BMI Filmmaker/Composer Panel, ASCAP Music Cafe

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Filed January 28, 2011

Here is the official BMI event posting:
Focusing on the dialog and relationship between composer and director, “Music & Film: The Creative Process” is a cornerstone discussion at the festival on the role of music in film. Topics to be discussed at the roundtable will include: what goes into creating a successful film score and what makes for an effective composer/director relationship? These questions and others will be answered during this revered festival event.

Panelists scheduled to speak include composer Nathan Barr and director Matthew Chapman – “The Ledge”; composer Jaymee Carpenter and director Joav Potash – “Crime After Crime”; composer George S. Clinton and director George Ratliff – “Salvation Boulevard”; composer Peter Golub and director Kurt Norton – “These Amazing Shadows”; composer iZler and director Andrew Maclean – “On the Ice”; composer Vivek Maddala – “Kaboom”; composer Michael Mollura and director Susan Saladoff – “Hot Coffee”; composer Eric D. Johnson and director Jesse Peretz – “My Idiot Brother”; composer Gingger Shankar and director Maryam Keshavarz – “Circumstance”; composer Alex Wurman and director Jill Sprecher – “The Convincer”; composer Harry Gregson Williams – “Life in a Day”; and composer Dustin O’Halloran and director Drake Doremus – “Like Crazy.”

On the panel, Peter Golub, Sundance Composer Lab Director, who scored this festival’s documentary on the U.S. Library of Congress film archives, THESE AMAZING SHADOWS, expressed his perspective on the difference between scoring fiction and documentary features with, “I always say, ‘what’s the difference between scoring a romantic comedy and an action film? It’s not that there’s one thing for fiction and one thing for documentaries. Other than, documentaries tend be a lot more talking in documentaries, and there’s probably not as much ‘hitting’ score to picture beats.”

CRIME AFTER CRIME Filmmaker, Joav Potash followed up on Peter’s approach with, “I think Peter is right. I think with documentaries, you tend to have to be more subtle, you tend to have to get out of the way more, you tend to have to leave a little more room to get out of the way of the (on-screen) talking because the people in the film are the soloists or the lead, and the music is the bridge between the vocabulary of the talking and the emotion.”

U.S. Documentary Competition feature, TROUBADOURS filmmaker Morgan Neville examines the California singer/songwriter movement of the early 1970s, as seen through the eyes of two of its brightest lights: Carole King and James Taylor. Intimately tracking King and Taylor’s artistic developments and enduring partnership, the film also interweaves the intriguing story of the ‘world famous’ Troubadour club that cemented their musical legacy. Run by a mercurial impresario named Doug Weston, the Troubadour was, for a time, the premier launching pad for the likes of King, Taylor, and other soon-to-be-boldfaced names: Jackson Browne; Elton John; Kris Kristofferson; David Crosby; Bonnie Raitt; Joni Mitchell; even Steve Martin and Cheech & Chong.

Mr. Neville reflected on his early life interest in music with, “I grew up in a house full of music. We subscribed to Rolling Stone my entire life. My dad had a massive music collection, my folks started taking me to concerts when I was 12, and I was in a lot of bands growing up.”

He transitions into his passion for his TROUBADOURS documentary with, “My other passions are for writing and journalism. From the time I started working on my first music documentary, I appreciated how it’s a way into anything, generations, gender, equality, creative genius, and ideally it can rise above just being about music. If you have a great soundtrack, it’s almost like cheating, because you know there’s always going to be an audience interested in a film that has that music in it. And it’s crazy when music in film is used as ‘wallpaper,’ rather than with scene-purpose precision.”

At the annual Filmmaker/Press luncheon, Filmmaker Madeleine Olnek, Composer Clay Drinko, and Susan Ziegler, one of the principal actresses for zany comedy, CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME stepped out into the frigid Park City late-afternoon air to reflect on their creative collaboration journey. Ms. Olnek reflects on “how helpful it was to have our composer, Clay on early in the pre-production process because he submitted many sample options of tracks, many of which we played on the set during shooting and they were so good, they stayed in the final cut.”

Composer Mr. Drinko adds, “Madeleine was very specific about what she wanted – especially the fun dance stuff, and we love to hang out and groove to music in general, so this experience was less trial-and-error and more ‘idea-choreography’ party.”

World Cinema Documentary Competition feature THE GREEN WAVE’s Filmmaker, Ali Samadi Ahadi relayed his creative score inspirations for his harrowing examination of Twitter blogs and archival footage that was mostly smuggled out of the country during 2009’s Iranian social uprising following the country’s alleged Mullah government-manipulated Presidential elections. Mr. Ahadi’s eyes light up as describes his inspired joy when his preferred championed composer, German/Persian award-winner Ali N. Askin agreed to work almost day-and-night for 5 straight days to compose, record, mix, and master all his mostly cello/piano cues for the film. Mr. Ahadi elaborates, “we decided to intentionally avoid traditional Middle East sounds and agreed that the ‘less-is-more’ emotional punch of a sorrowfully emotional cello and violin would prove most effective.” He adds, “Our composer (Askin’s) wife thankfully was very supportive and ‘granted’ him permission to disappear for the 5 necessary days to do this remarkable score, and we are all grateful because the impact of his work is astounding.”

World Cinematic Dramatic Competition feature, MAD BASTARDS Filmmaker Brendan Fletcher says he wants to permanently reside in the Broom, Australia seaside area that is home to the internationally championed mandolin/guitar/ukulelee folk impresarios The Pigram Brothers “because it’s the way mankind was meant to live – fishing in the sea to eat, playing in the sun by day, drinking and playing music by bonfires all night.” The Pigram Brothers, Stephen and Alan, served as the picture’s music and film producers, as well as performed all the songs and score.

With a wry, devilish grin, Stephen Pigram explains, “In our neck of the universe, a bloke is referred to as a ‘mad bastard’ as a complimentary term of endearment for a renegade bad ass. Once a wild-eyed Irish youth arrived on our local scene and immediately striped naked, ran into the sea, then lied on his back under the blazing sun to connect with the earth’s energy. We all turned to each other and declared, “that’s a ‘mad bastard.”

Filmmaker Fletcher lived and fished with the Pigram Brothers for two weeks before they commenced shooting a music video of one of the musicians’ songs. 8 years-in-the-making, MAD BASTARDS then transitioned from late-night fireside carousing into the visceral feature screening at Sundance this week. Mr. Fletcher elaborates, “we had already been inspired by our principal cast of authentic ‘mad bastards’ and I had them tell me what scenes, lines, and imagery I eventually put into my script. Then, once we received finance funding, we shot very quickly with all local (mostly inexperienced) crew because we wanted to reduce outside “know-it-all” Hollywood-y crews and obstructionist personalities – really keep it local and genuine as possible.”

Up the road on Main Street, I stopped in to catch the hauntingly soulful The Civil Wars at the ASCAP Music Cafe – they set the mesmerized audience sailing into a melancholy, yet hopeful sojourn inspired by weathered, soul-weary tales of iconic romantic love traumas and elation – the perfect anecdote to so many burned-out Sundance industry mavens on a chilly afternoon as the sun slipped behind the glistening majestic ski mountains surrounding this tiny Park City hamlet.

My last feature interview of the day was thankfully with the inspired Sundance Filmmaker/Composer Lab “arranged marriage” collaboration of Persian Filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz and Indian Composer Gingger Shankar (related to legendary Indian rock star, Ravi Shankar) for U.S. Dramatic Competition feature, CIRCUMSTANCE.

Ms. Kashavarz relays, “yes, we were a Sundance Lab ‘arranged marriage’ but I requested her because I wanted someone who not only intimately knew Middle East music but also pop and Hip-hop music – Gingger has a great diverse range and wrote most of the song tracks that are in the film.”

Ms. Shankar was originally unavailable to come on as the project’s composer while the film was being shot in Lebanon, as she was on tour with rock act The Smashing Pumpkins but once she learned about the CIRCUMSTANCE project, she was in 100%. The two soon became close friends and they describe their collaboration as “a sisterhood synergy.” The film portrays the sexual awakening identity-formation of two Iranian teenage girls amidst the culturally-repressive Islamic fundamentalist regime that punishes sex, drugs, and partying nightlife, yet ironically seemingly accelerates the compulsion to in fact rebelliously act out naturally primal urges in its national youth population.

Since Ms. Shankar has a widely diverse range of eclectic musician colleagues around the world, she describes arranging collaboration logistics with Filmmaker Keshavarz and many musicians from around the U.S. and world and receiving cue stems via Skype. She says, “while I was recording my parts, I was receiving and mixing in cues from different musicians who specialize in various instruments from all over the place.” Ms. Shankar composed and sang many of the song tracks in the film. She adds, “this was more than just a gig for me, it was an expression of the reason I’ve made music my life’s work.”