×

Continuing education at ASCAP

Workshop helps composers fine-tune skills

Chris Lord is handy with a baton. His music company composed the theme for Disney/ABC’s “At the Movies;” he is a Sundance Composer fellow. And on this Friday evening, he has a 60-piece orchestra under his command, charged with creating music to enhance the experience of watching Tom Cruise leap from rooftops.

Lord is discovering it can be really hard to hear the click track when you’re on a studio soundstage in the middle of 60 instruments. Over and over, Ethan Hunt chases “MI:3” bad guys and Lord must stop conducting because, without the clicks, it’s almost impossible to track the music’s place in the scene. Later, Lord said he’d never worked with an orchestra quite so big, or a written for a work that demanded so much volume. “It was loud, really loud,” he said.

Moments like these are what make ASCAP’s Television and Film Scoring Workshop invaluable for the 12 participants selected from hundreds of applicants each year.

The composers spend four weeks getting advice, access and the chance to record their own music using the same state-of-the-art resources afforded to the entertainment industry’s top composers.

The composers take the equivalent of a final exam on Warner Bros. Studios’ Eastwood Scoring Stage, having spent the past 10 days scoring a three-minute scene. Now they’re surrounded by professional musicians who are masters of on-the-fly interpretations of complex and emotional compositions. If the piece doesn’t work, there’s little doubt as to why.

The assignment wasn’t entirely new for any of them. Lord and J.J. Lee, another workshop participant, have a 4-year-old music production and scoring company, Overtone Prods., and credits on films like “Iron Man 2” and videogames “Prince of Persia” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Damian Montano has written commissions for the L.A. Chamber Orchestra and performed as a bassoonist on scores for “Alice in Wonderland,” “Bolt,” “Hancock” and “Spider-Man 3.” Pete Seibert worked on the recent “Fame” remake as a conductor and pianist, while Australian Justin Kearin has seen his works performed by national orchestras.

However, many of their experiences lie in composing smaller musical scores or serving supporting roles in larger projects. So for four weeks, the composers have received indoctrination into the world of film and TV scoring.

They worked on scoring cues with music editor Michael Ryan (“Eclipse”), got mixing tips from John Ross (“Sex and the City”) and spent a day observing composer Brian Tyler as he worked on 2011 release “Battle: Los Angeles” on Sony’s scoring stage. It’s all overseen by composer-arranger Richard Bellis, who has served as the program’s leader for the past 12 years with ASCAP execs Mike Todd and Jennifer Harmon.

Of course, there’s no guarantee to what this incubation will yield. However, the 22-year-old program has seen the development of a number of significant composers. And the proximity ASCAP provides doesn’t hurt.

On this evening, while workshop participant Eric Jasper conducted his interpretation of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” Ivan Reitman stopped by to observe. He was in the studio next door to work on his untitled romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. Reitman has a second-degree connection with the program: Workshop alum Mateo Messina made his name as the composer for Jason Reitman’s “Juno.”

The workshop wraps Thursday with a screening of the scenes and their compositions at the Directors’ Guild. However, participants said that Friday, when each was allotted 16 minutes to conduct, was likely the emotional peak.

“I forget about the people in the booth, the time,” Lee said. “All I can think of is the screen, the orchestra and the music.”

More Film

  • Gary Hustwit Bob Greenberg, Toshiko MoriBob

    Why 'Rams' Director Gary Hustwit Doesn't Want Studios to Buy His Films

    Most filmmakers dream of scoring a big studio deal, but not Gary Hustwit. The “Helvetica” director applies a “do it yourself” model to the release of his movies. “Rams,” his recent documentary about German industrial designer Dieter Rams, is Hustwit’s latest venture into self-distribution. “I don’t want to be paying someone else’s overhead,” said Hustwit. [...]

  • Ventana Sur: Overview of 2018’s PCI

    Ventana Sur: PCI Showcases the Diversity of Argentine Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Mario Vargas Llosa, the great Peruvian novelist, once wrote that reality in Latin America is too compelling to ever be ignored in its fiction. Yet, as WWII raged, Jorge Luis Borges, perhaps the greatest of Argentine writers, pointedly published “Ficciones,” fantasy tales, often philosophical speculation given narrative form. If this year’s PCI [...]

  • Moroccan director Meryem Benm'Barekposes during the

    Young French Cinema Program to Showcase 12 New Films in the U.S.

    Clément Cogitore’s “Braguino,” Meryem Benm’Barek’s (pictured) “Sofia” and Marie Losier’s “Cassandro the Exotico!” are among the 12 recent French movies which will play as part of the Young French Cinema Program organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. and UniFrance. “Braguino” is a documentary feature about two feuding families living [...]

  • Woolsey Fire Malibu

    Many Malibu Areas Still Off-Limits for Filming After Fire

    The California Film Commission has maintained its ban on filming in several Malibu areas hit by the massive Woolsey fire in Southern California last month. The commission announced Tuesday that due to continued clean-up and repair work along Pacific Coast Highway, permits for filming on the highway are not being issued at this time. PCH [...]

  • Against the Clock

    Film News Roundup: Andy Garcia's Spy Thriller 'Against the Clock' Bought by Gravitas

    In today’s film news roundup, Andy Garcia’s spy thriller is sold, “Battlestar Galactica” gets a screenwriter, and Brooklyn Decker gets an award. ACQUISITION Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to spy thriller “Against the Clock,” starring Andy Garcia, Dianna Agron (“Glee”), and Justin Bartha, Variety has learned exclusively. The film, formerly titled “Headlock,” is [...]

  • 'Pacific Rim Uprising' film premiere

    John Boyega in Talks to Star in Legal Drama 'A Naked Singularity'

    “Star Wars” actor John Boyega is in talks to star in the legal drama “A Naked Singularity” with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions on board to produce. The movie is based on Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel, which centers on a successful New York public defender whose life begins to unravel after he loses [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead Obit

    Remembering Penny Marshall, Who Forged Her Own Path and Paved the Way for Others

    She was a natural comedian — fearless and funny, willing to trade on her natural Bronx brogue to craft a sassy and street-wise character that was tailor-made for sitcoms. But Penny Marshall, who died Monday night at the age of 75, proved throughout her long career that she had so much more in the way [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content