I have just finished working on Top Five, written and directed by Chris Rock.
Describe Your Job.
I am usually brought on to the project as the director and picture editor pull together a first cut. My first task is to spot the film with them. This is the road map I will employ to create the temp track. If a composer has been chosen, he or she will also be involved in this process. After this has been completed, I start to create a temp track for the film. In many ways, this is the most creative aspect of the job — it is working with the director and the editor to find the tenor and tone of the film.
The idea is to find a temp score that will feel cohesive enough to be able to screen the film so that it all feels of a piece. If a composer has already been chosen, I will often go into his or her catalogue to create the temp. As the film mutates through cutting, I continue to keep this temp track up to date. This way we have a film that can be previewed by the studio.
While all of this is going on, the composer is submitting sketches of the score. These sketches are reviewed with the director and the picture editor and notes are conveyed to the composer. A set of scoring dates will have been scheduled and, as we approach these dates, I work closely with the composer to record the score as efficiently as possible. In this digital age, recording to a locked picture seems to be a thing of the past. That being said, I will invariably have to cut the recorded score to fit the latest version of the film.
All through this I am also working with the director and picture editor on whatever source cues are in the film.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
From early adolescence, I have been passionate about movies and music. The fact that I now work in both is truly a dream come true.
Who gave you your first break?
I had worked in the sound department on films for about five years. Some of the highlights of my sound career were doing ADR on Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Miller's Crossing for the Coen brothers as well as effects on Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. I liked it, but didn’t love it. A music editor named Suzana Peric asked if I would be interested in assisting her. The film was Silence of the Lambs, and I found my passion. I worked as her assistant for four years and then went out on my own. I will forever be indebted to her.
What was your first union job?
My first union job was Elaine May’s Ishtar. On that show I learned just how crazy this business can be.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I am most proud of Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Both of these directors, working together with their brother John Gilroy as their editor, have made truly great films. The jobs were challenging, collaborative and in the end completely rewarding.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
The temp score for Michael Clayton was very difficult to crack. It took weeks to find any music that would appropriately play with the film. We finally did it and it helped inform the composer as to what would work.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I would have to say School of Rock. Richard Linklater is a joy to work with. I was brought on in pre-production because of the volume of music needed for the film.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
It would be great to be working with the Gilroy brothers, Richard Linklater or Chris Rock.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
I am an avid collector of antique taxidermy and I own two bars in Manhattan. They are Ninth Ward at 180 Second Avenue and Kingston Hall at 149 Second Avenue.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now,
Ace in the Hole by Billy Wilder, Coppola’s The Conversation and Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd. These are the movies that I will be able to re-watch forever. Why? The writing.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and True Detective. Once again, because of the writing — it is pristine.
Do you have an industry mentor?
That is certainly the aforementioned Ms. Suzana Peric.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
See lots of movies. Pay attention to what the music is doing in them. Find a music editor who is looking for an assistant. Be passionate.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I can't really think of any situation where the union has specifically helped me beyond always being there to protect me.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Enthusiasm and passion are priceless; they will always trump ambition. They will also invariably be recognized by those who can help your career.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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