A new film on the craft of creating music for movies, Score: A Film Music Documentary, opens this weekend in New York (and next weekend in Los Angeles). It features new interviews with composers including Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Quincy Jones, Brian Tyler, John Debney, David Arnold, Rachel Portman and others; footage from earlier films featuring John Williams and Thomas Newman; and commentary from critic Leonard Maltin, agent Richard Kraft, Disney executive Mitchell Leib, record producer Robert Townson, director James Cameron, and many more. I am on camera from time to time to offer historical perspective. Filmmaker Matt Schrader filmed numerous scoring sessions in Los Angeles and London, and the result is a fast-moving, illuminating look at the art and business of movie music. You’ll see me in the trailer, which is here along with the New York Times‘ rave review.
Composer Brian Tyler (The Fate of the Furious, Avengers: Age of Ultron) penned more than two hours of music for Universal’s remake of The Mummy, including a massive orchestra and choir recorded earlier this year at London’s Abbey Road. I interviewed Brian for Variety, which asked me to place the new Mummy score in the context of previous musical efforts along these lines — which gave me a chance to link to excerpts from past scores by James Dietrich, Hans J. Salter, Franz Reizenstein and Jerry Goldsmith. And not only did Back Lot Music gave us an exclusive four-minute track, but Tyler clued us in to an “Easter egg” of a hat-tip to Goldsmith that he quietly inserted into his own score.
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.
Today’s event was among the most enjoyable in ages. Disney asked if I would moderate a panel of its composers for comic-book and mythical-universe films and TV shows, and I was delighted — especially when I heard who the panelists would be: Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy), John Debney (Iron Man 2), Kevin Kiner (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Brian Tyler (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron). This was at WonderCon in downtown L.A., and the fun stories included George Lucas’ involvement with the animated series, Marvel vs. DC Comics adaptations, Marvel’s penchant for secrecy, the role of orchestra and strong themes, and much more. Wish we’d recorded it for posterity!
For Variety‘s second installment in our series on potential Oscar nominees in the music categories, I interviewed five composers, seven songwriters, a music supervisor and a director. Our main story features John Williams, in his first interview offering details of his new Star Wars score, as well as Hateful Eight music supervisor Mary Ramos talking about Ennio Morricone’s music; and The 33 director Patricia Riggen discussing the late James Horner’s contributions to her film. I also wrote four of the six composer profiles (on Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino, Carter Burwell and Brian Tyler) and half of the song story (including interviews with Spectre singer-songwriter Sam Smith and The Hunting Ground songwriters Diane Warren and Lady Gaga). And there’s still more to come!
Yesterday was a fun day at the Directors Guild of America building on Sunset: The Production Music Conference invited me to collaborate with composer Brian Tyler on a “keynote address” that was really more of a Q&A about his music and his career. We opened with a spectacular five-minute montage of his big movie scores (including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, the Fast and the Furious franchise and others). The Q&A was wide-ranging, covering his rise from small indies to huge studio films; his love of drumming and piano, which he still does himself on many scores; and how he runs his business. About 300 composers and music publishers attended.
Alexandre Desplat and Chris Montan (the Oscar-winning composer of The Grand Budapest Hotel and president of music for the Walt Disney Company, respectively) took top honors at this year’s BMI Film and TV Music Awards dinner. Here is my overview of the evening’s speeches and additional awards. Part of the fun, though, was doing the on-camera interviews on the red carpet — some of which are now showing up online. This link will take you to my brief chats with Desplat, Montan, Brian Tyler (talking about doing Marvel movies), Fil Eisler (Revenge) and Gwendolyn Sanford (Orange Is the New Black).
… a headline I liked, for a change. This was a really interesting topic thrown me by a Variety editor: How has the music of comic-book movies changed over the years? Can you still do what John Williams did in Superman in 1978? Or does the music need to reflect the darker tone of many contemporary superheroes? Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler and Marco Beltrami were some of those I interviewed on the subject.