It was a genuine thrill to visit George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to address the Fellows of this year’s Sundance Institute “Music and Sound Design Lab” for feature films. I talked about the possibilities of music and image with the directors and composers who were collaborating on their first films. The Marin County setting is stunning and I was one of several “creative advisors” on board (some of the others were composers Thomas Newman, George S. Clinton, Harry Gregson-Williams and Christophe Beck, director Miguel Arteta and sound designer Randy Thom). Film Music director Peter Golub, Feature Film director Michelle Satter and BMI executive Doreen Ringer Ross were immensely supportive.
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.
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.
I’m not generally given to hyperbole — too many years as a reporter, one sees almost everything — but I must admit that last night’s BMI ceremony in Beverly Hills was one of the greatest nights of my life. I was incredibly honored that the performing-rights organization chose to honor me as “a luminary in the field of film music journalism.”
Dear friend Doreen Ringer Ross, senior VP of BMI, presented me with this framed citation: “In grateful appreciation for your years of friendship, wit and wisdom, and for being a sincere and respected champion to so many in the film and television music community. Your distinctive and unique voice has forever enriched our lives.”
This was after a three-minute video — a complete surprise to me — that featured composers Christopher Lennertz, Mike Post, Charles Fox, Richard Sherman, Lalo Schifrin, David Newman and John Williams, thanking and congratulating me. It was truly moving. I will never forget the standing ovation that followed. (Or Williams saying, “May your pen continue to flourish and may your inkwell never dry up.”) And I can never thank Doreen and her fellow executives at BMI enough for this huge honor.
I got to stand with the rest of the BMI honorees including the wonderful Mychael Danna, who received the evening’s highest honor, the Richard Kirk Award. A couple of hours earlier I did a long video interview with Danna; here he talks about his journey from small independent films to big studio features; here he talks about Ang Lee and his Oscar-winning work on Life of Pi; and here he discusses his creative process.
And for the first time, Variety actually wrote about me rather than just publishing my own work!