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“It feels pretty insane” - Lulu Thompson on working for Apple TV Featured Image
Sam WillisJun 15, 2024 9:00:00 AM10 min read

“It feels pretty insane” - Lulu Thompson on working for Apple TV

Meet Lulu Thompson, a recent Music & Sound for Film & TV graduate who has already worked on award-winning films and, most recently, the Apple TV series Constellation.

Lulu Thompson, a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has just finished her Music & Sound for Film & TV course at dBs Institute Bristol, has already built up quite the portfolio. 

During her three years studying with us, she has composed original scores for several short films and documentaries - three of which have gone on to win awards - has a mixing credit on Mike Westbrook’s ‘Band of Bands’ album, co-directed the music for The Courts’ interactive audio heritage experience ‘Voices From The Courts’ and, most notably, worked as a Composer’s Assistant on the Apple TV series Constellation.

We caught up with Lulu to discuss her aspirations of becoming a full-time composer, what it felt like to work on a big-budget project like Constellation and how her course, lecturers and our facilities have helped her on the path to realising her ambitions.

Please introduce yourself, what you’re studying at dBs and what you’d like to pursue after your studies.

My name is Lulu Thompson. I’ve just finished the third year of the BA (Hons) Music & Sound for Film & TV degree course at dBs Institute and I'm also an intern at dBs Pro. I am a composer and that is what I would like to pursue now I’ve finished university. As part of that, I worked as a composer's assistant on an Apple TV series called Constellation last summer, which was a really amazing experience. 

When did you first get into music and making music?

There isn’t anyone musical in my family, so I feel a bit like an outlier in that regard. When I was six, my aunt got me a classical guitar for Christmas, and that really sparked it. I did GCSE music, which I didn't particularly enjoy and then at college, I studied performance as a drummer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Before dBs, my background was mainly performance-based and that's been very helpful. Performance and music composition are two quite separate worlds, but they have a lot of crossover.

What made you want to become a composer?

I'm a big gamer and over lockdown, I got engrossed in several games. I went through a massive Red Dead Redemption 2 phase again and the idea of being a composer fell out of the sky one day while I was playing. I was sitting at my computer and thought, “Do you know what would be really cool? Writing music for films and games.” And it turns out there are courses for that! Generally, it's an accumulation of games I've played and films I've really enjoyed that led me here. It's allowed me to make music and bring joy to people through immersive ways.

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What was the journey from that Eureka moment to finding us?

The first thing I did was to start looking at different film scores and listening to them. It's something I hadn’t really paid too much attention to before. The next step was to research composition for film and TV and find out if there are courses for it. Initially, I didn't want to go to uni. But looking into it more, I found about four places in the UK that provided the course and dBs was definitely the standout.

What was your experience on the course?

I've honestly loved it - and I'm not even sponsored to say that! It was so nice having a close-knit student community again. At college, we had a tight-knit group and it also feels very personal here. The tutors know you very well, and the modules feel genuinely very geared towards the industry. It's not like, “We're going to push you out the door after the three years are done and you have a degree and that's it.” They're really trying to get you into the industry.

So, has the course prepared you for life after graduation?

Yeah, definitely. The lecturers have industry experience - a lot of them are composers themselves. The guest lectures programme is great as well, especially during Industry & Enhancement week, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I always sign up for as many guest lectures as I can. It's not just a course, like, “Here's how to compose music,” they really push you to think outside the box and that on its own is extremely valuable because it makes you feel unique. It really encourages you to explore your style. That itself has become a very big part for me. It’s helped me discover what my sound is.

The contacts you get during your studies are invaluable. The lecturers really encourage you to seek out industry contacts, liaise with other universities and get projects on the go that way, and if they can help you in any way at all, they will. We also have loads of helpful resources here, like the Employability Officer who sends out industry jobs on the job boards weekly for us to keep an eye on.

You mentioned the dBs Pro internship. What’s that experience been like?

It has been extremely valuable and has definitely helped my confidence a lot. Applying for the internship in the first place was me trying to push myself outside my comfort zone. For instance, I'm very interested in sound engineering but it's not something I’ve covered much during my studies. If I hadn't applied for the internship, I probably wouldn't have pushed myself to pursue opportunities that allow me to do that. The internship is so broad and covers so many disciplines. It's not just music, it’s audio production as well. You also get to sit in a lot of meetings about finance, how to run a business and how everything works which has been very helpful. Jay is brilliant as well. He's very transparent about everything, he's very trusting of us and he’s a brilliant teacher. If you don't understand anything, he explains it and he's great to get along with, too.

How has that experience differed from your ‘normal’ studies?

It's been a very good bridge between studying at university and the real world. It's somewhere in between, but more balanced towards the real world. It is in the university but it is also a professional studio. Working on these real projects lets you know exactly what to expect in the industry and allows you to sharpen your skills and professionalism. As part of my job at dBs Pro, we recently went to Real World studios for two days to record an album for a duo we're working with which I loved. That has definitely been a highlight of my year.

You mentioned the Apple TV project Constellation. Tell me a bit about that!

That project took place over the summer of last year. I got the opportunity through Geoff Barrow. One of our lecturers Jamie got him in to see our projects and I think he was quite interested in some of my work so he asked for my contact details afterwards! I started talking to him, and he said, “Oh, there's going be this opportunity coming up for an Apple TV series and we're looking for an assistant. Would you like to do it?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course!” We all met up and we talked about it. I think that was quite early on in the year and it wasn't until April or May that I started getting work through for that. 


As a composer's assistant, my jobs weren’t very creative. It's more the technical side of things. I'd be doing a lot of stems, some troubleshooting and conforming, which is basically when you have to edit the music so it's still in sync with the picture exactly and that can be quite a tricky job. I also got to do notes on one cue, so I got to write a little bit which was a really cool experience. The main thing I got from it was a massive amount of insight into a high-budget production and what to expect. It was cool working with so many people. I felt like such a small fish in a ginormous pond. Someone would email me and I'd stick their name into IMDb and they have all these credits and I was like, “Wow,” I’m in my second year of uni - what is this!? It was cool and it is nice getting paid as well! I made some good contacts and got a cool credit now as well!

How does it feel to have been a part of that?

It feels pretty insane. I couldn't wrap my head around it for a very long time. There were a lot of different emotions. I was extremely excited and thinking every day, “Are they going to send me work? Are they gonna send work?” And they did! II was so excited but it did have its challenges. I went through all of the different stages of grief at one point. It was one of those situations where you had to learn and figure it out as you go, but I became vastly more skilled at the end of it.

What other projects have you been involved in during your time at dBs?

I've done a lot of films working with student filmmakers. Some of those have been exceptional and three have gone on to win awards. I actually just got an email about a documentary I did that has just won an award! In my first year, I scored two graduate films and those were my first two paid projects, which was quite a big deal for me back then. It wasn't a massive amount of pay, but it was still really exciting.

It sounds like you're a semi-professional composer rather than a student. Is that how it feels?

I'd like to say yes, but no! I still feel very, very small. You look at all these big composers, and sometimes you forget they're real people. They're amazing. They're so good at what they do but at the end of the day, they're still just people. Even now that I have done a few cool jobs, I still don't feel professional but then again I remember as a kid, I thought that when you turned 20, you just turn into an adult. I don't always feel like an adult. I don't know when I’ll feel like a real professional - sometime in the next few years would be good!

How important do you think studying at dBs was for getting these jobs?

I wouldn't have had any of these opportunities if I hadn’t studied here, especially the Apple opportunity with Geoff. The lecturers always encourage you to go out and look for your own opportunities. They don't hold your hand the whole way, which is really good, because it's not going to be like that when you graduate.

If you could give any advice to your fellow students or any prospective students, what would it be?

I think you've just got to be really committed to it. If you want something, you're going to have to work hard for it. I definitely stick by that ethos. I really, really want to make it as a professional composer, so I'm really committed to doing that. Put in the hours, do the work but also enjoy yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind.

Is there anything you're looking forward to in the next few years?

I’ve discovered that there's a lot of patience involved in this process, but you never know what's around the corner. You could get a message one day and it's an amazing opportunity. So I'm sure there'll be moments like that to come and I’m looking forward to those.

What would be your dream job as a composer?

I suppose my ultimate dream would be to compose a really solid game by a studio like Naughty Dog. My two favourite games are The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption 2. I think composing for games like those - immersive and cinematic with a compelling storyline that people love and get behind - is the top thing I really want to do - and will do.

Are you like Lulu and want to kickstart your career as a music composer for film, TV and game projects? Apply to our BA (Hons) Music & Sound for Film & TV course today.