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Music supervisors find strength in numbers

Guild of Music Supervisors promotes profession

While many people believe music supervisors boast one of the coolest jobs around, most in the profession will tell you very few truly understand what they do. Choosing the perfect tune to punctuate a dramatic film scene or ideal shred on “Guitar Hero” is certainly part of their job, but the majority of a supervisors’ time is spent negotiating contracts, licensing music, dealing and budgeting.

“It’s right brain and left brain,” says supervisor Maureen Crowe, who has worked on films including “Wayne’s World,” “Chicago” and “The Pink Panther.” “It’s both creative and organizational. You have to work with editors and directors and understand their vision as well as the editing process, marketing and legal, and you have to know how to negotiate well.”

In order to improve understanding of the role of supervisors and promote the profession, Crowe co-founded the Guild of Music Supervisors in 2007, and the organization has been gradually growing since. Its inaugural awards brunch took place in February, and served as a sort of coming out for the Guild. Select people are invited to join, and pay $150 in annual dues to a Guild trust. Crowe estimates the Guild has 100 members.

Scott McDaniel, senior music supervisor for Activision who selects music for popular videogame franchises including Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, signed on as soon as he received an invitation.

“A group that looks out for your interests and offers support can only be good,” he says. “Being a music supervisor, you’re often outside of studio support, so being part of a community that helps get recognition for the craft is important.”

Director-producer Doug Liman, whose helming credits include films with signature soundtracks such as “Swingers,” “Go” and “The Bourne Identity,” admits he had a vague concept of the role music supervisors play early in his career. “When I first started I didn’t really know what a music supervisor did other than getting rights. I learned they help you select the music and create a style to the film as important as the role an editor might have.”

Liman has worked with independent supervisor Julianne Jordan on nearly all his projects since 1996’s “Swingers.” “I got lucky and stumbled into what a great music supervisor could do,” he says. “I might not have a career if it weren’t for Julianne because music was so important to those films.”

Music supervisor Gary Calamar, whose TV work includes “Six Feet Under,” “House” and “True Blood,” decided to join the Guild because he sees a great need for its services. “We all kind of know each other but we’ve been working independently,” says the longtime KCRW DJ. “The idea just made sense. It’ll help us get more benefits and be taken seriously in the industry.”

The Guild also aims to garner benefits and improve working conditions for its members, much like SAG and the DGA. “It’s the Wild West out there,” Crowe says, pointing out that many supervisors are independent contractors who don’t get health care or retirement benefits and often find themselves out of work for long stretches of time.

Ideally, Crowe envisions the Guild being instrumental in acquiring benefits for supervisors and educating the public and the industry about their role. “I hope the guild can be a galvanizing force,” she says. “We’re not gonna get there tomorrow, but we’re on our way.”

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