Al Jolson's 1927 technological breakthrough, "The Jazz Singer" was the first time a "score" was recorded for film that didn't need a live pianist or organist in the theater.
Since then, film-score composers have provided mood-setting audio that range from the noticeable and iconic, like what John Williams did with "Star Wars," to the subliminal that has been demonstrated by Thomas Newman in his projects.
The relationship between filmmakers and composers is the main focus of the annual BMI Composer/Director Roundtable that takes place during the Sundance Film Festival.
This year's discussion will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Sundance House, from 11 a.
This year's panelists will include composers Craig Wedren, Blake Neely, T. Griffin, Enis Rotthoff, Mark Orton, Gary Lionelli, Kathryn Bostic, John Dragonetti, Keegan DeWitt and Ryan Beveridge.
Directors will include David Wain, Ryan White, Ben Cotner, Ross Kauffman, Katy Chevigny, David Wnendt, Sydney Freeland, Justin Simien, Brian Knappenberger, Sterlin Harjo and Alex Ross Perry.
Sundance Institute Composers Lab advisor Miriam Cutler and Peter Golub, director of the Sundance Institute Film Music Program will also be in attendence.
Doreen Ringer-Ross, vice president of film TV relations for BMI, an international music-rights management firm, will moderate the panel.
"We've been evolving this panel for years in different configurations," Ringer-Ross said during an interview with The Park Record. "I did one many years ago with John Waters, Thomas Newman and Stewart Copeland from the Police and cast everyone against type."
During that discussion, Waters took on the role as the head of a film studio, Copeland was the music supervisor and Newman served as a film director.
"We had a funny conversation while we tore apart the score for 'Touch of Evil,'" Ringer-Ross said.
When the Sundance Institute relaunched the composer's lab some 16 years ago, BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), who sponsors the lab, was able to involve the filmmakers.
"We felt that it became essential to present a forum that would engage that relationship between a composer and director," Ringer-Ross explained. "When you think about this, in all the film-scoring schools, no one really has a lab environment situation that teaches a composer how to engage with a director and vice versa."
That became a defining component in the lab.
"We decided to change the kind of musical roundtable chat that we were doing at the Sundance Film Festival to align to what we were doing at the Institute," Ringer-Ross said. "We began to focus on filmmakers who had films in the festivals and the composers they worked with."
The discussions examine these two artists' communications regarding their creative intentions, but also discuss the challenges they face when it comes to budgets.
"Music is always the bastard child in post production, because it's the last part of the filmmaking process," Ringer-Ross said. "Filmmakers borrow money from the music budget when they are running out of funds.
"So we try to teach filmmakers how to think musically and how to consider what they want to do with this element throughout the whole process," she said.
All the composers selected for the panels are affiliated with BMI.
"We will also ask people who have been advisors at the Institute lab to appear," Ringer-Ross said. "Miriam Cutler, for instance, is on this year's panel although she doesn't have a film showing this year. And Peter Golub doesn't have a film, but he is the director of the Music Program at the Institute, so it was important that he should be there."
The Sundance Film Festival will present a BMI roundtable discussion "Music and Film: the Creative Process," at the Sundance House on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 11 a.m. The event is free and open to Sundance Film Festival credential holders and the general public as space allows. For more information, visit www.sundance.org/festival .