A year ago, in August 2016, a unique and important concert happened in downtown Los Angeles: A 55-piece orchestra and 30-voice choir performed the music of 20 leading film, TV and game composers — all of whom happened to be female. Sponsored by the Alliance for Women Film Composers to call attention to their underrated but wildly talented membership, it was filmed by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Sara Nesson, who has turned the experience into a 12-minute short. For this piece in Variety, I interviewed Nesson and two of the composers showcased on that concert, Lolita Ritmanis (Young Justice) and Germaine Franco (Coco).
It was a pleasure to moderate a panel at Friday’s ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The topic was “Women in Film Music” and the panelists included composers Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea), Stephanie Economou (The Zookeeper’s Wife), Carly Paradis (Line of Duty) and Pinar Toprak (The Lightkeepers). ASCAP’s Rachel Perkins also introduced Lolita Ritmanis of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and Tracy McKnight of Women in Film, who kicked off the discussion about the expanding profile of female composers for film, TV and games. It was a stimulating hour with these thoughtful, remarkable women and I was honored to be on stage with them.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of stories about women composers and why they aren’t hired more often for studio films. Despite the grim statistics, things are changing, partly because of the creation of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, but also due to the Academy’s diversity push (which led to a boost in female members of the music branch this year) and the election of Laura Karpman as the first woman governor representing music on the Academy board. I examine all of these developments in the lead story for this week’s Music for Screens issue of Variety. Related story: Friday’s landmark concert in downtown Los Angeles featuring 20 women film and TV composers. Also in the current Variety: a story about the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop for young composers.
I’ve known composer Laura Karpman for something like 20 years now. Her versatility is astonishing, shifting effortlessly from concert works (“Ask Your Mama”) to film/TV (Taken) to video games (EverQuest). Last year she, along with other distinguished composers, formed the Alliance for Women Film Composers and it’s starting to make a difference for its members. Variety asked me to profile Laura for this week’s “Music for Screens” issue.
The fact that at least 15 films at Sundance this year have been scored by female composers, and that the newly formed Alliance for Women Film Composers is celebrating there, was the reason for this story in the Sundance section of this week’s Variety. Among those interviewed: prime movers Laura Karpman and Miriam Cutler. At left is a photo from the original event (Aug. 20, 2013) that started it all — a who’s-who of women composers active in film, TV and games gathered together by BMI’s Doreen Ringer Ross.