One of the challenges of today’s more limited space in print media is condensing sometimes lengthy, comprehensive interviews down to their very essence. Yet it’s always fun to talk with major musical artists about working in film, which generally involves more specific parameters than just writing or arranging a song for a record. So for a story in this week’s special issue of Variety, I had to take 20- or 30-minute interviews with Justin Timberlake, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Harvey Mason Jr., French singer Camille and Disney songwriter Glenn Slater and find a way to assemble their key thoughts into one coherent story. They talk about the current films Sing, Trolls and Moana, plus earlier 2016 films including The Little Prince and Sausage Party.
It was a joy to host the Sunday Q&A with the braintrust behind the music of Disney’s new animated Moana, which I believe will be a big hit for the studio. After the Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film at Pacific Design Center, I quizzed Tony-winning Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, Samoan-born singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, score composer Mark Mancina, and Disney music producer Tom MacDougall, about how the songs and score came about; about their commitment to authenticity in conveying the music of South Pacific cultures; and just how Miranda managed to juggle Hamilton and Moana at the same time. These guys were informative, candid and funny. Here, incidentally, is the story I wrote for Variety about the songs and score.
While the general public may not be thinking about Oscars this early in the year, the reality is that awards season is already well underway in Hollywood. Screenings of November-December releases are in full swing, awards consultants are emailing and phoning, and Variety has begun its coverage of potential honorees. Here is the backstory of the music of La La Land, certain to be one of the most talked-about late-year releases. I was fascinated by what initially inspired composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle to create this magical movie. Also in the Nov. 1 issue, I explore why so few spring and early-summer films are ever nominated for their music; and offer a detailed look at the unusual South Pacific music of Disney’s upcoming Moana, including an interview with Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.