The last of the Emmy-worthy music panels I moderated during the run-up to the Emmy nominations was on the music of A Million Little Things, the ABC series about seven close friends who try and come to terms with the mysterious suicide of another of their friends. Composer and songwriter Gabriel Mann (who also scores ABC’s Modern Family) was the focus of the evening, although editor Lauren Connelly, music supervisor Billy Gottlieb and singer-songwriter Kyler England also contributed valuable insights into the scoring process. This was just a few days after my Variety story about Mann, which you can find here.
One of the most remarkable TV-movie scores of the past season was in Lifetime’s remake of the classic The Bad Seed. The composer was Leanna Primiani, who has many concert-hall credits but is a relatively new voice on the film-music scene. I was so impressed with her music — and, in fact, with actor-director Rob Lowe’s work on the film, which matched the original in scares and suspense — that I agreed to do the Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film during Emmy season. It was great fun, and I look forward to more work by this talented composer.
Dave Grusin is one of America’s great musical treasures. And when I found out, a couple of years ago, that a pair of New Mexico filmmakers was making a documentary about this amazing composer-arranger-producer-pianist (needless to say, a favorite of mine since the 1960s) I asked to see an early cut — and to break the news about it in Variety. Director Barbara Bentree was kind enough to allow me an early viewing, so when it was finally finished and ready for its first Hollywood screening, I jumped at the chance to do the Q&A with her and longtime Grusin friends Marcus Miller and Joel Sill. The Society of Composers & Lyricists hosted the Santa Monica screening, attended by two other veteran Grusin collaborators, Quincy Jones and Alan Bergman. Variety colleague Chris Willman chronicled the evening here.
On April 5, Netflix unveiled the eight-part Our Planet, the new documentary narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, producer of so many great BBC films about the natural world. This one is conservation-oriented, examining various aspects of the environment (jungles, deserts, the ice caps, forests, the oceans, etc.) with an eye toward what must be done to preserve them. Steven Price (an Oscar winner for Gravity) composed the music, and on April 16 I got to interview him after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening (in Netflix’s fabulous new Hollywood screening room) of the first episode. He talked about the process, about recording with the London Philharmonia, and collaborating with Ellie Goulding on a song for the project.
It was a pleasure to quiz composer Lorne Balfe about his incredible, grand-scale score for Mission: Impossible — Fallout after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Dec. 13 on the Paramount lot. Balfe entertained the audience with anecdotes about his collaboration with director Christopher McQuarrie and producer-star Tom Cruise; discussed the months-long gestation and writing process, which involved deconstructing the original Lalo Schifrin themes for adaptation into a completely new score; and talked about the London recordings, which required a massive orchestra and choir and may have been among the most expensive Paramount scores ever recorded.
So far this awards season, a good deal of attention has been paid to If Beale Street Could Talk, the adaptation of James Baldwin’s Harlem love story that is even more relevant today than when it was written in 1974. Composer Nicholas Britell reunited with his Moonlight director Barry Jenkins on that one. But I find Britell’s music for Vice, writer-director Adam McKay’s seriocomic look at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s life, even more interesting and compelling. It required a full London symphony orchestra, and the mix of classically styled, big-band, dissonant and emotional music throughout was the topic of our Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Tuesday night in Westwood.
German-born, London-based post-minimalist composer Max Richter was in town this week to promote his score for the new Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Richter, who divides his time equally between concert music (The Blue Notebooks, Sleep) and media music (Miss Sloane, The Leftovers), is thoughtful and articulate, as he demonstrated during a Q&A I did with him after a screening of the film Tuesday night at Universal Studios. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the sold-out event.
Thursday night, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell (Carol, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the newest film by Joel and Ethan Cohen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Burwell has been scoring the Coen brothers’ films for more than 30 years, dating back to Blood Simple in 1984. This often amusing, sometimes harrowing Western is in six parts, which was like “scoring six movies,” Burwell said.
The new film First Man, which chronicles the 1960s experiences of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (first to land on the moon in 1969), reunited composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle — both of whom earned Oscars for their musical La La Land in 2016. On Oct. 14, Hurwitz and Chazelle joined me for a lively discussion of their collaboration on the film; why they felt that a theremin and vintage Moog synthesizer sounds were appropriate musical choices; and the advantages of a composer having his studio literally next door to where the film was being edited. The occasion was a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater.
It’s always a joy to interview Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the mega-hot songwriters who have already won the Oscar (for La La Land), a Tony and a Grammy (for Dear Evan Hansen). They were back in Hollywood this week to tout their Emmy-nominated work in Fox’s A Christmas Story Live! and I was honored to conduct the Q&A for the Society for Composers & Lyricists. We talked about their new song (“In the Market for a Miracle”) as well as their next major assignments, collaborating with Alan Menken on the live-action Aladdin and starting another Disney project, the live-action Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A week after this event, Variety published my interview with the two, which you can read here.