BMI roundtable examines filmmakers and composers collaborations
The relationship between filmmakers and composers is unique. Although not classified as actors, the composers’ scores become, in a sense, characters in and of themselves.
Music sets the overall tone of the film and, like actors, draws on the audience members’ emotions to make a scene work.
Music can be happy, sad, scary, melancholy — any emotion — but it has to be the right music and it has to fit the filmmaker’s vision.
Every year, BMI, a music rights management organization, teams with the Sundance Institute to present an informative and entertaining panel, "Music in Film: The Creative Process," where filmmakers and composers discuss their collaborations. The panel also features representatives from the Sundance Institute labs.
This year’s two-hour discussion will be held on Monday, Jan. 25, at the Samsung Innovation Studio, 638 Park Ave.
The panelists will include Director of Sundance Institute’s Film Music Program Peter Golub; Sundance Institute Film Music Composers Lab advisors George S. Clinton; Miriam Cutler and Blake Neely; composer Kris Bowers; director Heidi Ewing; composer T. Griffin; director Roger Ross Williams; composer Fil Eisler; director Kim A. Snyder; composer Walter Werzowa; director Jeff Feuerzeig; composer Keegan Dewitt; director Chad Hartigan; composer/director Gingger Shankar; composer Jongnic Bontemps; director Steven Caple; composer Mark Suozzo; director Whit Stillman; composer Atli Orvarsson; and director Grimur Hakonarson.
The Park Record caught up with panel moderator Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI’s Vice President of Film/TV Relations, during an email interview regarding this year’s panel.
Park Record: With all of the films in the festival, is there a criterion in selecting the composers and/or musicians and filmmakers who participate?
Ringer-Ross: One of the primary reasons BMI is at the Sundance Film Festival is to support our BMI-affiliated composers who have scored films in the festival so our first consideration is — is the composer with BMI?
Then we ask will they be in Park City for the festival on that date? Will their director participate?
Then, I try to assemble a nice range of film projects including films from various feature film categories in the festival. We also invite certain composers to participate who have served as lab advisors at the Sundance Composers Lab over the years and of course we always include composer Peter Golub who runs the film music program for Sundance.
PR: What goes into deciding what questions to ask, whether it’s about director/composer relationships or new developments in technology?
Ringer-Ross: Filmmakers are intrinsically an interesting bunch so it’s not that difficult to get them to tell informative and animated stories about their work.
Some of my questions are quite general like ‘What was your creative intention behind the music in this scene?’
Sometimes I ask things that are more specific because I’ve heard about a particular situation in advance or I noticed something unique about the music use in their particular film.
It’s interesting that you’d mention new developments in technology because these days technology allows composers and directors to work remotely on these films and sometimes they meet face to face for the first time at this event.
PR: In the past years, what are some of the significant lessons that you have learned from the filmmakers and composers during the discussions?
Ringer-Ross: I’ve learned that music in film can be an almost subliminal, often-subtle language of emotion and communicating about it is better addressed between filmmaker and composer in terms of feelings rather than musical terminology.
When directors and composers are able to develop that mutual language and understanding trust evolves, which leads to long-term collaboration.
PR: How has the event grown since the first one, meaning have there been more composers and filmmakers who want to participate?
Ringer-Ross: Ha, yes indeed. When we first started doing this roundtable we had fewer than 10 people and we all fit nicely on the stage.
Now moderating it is like being the captain of an ocean liner. We have so many great people who want to participate that various composers and filmmakers will be sitting in the front row of the audience. It drives our tech people crazy.
PR: Throughout the years, have there been some surprising collaborations that were sparked during a roundtable?
Ringer-Ross: Well, the collaborations between participants are already in place prior to participating in the roundtable. I do know of some composers who were hired by other filmmakers or signed by agents who were sitting in the audience.
PR: What do you enjoy most about these discussions?
Ringer-Ross: I love hearing the stories, the different points of view, and learning new things. Personally, I just love our composers.
They inspired me to dedicate myself to working with them in an artist development capacity for all these years. It gives me great joy to watch a room full of festivalgoers discover how talented, smart, funny, deep, articulate, creative and unique they all are.
"Music & Film: The Creative Process," will be held on Monday, Jan. 25, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Samsung Innovation Studio, 638 Park Ave. The event is open to all Sundance Film Festival credential holders. For more information, vist http://www.bmi.com.
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