “Only The Brave” (2017), the landmark rap biopic “Straight Outta Compton” (2015), the second and third installments of the “Divergent” series, “Insurgent” (2015) and “Allegiant” (2016); “Earth to Echo” (2014); USA’s “Unsolved” (2018); Amazon’s “Jean­Claude Van Johnson” (2017); ABC’s “Quantico” (2016­17) Freeform’s “Dead of Summer” (2016); EA’s video game “Need for Speed Payback” (2017); and Ubisoft’s video game “The Crew” (2014).

In the studio and in concert, in addition to Daft Punk, M83, and Mike Shinoda, he has worked with Dr. Dre, Dierks Bentley, Zedd, Kelly Clarkson, Mike Shinoda, Kendrick Lamar, Moby, Aloe Blacc, Alessia Cara, Haim, The Glitch Mob, Active Child, Halsey, Sohn, John Newman, Dia Frampton, 3OH!3, Steven Price, and James Newton Howard. Born in New Jersey, Trapanese earned his B.A. in classical composition from the Manhattan School of Music. He went on to study at UCLA for his M.A. in music for visual media and taught electronic music composition at the school from 2008­2011. In 2016, he became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a founding member of The Echo Society.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Elyse Rintelman. The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”