Staff Spotlight: Dr Hans Hess

By Carmen McLean


BA (Hons) Music (Film Music)

Dr Hans Hess is an award-winning Film composer and Senior Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Film Music programme.


Portrait 3

Dr Hans Hess

What inspired you to begin learning music?

What brought me into music was its power of communication. I felt very intrigued how such an art form could communicate with people, through its connotations, in so many visual, emotional and psychological layers.

I began learning the recorder and music theory at a very young age in a conservatoire at my school. Later, in my teens, I became very interested in classical guitar and decided to learn it at a professional level. This led me to do a BA in Music, with an emphasis on classical guitar performance.

Composing music for films came much later when I did my postgraduate studies (MA and PhD) in Film Music at the University of Bristol. Since then, I have focused on working in the film music industry and lecturing here at Leeds Conservatoire.

What have been your greatest achievements so far?

I have been fortunate enough to work in the film music industry whilst also lecturing at Higher Education institutions. This was something I had set as a goal when I decided to do my postgraduate studies. It was long journey... but it was worth it.

Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment?

Recently, I finished scoring a crime/thriller film 'Dilemma', directed by Peter Tisma from Kokoe Films. The project got delayed because of the pandemic, but we hope to release it in 2021. I’m very excited about this project as it was great working with Peter and exploring my writing for the thriller genre further.

Currently, I’m working on a new feature film - 'You Are My Sunshine' by award-winning director Dave Hastings from Light Beam Productions. We have worked together in two previous projects (feature film 'Sustain' and short-film 'Snarl'). I was very pleased to have been invited to create the original soundtrack for this movie. It is a LGTBQ drama/romance, and writing music in this genre is something I've always wanted to do in a film.

What advice do you have for students wanting to pursue a career in the Film Music Industry?

  • Be very good at your craft. We never stop learning, and you need to push yourself towards excellence if you want to thrive in this highly competitive industry
  • Network. The importance of getting to know people in the industry is key. All the work I got was through getting to know people and building connections, and you need to be proactive
  • Be prepared to fail. Those who fail, but put themselves together and aim to learn from their mistakes, and are relentless, will (to my understanding and own experience) succeed
  • Define what “success” is for you in film music. Don’t try to copy the life of other film composers. They are them. You are you
  • Enjoy your life. Life is not only work, even though you might love what you do as a profession
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Sustain, a feature film scored by Dr Hans Hess

Has your approach to film music composition changed as you’ve developed your 
career, and what have you learned?

My approach to film music is always developing. What has been helping me develop more and more is that I do not only learn from the different directors and movies that I get involved with, but also through my work at Leeds Conservatoire.

Since I became a Senior Lecturer in Film Music Composition, I have had the chance to learn a lot from my peers and also further my studies in film music through all the lectures I have given. This is providing lots of valuable practical knowledge that I have been applying in all my film music projects. 

How do you balance a successful career and busy lifestyle, whilst making time for yourself?

Nowadays, I aim to work in a few, but more relevant film projects that I think are worth it, and I try to make connections with the right people so I can work in projects which will be fulfilling.

I think it is very important that we allow space for ourselves and our relationships. Certainly, the work you love will make those more meaningful, but you also need to make time for those around you. Life is an art. 

Read about our BA (Hons) Film Music pathway

Check out Hans Hess's website, or read about him on IMDb

Follow Hans on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify or SoundCloud

By Carmen McLean

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