Can you imagine Pulp Fiction without Urge Overkill’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Dick Dale’s “Misirlou,” or Dusty Springfield’s “Preacher Man”? How about Garden State – the soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the film and won a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack. And Jonny Greenwood’s haunting score for There Will Be Blood is essentially another character and as Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers states, “the score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood was a sonic explosion that reinvented what film music could be.”
Quentin Tarantino, Zach Braff and Paul Thomas Anderson are gifted at choosing the perfect music to compliment their cinematic story but many times, it’s not soley the filmmaker making these decisions. The role of Music Supervisor on any film is as important as any other technical and artistic aspect but often goes unrecognized. So today, we’re introducing you to such a person, Music Supervisor, Brooke Wentz. She worked on this year’s Sundance documentary in competition, The Overnighters and talks to us about her work and her favorite Miramax films.
When considering the influence of the Miramax catalog on me and the work I do, I’m of course drawn to those films with striking soundtracks and poignant use of music to enhance scenes. Two titles that particularly stand out are Trainspotting and City of God. The first (for any unfortunate generations who’ve missed it) is a 1996 Danny Boyle film with four Scottish boys on a rampant, drug-fueled run from the law. The opening song — Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” — sets the tone and character for the entire film. Its rough, tough, bad, dirty, high energy parallels the nature and character of the boys. That Iggy Pop theme then continues to be perfectly woven throughout the film, with shots of concert posters and the occasional reference to him in the script.
City of God is an amazing 2002 docudrama about growing up in the drug-warlord slums of Brazil. The rich colors and images of children playing out their fantasies of being the tough-guy adult is heightened by the use of pure, authentic Brazilian samba music and lush Portuguese lyrics. The soundtrack is amazing…one worth buying. It’s rich of classic Brazilian beats, modern techno and a Seu Jorge break-out as a singer. Jorge also plays the character “Knock-out Ned” in the film, which adds a nice twist. Tense percussion tracks add to the tension of the crazy boys, not to mention the quick editing.
In both films, the careful choice of music sets not only the tone, emotion and character, but moves them along and pushes the pacing when the going gets tough for the characters. Another Miramax title, the 1998 Thomas Tykwer film Run Lola Run, does the same with the fantastic original work of Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek. This composing duo pad the entire film with the energy and fortitude the film needs to present all of its cases.
Then there is the amazing 1989 Peter Greenaway film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover whose rich colors, over-the-top Gaultier costumes, plush sets and tense Michael Nyman score, send this film into a tizzy of craze. Customers who dine at the voluptuous restaurant controlled by the gluttonous owner, are literally stuffed and served in royal fashion. A very young boy with bleached blond hair sings falsetto over the filth. Music here is used to speak for the unspoken, while a love affair pursues.
In The Overnighters, a Jesse Moss documentary that is screening at Sundance now, we used the Steve Earle track “Lonely Are the Free” to put that definitive punctuation mark on a story of desperation and loneliness. Upon word of a massive oil field discovered in North Dakota, hoards of out-of-work vagabonds descend upon the tiny town of Williston with hopes of opportunity behind the new dig, but discover no work and nowhere to sleep. A local pastor takes them in, turning his church into a makeshift hostel and counseling center, only to see many of these broken people’s problems become his own. As Earle groans “there’s no place for them to land” over the sparse plucking of a sole acoustic guitar, the film adds further texture to the hopelessness of its characters lives. Music can take audiences to different places, set the tone, mood, make something scary, funny, big or small. I love bringing those sonic colors to a film. It can be rewarding to the musical artist while even more rewarding for the director, and of course essential to the audience and the moviegoing experience.
Watch this Sundance Film Festival clip of the director of The Overnighters talking about the story. You’ll also hear Wentz’s music selection over the piece.
Brooke Wentz heads The Rights Workshop as its Billboard-Award-winning
music supervisor and intellectual property rights executive. Her career
spans such roles as ESPN Music Director, A&R Manager at Arista Records,
rights consultant to TechTV and author. Her music supervision credits
include “Bully,” “Bill Cunningham New York,” “Melancholia,” “The Devil
and Daniel Johnston,” “American Hardcore,” “McConkey,” “Mother of
George”and “After Tiller.”
An expert in world music, she has produced such critically acclaimed
recordings as “Global Meditation,” “Global Celebration,” “Voices of
Forgotten Worlds,” and “Africa: Never Stand Still.” In 2014 she launches
the Seven Seas Music licensing platform specializing in global music.
Follow her on Twitter via @brookeslist.
Read our ‘Favorite Soundtracks’ post and vote on your favorite, here.