ASCAP Screen Music All-Stars Take Center Stage at Variety Summit

By Etan Rosenbloom, Director & Deputy Editor, Marketing & Communications  •  October 31, 2019

Variety brought out 11 major players in the ASCAP screen music community for its 2019 Music for Screens Summit, held October 29 at NeueHouse in Hollywood. ASCAP was a premier partner for the second annual event.

High Scorers: The Composer Roundtable, presented by ASCAP, convened six composers at the top of their craft for a wide-ranging discussion on the creative joys and business challenges facing composers today. Michael Abels discussed his unique collaboration with Jordan Peele on the films Get Out and Us (Peele wanted to be “freaked out” by Abels’s scores). One of the big focuses was how the streaming revolution has impacted the work of screen composers. Siddhartha Khosla explained that he values the extra time he has to perfect his scores for Looking for Alaska, compared to the 4-5 day turnaround time for each episode for This Is Us. Undone composer Amie Doherty pointed to the challenges of starting work too early in the production process: “I was actually scoring to live actors with no animation, then I’d get notes back from Amazon going “So, the music just missed the clouds shot. And I’m like ‘There’s a clouds shot?!’” Nicholas Britell spoke to the importance of composers protecting and educating themselves about their royalty streams. “The plumbing of the music industry is really complicated,” he said. “Organizations like ASCAP...are so crucial for that.”

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The Summit covered a tremendous amount of ground throughout the day, covering topics from sonic branding to music supervision, synch trends to kids’ music. On the opening Anatomy of an Original Song Campaign panel, 10-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren (“Till It Happens to You,” “I’ll Fight”) and Golden Globe-nominated songwriter Savan Kotecha (“Love Me Like You Do”) explained how they approach writing songs for films. Super-producer Ariel Rechtshaid went behind-the-scenes of re-“imagining” the Willy Wonka classic “Pure Imagination” for a Marriott campaign, with his company Heavy Duty Projects; the track has since gone viral.

On their Music for Kids Entertainment session, Rock Mafia songwriter Antonina Armato (The Addams Family, High School Musical) and Kay Hanley (Doc McStuffins, DC Super Hero Girls) found surprising commonalities beyond their expertise in crafting songs for kids: Hanley used to sing songs that Armato wrote for Hannah Montana when she was a backup singer on Miley Cyrus’s first solo tour.

ASCAP legend Robbie Robertson spoke eloquently about the connections between his music with The Band and his music for film, including Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman. “Storytelling in my songwriting has been there from the beginning,” he explained. “I’m sure I would have ended up a screenwriter or director if I hadn’t been bitten by the music bug. That connection still exists in my music.” Director and ASCAP member Cameron Crowe explained how he was able to bring so many iconic songs into the new musical adaptation of his film Almost Famous. “We made some phone calls,” he told Variety’s Chris Willman. “People like Joni Mitchell were kind to us - said ‘Good luck.’ She came on opening night, and loved the way that we used ‘River,’ which was an amazing thing to hear.” 

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