33rd Annual ASCAP Screen Music Awards
On May 23, 2018, the illustrious community of creators and executives in film, television, and gaming music gathered for the 33rd Annual American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Screen Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton. This joyous occasion communicated a strong sense of artistic empowerment and camaraderie among peers. Top honors of the evening were bestowed upon composers John Powell and Germaine Franco.
John Powell is a juggernaut in the composing realm, revered for his Oscar nominated score for How To Train Your Dragon, as well as his work on the Bourne franchise starring Matt Damon, Ferdinand, three Ice Age sequels, Shrek, and many other high profile films. In his humorous and genuine acceptance speech for the prestigious ASCAP Henry Mancini Award, Powell cited the meaningful support of his early mentors, Hans Zimmer and Patrick Doyle. He also took a moment to thank the assistants he's had along the way, a number of whom have gone on to lead impressive careers of their own including Geoff Zanelli and the evening's other primary honoree, Germaine Franco. Prior to the festivities, Powell shared his most beloved Henry Mancini compositions with us. "One of my favorite pieces is called Lujon, which is a song that he [Henry Mancini} rearranged for strings and this crazy instrument called the lujon. I think it was the Hollywood percussionist, Emil Richards, who either invented it, found somewhere, or made a version of it. We actually have that instrument here tonight, so I'm going to be playing that. I'm also playing "A Shot in the Dark", which is the sequel to Pink Panther that people somehow seem to skip over. I love all of the Pink Panther scores, they're just amazing. Then anything from Charade, anything from Breakfast at Tiffany's." During the ceremony, Powell presented the aforementioned material in an incredible Mancini tribute medley with a beautifully precise and graceful orchestra. It came to a stunning close with a rendering of "Something For Cat" from the 1961's classic, Breakfast at Tiffany's, which was met with a raucous standing ovation.
Game changing Latina composer, Germaine Franco accepted the ASCAP Shirley Walker Award, which honors those whose achievements have contributed to the diversity of television and film music. Franco is best known for her splendid work on Oscar winning film, Coco, as well as Vida and DOPE among others. Introduced by Adrian Molina, co-director, screenwriter and lyricist of Coco and Erin Scully, Executive Vice President at New Line Pictures, Franco made her way to the podium and unleashed a thought provoking and motivational speech about her journey as a female composer in a time without guidance from the organizations and resources accessible today. She was moved to tears speaking about the dedication of her mother, who was her champion consistently driving her to music lessons throughout her youth. Franco used her platform to cite the statistic that a mere 3% of composers active in the today's professional landscape are women, adding that only 0.5% are women of color. Shortly thereafter, Franco conducted the orchestra and played a variety of percussive instruments in a mesmerizing performance of her music from TAG, Vida, and Coco. She was joined by singer, Anthony Gonzalez, who played the role of Miguel in the original film, for soulful renditions of “Un Poco Loco” and “Proud Corazón".
During the ceremony, the ASCAP Composers Choice Awards were revealed. Dave Porter of The Blacklist, Preacher, and Better Call Saul fame took home the honor for TV Composer of the Year. Both absent from the event, Jonny Greenwood and Hans Zimmer tied for the coveted Film Score of the Year Award for their respective work on Phantom Thread and Dunkirk. Gordy Haab won the Video Game Score of the Year Award for his work on Star Wars: Battlefront II. Before the ceremony, Haab spoke to us about his long time association with ASCAP. "ASCAP has been a force behind me breaking into the industry ever since I moved to Los Angeles. I actually won the ASCAP Young Composers Award 15 years ago. So it's a full circle thing for me to be here tonight, nominated for yet another award. It's very exciting. They've always been a huge advocate." When asked about the greatest difficulty he faced while working on Star Wars: Battlefront II, Haab replied, "It's a huge challenge to step into an existing musical world created by the great John Williams. You have to be creative and be original within those confines, keeping it consistent with that universe. It's been so much fun to take this on for the past five or six years."
Additional musical performances were presented by ASCAP Award winning composers Michael Abels and Dan Romer. Joined by the impassioned Selah Gospel Choir, Abels' unveiled an extended version of "Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga", his potent theme from Oscar winning film, Get Out. Before the ceremony, Abels revealed the motivation behind creating an extended version of his popular piece. "In the film, you hear a version that is just a little over a minute long. Tonight, we’re doing the full song version. It’s a world premiere. The very first time it will be performed live. When I worked on the film, I didn’t have to write more than one verse because it was for the titles. As Get Out grew into the phenomenon it became, I thought that someday we would wish it was an entire song. I wrote extra verses, anticipating that there’d be a reason and clearly, tonight is it. We have an almost 30 voice choir for this performance and it is off the chain."
Romer delivered a sweeping, melodic collection of his thematic material from the hit show, The Good Doctor. When asked about the rewards and challenges of composing for the series, Romer explained, "I've only been scoring TV shows for a couple years now, but I love making music every week. I love the fact that I can score something and within two weeks, people can hear it on TV. The most rewarding part is being able to create the emotional backdrop for Shaun. He's just a powerful character to create the right music for. The most challenging aspect is the turn around but it gives such a rush of adrenaline."
ASCAP COMPOSERS SPEAK ON THEIR CREATIVE PROCESS
"John [Williams] was on right from the very beginning. They always knew he was going to write a tune. Once I heard his tune, I knew it was like putting goal posts. It kind of framed out the whole piece extremely well, so from there, I knew what other material we needed. It was a wonderful interaction.
I think it was a little tricky for him because he's not used to working that way. Maybe I was more used to it because I've worked with Hans that way and I've worked with my friend, Gavin Greenaway for years. Ever since college, I’ve collaborated with other composers. Most composers don't do that unless they work in a songwriting team, perhaps. I’ve never had a problem with it. I like working with other composers. It stops composing from being such a lonely business.
I think John was amazing. It was really wonderful to be able to take his material, add on to it with the material they needed for the film, use a little bit of the old material, and have some fun putting it all together. Everybody involved in the film making process, Pietro [Scalia, editor], Ron [Howard, director], and Kathy [Kennedy, producer]. Absolutely incredible. Incredible group of people. Everybody really kind of pitched in for this one. It was a very good experience."
— JOHN POWELL on his creative work with John Williams for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
"I thought at this point in my career and my life, it's a cornball expression, but I thought it was time to give back. It sounds pretentious, but we established this lecture series where I speak, which I love to do. It always goes so well. I never plan any of these things. It’s all very spontaneous, almost improvised. I play a few of my bits and discuss them, then we move on to question and answers. Some of the students play something, I talk about that. The first one started at Brooklyn College, which is one of the coolest establishments I've ever seen, just physically. This is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is the new hipster studio in Brooklyn now. This school in there is astounding. So, that's a good start. I’ve done this at NYU for the last 12 years. Students come from all over the world to attend the film music workshop. They write pieces and I tell them how horrible they are like Simon on American Idol. *laughs* No, no. I love doing it, it makes me feel good."
"Chris Carter, right? He gave me a bunch of CDs and he said, "I like the piano on this, I like the drums on it, I like the singing on this thing. Do something." Well, I did something and it wasn't right. It was too loud, it was too overproduced. He said, "Well, let's try another one." Anyways, that happened three times. Then finally I said, "Chris, let's do this. You go get some coffee, or just leave," politely, "and I'll just start from scratch. I know you want something simple, not too many notes, not splashy, old fashioned, traditional." Then this thing came up. It took me about a half an hour. I put my arm down on the keyboard. It came up out of nowhere. It was magic. I don't know how good it was. I still don't."
— MARK SNOW on his educational endeavors and the creation of his iconic theme for The X-Files.
"I spent a lot of time with Patty [Jenkins], the director, just to get into the story and tap into the young heroine. I wasn't really concerned with where she was going as the warrior because Hans [Zimmer] had already written that theme. I wanted to bring something emotional, something to help Diana build from her childhood through the moment to which she became Wonder Woman."
"I like to be in a dark room to come up with the goods, but working with someone else, there’s a joy there. I do enjoy that process, but if I’m after something very, very emotional, there’s something quite powerful about the pain of being on your own."
"The Alienist. Wow. First, I went out to where they were shooting in Budapest. They just created the most amazing set. They built streets that you could go on a horse and cart for a single shot for five minutes. It was quite real. The book is really sharp, exciting, and dark. It was quite easy, really. I retreated to my dark room, but there had to be some collaboration. Doing it on my own would have been too scary."
— RUPERT GREGSON-WILLIAMS on his approach for Wonder Woman, collaborating with others, and The Alienist.
"It was very involved on Wonder. There was a lot of writing, then rewriting and rewriting. It was over a very long period of time. Five or six months, which for a movie seems like an eternity. There was a lot of testing themes from different areas. I would write something for a scene and then we would place it in another part of the time. There was a lot of that going on. It was kind of fun when it’s not what you expect but all of a sudden, the music takes on a life of its own. The whole process was very collaborative. The director, Stephen Chbosky is very musical and musically inclined. He was great to work with. The message of the film was so amazing and everyone was so inspired to do their absolute best to get it across."
"For Ray Donovan, I think it was the balance of the action, the emotion, and sometimes, the humor of it. It’s a very specific role. Fine tuning those emotions is always the hardest thing. How to not overdo one thing at the expense of the other. We don’t want the drama to suffocate the comedy or the action, or vice versa. It’s about great acting, great dialogue, and just trying to stay out of the way of great work.
— MARCELO ZARVOS on his musical treatments for Wonder and Ray Donovan.
"For Orange is the New Black, I work with a husband and wife team, Brandon Jay and Gwendolyn Stanford, who had worked on Jenji [Kohan]'s last show, Weeds. We've had seven years to develop an amazing dynamic. It was all hands on deck for the first two seasons, and then we cleverly realized how to position ourselves. We all have our instruments that we play and everything kind of fell into place. We all share in the writing process, we all share in the playing process, we're like a well oiled machine at this point. It’s also a lot less lonely to work as a team. The months off that we have in between seasons, we often send texts that we miss each other. When you're working with partners, it's family. You're entering into a relationship where you're with them every single day. They have two beautiful children, so I'm around their kids every day. I'm a member of their family and vice versa.
Last season, I would say Frieda’s flashback scene was one of my favorite moments. I know fans of the show have picked up on this because it was like the Wes Anderson moment of our series. It was a theme that just popped out of nowhere. She's walking through the woods in her Girl Scout uniform, and it’s this really whimsical part of the series that you don't really have. It's normally prison, fighting, drugs, harshness. This was a really light moment. The juxtaposition of Frieda's prison character versus her youth. It was just such a fun thing to make her come off as sweet and sincere as possible. I also look back to the 13 minute cue we did in the finale of season four, where all the inmates break free through a hole in the fence and jump in the lake. That was amazing."
— SCOTT DOHERTY on his collaborative work and favorite moments from Orange is the New Black
"Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga means listen to the ancestors in Swahili. It is one of the pieces that people talk about most when the music from Get Out comes up. It’s featured in the film twice, so people have a chance to hear it more than once and it has voices. Voices speak to people. The entire song is in Swahili besides the words, brother and sister. The second verse translates to “Be aware. You’re in danger.” and is followed by a bridge that will freak everyone out. The bridge represents the sunken place. We didn’t use a lot of music in the sunken place, but in my original talks with Jordan [Peele], we wanted this sort of bluesy moaning effect. In this new version of the song, we go full out with the blues moans. The third verse advises to be on guard and defend your people."
— MICHAEL ABELS explains the meaning behind the extended version of his popular Swahili theme from Get Out
"Oh my gosh. Panic, I think is the main secret. I think the challenge is always to try to come up with something that you've never done before. Something that’s maybe completely new for the genre and draws from a lot of resources. I think about the different approaches of how to bring the personality of that show, the personality of the characters, the personality of the host to life. A lot of the times, I’m inspired by solo instruments, thinking about what might play the theme, which leads me to certain kinds of interpretations. As a keyboard player, it’s easy to fallback on piano harmonies but I really try to do most of my writing on a little tape machine. I sort of sing the melodies in. I know if something sticks for me, then I can orchestrate it in a way that’s going to memorable."
"The majority of the work me and my collaborators create is in episodic television. It’s sort of like writing score for a film that’s yet to be written, which is a challenge in it’s own. We have to imagine what story points they may hit and what things may happen on the show. With No Reservations, which I did with Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez, a lot of it was coming up with a theme for Anthony Bourdain. We know that’s consistent in the show, but depending on where he travels, there would be a bespoke main title for that episode in China or Thailand. It is a combination of trying to predict where the show will lead us and having the opportunity to quickly write for specific moments."
— JOEL BECKERMAN on his secrets for creating memorable themes and his work on No Reservations.
"The fun part about The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is that they immediately responded to my take on a bigger, sweeping orchestral sound. While the show obviously has a lot of tension and a lighthearted, fun feel at times, as the episodes build, that orchestral sound takes over. It's definitely my job contribute to the drama, but when I get to dig into the emotional stuff, that's when I get the most excited... We tend to do a lot of this in the box, but we also add live elements to give it a nice and natural sound... It's interesting because while there is always a new library coming out every week, I still use stuff from back in the 90's to blend in with the newer sounds. It makes things different and it's amazing because the old stuff still holds true."
— BRAD SEGAL on the rewards of his work for The Bachelor franchise.
ALEXIS ESTIZ & ALBERTO SLEZYNGER
"The best thing about our collaboration is that we're blessed to do music together. That is what helps us continue to be inspired and create. The hardest part is the late hours or worse, the endless hours but we are very lucky to do this."
"We're both composers and producers, but we also work with a talented team of other musicians. It starts when one of us comes up with a melody. We begin creating from scratch. The ideas come so fast that you have to get them down on your iPhone. We're always very spontaneous."
— ALEXIS ESTIZ and ALBERTO SLEZYNGER on their artistic collaboration.
"I’ve been an ASCAP member for 20 years. The relationships, the people there, the guidance, and obviously the support that they provide have really guided my career. To me, it's a community. Just being able to create music for this long and make a living from it, is such a blessing, and such a true ... I'm just so grateful to the organization for providing access to a network of other composers and people in the business, who have helped me."
"The sound of The Challenge is driven by electronic hybrids, so it has orchestral parts, but it also features highly synthesized, gritty, and dirty elements. It’s an action show, so that dark synth feel really works. We do a lot of pacing, high energy, and drones. I had a great time doing it and I’m just so blessed that they used my music."
— MICHAEL BAIARDI on how ASCAP has impacted his career and the musical direction of The Challenge.
AND THE WINNERS ARE ...
ASCAP HENRY MANCINI AWARD
ASCAP SHIRLEY WALKER AWARD
2018 ASCAP COMPOSERS'
2017 FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR
2017 TV COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
2017 VIDEO GAME SCORE OF THE YEAR
Star Wars: Battlefront II
THEMES AND UNDERSCORE
Didier Lean Rachou
Mark T. Williams
TOP TELEVISION SERIES
Casey James Basichis
THE BIG BANG THEORY
THE BLACKLIST: REDEMPTION
CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS
DANCING WITH THE STARS
DC'S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
DESCENDANTS: WICKED WORLD
THE GOOD DOCTOR
THE GREAT INDOORS
THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS
HOLLYWOOD MEDIUM WITH TYLER HENRY
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
JENNI RIVERA: MARIPOSA DE BARRIO
LITTLE BIG SHOTS
THE MINDY PROJECT
Maurice "m.O" Jackson
NCIS: LOS ANGELES
THE NEW EDITION STORY
Michael "Space Cowboy" Jonzun
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
SHADES OF BLUE
THE VIETNAM WAR
VINO EL AMOR
Jaime Vargas Fabila
Alejandro Sanches Mendoza
Paolo Stefanoni Pinto
Eduardo Mercado Sánchez De Tagle
Jorge Tena Martínez Vara
THE WALKING DEAD
WILL & GRACE
Didier Lean Rachou
TOP BOX OFFICE FILMS
BLADE RUNNER 2049
THE BOSS BABY
DESPICABLE ME 3
THE EMOJI MOVIE
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
WAR FOR PLANET OF THE APES
WOLF WARRIOR 2
Interviewers | Paul Goldowitz, Ruby Gartenberg
Editing, Copy, Layout | Ruby Gartenberg
Special thank you to Michael Todd and Bobbi Marcus for the kindness and hospitality.