It isn’t often that I go after a “scoop” — what we print journalists used to call getting to a hot story first. But when I heard that John Williams would not be scoring both of the Steven Spielberg films currently in production (The Papers and Ready Player One), I thought it was worth the effort. So we at Variety were the first to report that Williams will score The Papers, the Pentagon Papers story, and that Alan Silvestri (perhaps best known for such classics as Back to the Future and Forrest Gump) will be doing the sci-fi film Ready Player One. Silvestri is well known to Spielberg, who has produced a number of Robert Zemeckis films that he has scored over the years.
Oscar-nominated, Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer Alan Silvestri received BMI’s Icon Award Wednesday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. His was the top honor among dozens distributed by the performing-rights society. The evening was a who’s-who of composers, songwriters and music supervisors active in films and TV. Variety asked me to cover the event, so I managed to sneak in a little time with the composer of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, TV’s Cosmos and so much more. Among others in attendance: Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy), Brian Tyler (Fate of the Furious), the legendary Mike Post (Law & Order), W.G. Snuffy Walden (The West Wing) and many others. Excerpts from my red-carpet interviews are included in this video.
For one of its awards-related special end-of-year issues, Variety asked me to inquire of this year’s crop of potential score honorees about the challenges they face in a changing environment for composers in film. It was an interesting assignment, and I asked Johann Johannsson (Arrival), James Newton Howard (Fantastic Beasts), John Debney (The Jungle Book), Nicholas Britell (Moonlight), Alan Silvestri (Allied) and John Williams (The BFG) about time to compose, budgets, temp tracks, synth mockups and the controversial new practice of “striping” (recording different sections of the orchestra separately from one another).
The third of my four stories in this week’s special issue of Variety deals with the music for this year’s big war movies, Hacksaw Ridge and Allied. I interviewed Rupert Gregson-Williams about working with Mel Gibson on the music of Hacksaw Ridge, and Alan Silvestri about Allied, his 16th feature film with director Robert Zemeckis. Both were illuminating, as the composers talked about going beyond the old war-movie cliches and finding new ways to illustrate, or deepen, the stories with music.
One of the most fun things I get to do involves presenting film-music events for the American Youth Symphony, one of the country’s finest ensembles of young musicians. Saturday night, at UCLA’s Royce Hall, they performed — under the baton of the brilliant music director David Newman — the entire score for Back to the Future, live to picture. It was a pleasure to conduct the pre-concert Q&A with writer-producer Bob Gale and composer Alan Silvestri, both of whom were informative and funny in discussing their work on the 1985 classic starring Michael J. Fox. The feeling in the sold-out hall was positively electric, and those involved with the event said that they had never seen such an enthusiastic response to Back to the Future – Live in Concert.
Talk about a fun assignment: Last night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played Alan Silvestri’s music for the 1985 film Back to the Future “live to picture,” with the estimable David Newman conducting. It was a near-sellout with more than 16,000 people attending, and the crowd cheered every iconic moment in the time-travel romp starring Michael J. Fox. I interviewed the composer about his memories of scoring Back to the Future — which was only his second opportunity to write for orchestra — and why he wrote another 20 minutes of music specifically for these live presentations.
Cosmos composer Alan Silvestri won for both Music Composition for a Series and Main Title Theme Music at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
Predictable, maybe, but also well-deserved. Here’s a look at just how he did it, over several weeks at the beginning of the year.
The other big winners included David Arnold and Michael Price for the final installment of this year’s Sherlock series on PBS, and veteran pop-rock artist Don Was as music director for the Beatles special The Night That Changed America.
A rundown of the Emmy winners in all five categories is here.
BMI asked me to profile Alan Silvestri during the summer of 2010. He was just about to start music for The A-Team, but I was anxious to talk about the role of technology in a film composer’s life, his wonderful Christmas carol for Andrea Bocelli — and the unique thing about Silvestri, which was the fact that he also owns a successful winery. (And those wines have won numerous industry awards.)
This was one of the longest, most complicated, and yet important, stories I ever wrote for the L.A. Times: A 3,300-word examination of why studio musicians were losing work to non-union sites in the U.S. and abroad. Although written 17 years ago, it’s uncannily relevant today, as film-scoring work is leaving L.A. in droves and panic is setting in about how to stop it.