Format: From supes to nuts

Music for Screens: Fall 2011

Unless they are on staff at a studio or network, music supervisors are a fairly independent bunch, working on a project-by-project basis, not unlike a lot of freelancers and below-the-liners who rely on relationships and their own hard-earned reps. But at Format Entertainment, a cadre of in-demand supervisors have banded together as a collective, sharing knowledge and resources to help fulfill the company’s mandate as a full-service, one-stop-shop music operation for films and TV.

The roster includes company founder Dave Jordan (“Captain America,” “Transformers”), Julie Michels (“The Blind Side,” “Devil Wears Prada”), Julianne Jordan (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Alvin & the Chipmunks”) and Anastasia Brown (the upcoming “Footloose,” “Road to Nowhere”) — making it the largest collection of music supervisors in the business.

The highly specialized, super competitive music supervision industry is much smaller than you might imagine — there are around 30 active working supervisors in LA for film and primetime television. Format, predominantly a film theatrical supervisions company, has four of the top supervisors in the biz, sharing everything from administrative back office services to knowledge on which person to call to clear which song.

“People say “Format…what is it that, how come there are so many people over there?” says Julie Michels, an independent music supervisor who joined the Format family in 2005. “We share. Instead of being down in the trenches all the time and working on your own, you get to be to be part of a bigger picture and have support.” Michels was a music executive at MGM until they closed their production doors and “let us all go. I thought ‘what am I going to do? I am an in-house person.’ I did not want to be an independent music supervisor. Then Dave called and said ‘why don’t you come join me?'” Michels and her assistant teamed up with Jordan and his assistant in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, Format’s first offices. Jordan brought more and more players under the Format umbrella, opened publishing and management arms, expanding his vision on what a music supervision company should look like in the 21st century.

“Most supervisors basically work out of their garage or their guest bedroom,” says Dave Jordan. “It can become very isolated. I thought it would be great to put people in a room together where they could share ideas and have communal space.” Jordan, who music supervises all of Marvel’s films, has worked on eight movies this year alone. His wife and fellow Format member Julianne Jordan has worked on five, and is currently co-music supervising a project, Pitch Perfect, with Julie Michels (it’s rare for two music supervisors to work on the same project together). “Working together helps ease the load–if we are looking for a particular type of vocalist, it’s easy to walk around the office and say does anyone know a vocalist that sings in this style?” she says. “Music supervisors don’t have a guild or anything like that. What we do have, at Format is a good group of people that you can bounce ideas off of.”

Because of the shrinking infrastructure at the studios and because of the growth of self-financed production companies, Dave Jordan is positioning Format as a one-stop music solution for smaller production companies, as well as providing all the services that a traditional studio department would handle. Marvel, for example, does not have a music department at all, outsourcing all their needs to Dave Jordan, who has supervised about a dozen Marvel movies, providing everything from business affairs knowledge to on-camera music supervision services. “I approach my moves as a customer service job,” says Jordan. “There are a lot of people with great music taste, out there. But if you can’t deliver great music, on budget, you’re just another song picker with a good iPod.”

Music for Screens: Fall 2011

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