The Story Leads the Dance: An Interview with music supervisor G. Marq Roswell
By Jerry Flattum - 01/17/2003 - 11:29 AM EST
Sep 10, 2002, Author: Jerry Flattum - Reprinted with permission
G. Marq Roswell has his music supervisor priorities in the right place. Some industry critics and screenwriters might think the role of music supervisor is something akin to a song pusher. In some ways that's true. One job of a music supervisor is to find songs and place them in films. But when it comes to making movies, well, Roswell says it best, "The story in my opinion leads the dance."
Some movies don't need songs. Some scenes don't need music. A hit song can detract from a scene or a string of tunes might be chosen for the end credits just to push a publisher's catalog. Wrong choices can be made. A good music supervisor usually decides what's best for the film - with final say by the director.
G. Marq Roswell
Of course, soundtracks are often critical to the success of a movie and in many cases gain a life of their own. Some soundtracks do resemble a 'Greatest Hits' package. Other soundtracks are strictly instrumental, featuring the scores of a Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith or Hanz Zimmer - probably something your average teenager most likely wouldn't buy. But the motivation behind picking a Bob Dylan, Enya, a Bobby Darin classic or an original tune is not to push a publisher's catalog. That's the indirect benefit. The reason to choose a song is to enhance the story.
It is also true that both film companies and record labels know pop music sells and a song in a film can introduce audiences to new artists or make a comeback for an older one. It's important to remember the whole film thing started with the Jazz Singer - give or take a historical beat or two. Films are known for their scores and featured songs as much as for the story or actors. One cannot separate John William's threatening score from Jaws, or Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. It's a true collaborative process.
It's about aesthetics. It's about art. And any negative criticisms about the commercialism aspects apply only when the wrong artistic choices are made.
There are business considerations, like negotiating artist deals, master recording and synchronization licenses, and budgets. Sometimes a song by a big name artist can cost a half million to a million dollars. But if that's a complaint, then why pay A-list actors and actresses the big bucks? A Scorsese or Pacino film is no less of a selling point than a Goldsmith score or a tune by Eric Clapton.The point is not to argue art vs. commercialism.The point is to draw attention to wonderful contributions music makes to movies and how screenwriters, directors, actors, gaffers and music supervisors are all a part of the same team.
Finding what music is right for a film is a daunting task, because a music supervisor not only has the entire history of pop music to weigh out but also the possibility that something new needs to be written. How do you know a classic Deep Purple tune would work over an Errol Garner tune, or why something from Tin Pan Alley as opposed to rap music? What about instrumental? What about silence? What is it about a story-or better yet, what is it that is missing from a story-that determines how songs and music will enhance a writer or director's vision?
Beyond songs and scores there is source music. Should actors lip sync or actually sing? What's playing on the radio in the background? What's on the TV? What if the actor is at a concert? What if he/she is singing in the shower? What if there's a marching band during a parade or younger sister practicing the viola? And practicing what? A pop tune? A classical concerto? What about scene transition? What about mood? What music will fit a lover's death, a funny junkyard dog, a speedboat chase or a Greek wedding?
Roswell attended UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. He was managing bands then and still does. He's into music publishing (Tanica Music) and band development. Along with Beacon Pictures, Roswell helped develop material for the Irish vocal group, The Coors, before they signed with Lava/Atlantic and went on to sell over 30 million records. He's worked with Beacon before: Airforce One, Bring It On, Family Man, Princess Caraboo and others. He signed Mountain Con in partnership with Sony, a Seattle-based rock and hip-hop collective produced by Tom Rothrock (Beck, Badly Drawn Boy).
Besides making movies 'sing,' he's launched and/or promoted pop careers, like Fine Young Cannibals (Tin Man), Enya (Sweet November) and many others. Some of the soundtracks from films he's supervised have gone on to sell multi-platinum, like The Commitments. For The Commitments, he traveled to Ireland to help put the band together-the movie is about an Irish soul band. For Playing God he went to London to research electronica music.
He negotiates with producers, directors, label execs, film scorers, bands, editors, actors and his wife probably finds CD's lying all over the place. Sometimes he hires outside music supervisors, oversees the film score in addition to songs, supervises soundtrack albums and recording sessions, and avoids interviews by taking vacations in Hawaii (just kidding).
Roswell also consults with Intertainer, an LA-based broadband entertainment network, cuts major label deals and supervises music videos. In Las Vegas, motorcycle enthusiasts can hear the score for the Guggenheim Museum's popular exhibit, 'The Art of the Motorcycle,' curated by G. Marq. He speaks at conventions and universities and has forayed into Broadway and TV, when he's got nothing else to do.
He balances tempos, support staffs, licensing logistics and mood swings like a top-notch circus juggler. Sometimes he picks songs before principal photography, other times he's improvising in mid-shoot, like a jazz pro in a dark smoky club somewhere in the East Village. He coaches actors on singing, prepares playback tapes for on-camera songs, and finds marching bands that can't play too well - an organic component of the scene, of course. He researches, he listens, he negotiates, and chances are, he sings and dances.
A scan of Roswell's film credits is a testament to his musical diversity, his ability to get along with numerous directors, producers and others, and a keen sense of knowing what is right for the film. It's impossible to list all his music supervision credits, but here's a sampling:
Spy Game (2001), Sweet November (2001), Pay It Forward (2000), End of Days (1999), The Hurricane (1999), For Love of the Game (1999), Varsity Blues (1999), Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), Playing God (1997), Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996), The Thing Called Love (1993), The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag (1992), Ladybugs (1992), Frankie and Johnny (1991), The Commitments (1991), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Wild at Heart (1990), The Blue Iguana (1988).
G. Marq Roswell just completed the music supervision for Auto Focus (Sony Pictures Classics), set for release in October 2002, directed by Paul Schrader (Affliction, The Comfort of Strangers, American Gigolo, Blue Collar and Cat People, and screenwriter of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ). Angelo Badalamenti wrote the score (Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart). The movie stars Greg Kinnear (Bob Crane), Willem Defoe (John Carpenter), Rita Wilson (Crane's first wife) and Maria Bello (Crane's second wife).
The story is about the mysterious death of Bob Crane, famed star of the 60's hit CBS TV series, Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971). Crane had a real life friend, John Carpenter, and together both lived a rather sordid, or perhaps free-spirited life--depending on your view of womanizing and capturing their exploits on video. Rumor has it the friendship is what led to Crane's murder in a Scottsdale, Arizona motel room in 1978. The pic is a Michael Gerbosi adaptation of Robert Gray Smith's book, The Murder of Bob Crane.
scr(i)pt: Auto Focus is set in the mid-60s to early 70s. Obviously, this sets a time. Deconstructing further, you're looking at Bob Crane's life, starting out as a musician, working for a radio station, hanging out in strip clubs. How did you go about finding the music for these scenes - licensing or originals?
Roswell: We followed the time line of the script. Most of the songs were time specific. We did, however, have Buster Poindexter record a song that Paul Schrader and Angelo Badalementi wrote that sounded like the breezy, hip early sixties. The melody was taken from the main theme of the movie. We recorded a few other pieces, including Reverend Horton Heat, King Cotton and a twisted smarmy song from Clem Snide.
scr(i)pt: The movie seems to have a dark side, or dark underpinnings. In juxtaposition with the other elements in the film, how did you address the music for this?
Roswell: Each music source scene dictated that we use a song that fit the scene and stayed with the general period. The period songs in the darker sections of the movie do not draw attention to themselves. Angelo Badalementi handled the dark underpinnings with his haunting score. 'Movin' by Brass Construction used in a club scene at Crane's lowest plays the fact that there is no one at the party.
scr(i)pt: Crane was also a 'child of the 60s,' so to speak. So, no doubt classic songs were picked. How and why did you pick the songs you picked?
Roswell: We looked for songs in each music scene that conveyed a sense of place and set a mood. As examples, we used 'Psychotic Reaction' by Count Five in the scene where Crane (Greg Kinnear) meets Carpenter (Willem Dafoe). We used 'Yes I'm Ready' by Barbara Mason in an introductory strip joint scene. 'Psycho' by the Sonics was used in a early party scene, Spirit's 'I Got A Line On You' in a later hippie party and 'I'm A Girl Watcher' backing a boob montage. Schrader knew it when he heard it.
scr(i)pt: What made you select this film to work on? Why is a story about Bob Crane interesting to today's audiences? How is this reflected in the music?
Roswell: I wanted to work with Paul Schrader. He is a master storyteller and a mythic character in film history. Also, I'm a big fan of Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. I happened to work with Dafoe and Angelo Badalementi on David Lynch's Wild at Heart. I think Crane's story is a truly American male story. He just took one turn too many and didn't know when to leave the party. I tried to capture the fun and abandon of his times.
scr(i)pt: How involved were the writers in the music selection process?
Roswell: The writer Michael Gerbosi had some ideas and suggestions about songs but as with most films the director, Schrader, was the final arbitrator. As a side note, I did try to include some of Michael's snappy dialogue on the soundtrack album. I think it would have added a unique dimension to the album but unfortunately we ran out of time.
scr(i)pt: Ever since the beginning of Hollywood, hit songs have played a critical role in creating the right emotion for the right scene or sequence, or, in the case of a theme song, the entire movie itself. How have things changed from the days of Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and Hoagie Carmichael?
Roswell: Many movies still follow the traditional approach of score and title song. The paradigm of the musical is still in tact whether its Yankee Doodle Dandy, West Side Story, Titanic or Moulin Rouge. Same principals apply, great songs and score that move the story along.
THE MOVIE MUSICAL ... OR SOMETHING LIKE IT
A big question is ... the musical. Just saying the words 'movie musical' sends shudders up and down many a Hollywood spine. Broadway is predominately revival city with very little new blood. Since the birth of MTV and the music video, it seems the combination of visual and audio is now relegated to 10 minutes or less of marketing videos designed to sell CDs. Still, out popped Moulin Rouge. Not only did it seem a fluke but took considerable risk in having period characters singing modern day songs. What an insane idea.
scr(i)pt: Why is Hollywood so unreceptive to the musical? Did Moulin Rouge kick open the doors or was it just a lark? What did you think about the use of modern songs for a period piece? And what about the musical numbers in films like The Mask, Sister Act, etc.? What about movies like The Cotton Club? Would you call The Commitments a musical? How about The Thing Called Love?
Roswell: Moulin Rouge was dead brilliant. The use of modern songs in the period piece was the genius, the opening club scene with all the songs hitting at once, now that's movie music. I also thought Bjork and Lars Van Trier's Dancer In the Dark was the best use of music in film in a long time. The Mask had Jim Carey; Sister Act is pretty straightforward like many of the Hollywood playback music scenes. The Cotton Club was ambitious. The Commitments was absolutely a musical. It had live vocals to playback, great songs, and a brilliant director who created an authentic feel that most musical movies don't have. Thing Called Love was also a musical, where we used live vocal to playback and lip sync. I had 72 country cues in that film and tons of on camera performances with actors.
scr(i)pt: Songs bring us back to a time and place; they evoke memories. The goal is to transport an audience to a particular time and place. A film about gangs in east L.A. is not going to have a roaring 20s score. When screenwriters write, they must have a sense of culture, a sense of time and place. What is it the screenwriter does not convey that only songs or scoring can?
Roswell: Songs and score are the other dimensions that finish the screenwriter's vision.
scr(i)pt: Like a set designer, you are a sonic designer. Could a movie work without music?
Roswell: Sometimes silence is more powerful than sound or music. It would depend on the film.
scr(i)pt: Some movies take place before CDs and even cassettes, where records were scratchy. Isn't this important to capture to invoke a sense of realism - a sense of time and place?
Roswell: If it is a scene where you actually see the record playing, then it is important to hear it in its sonic realism.
scr(i)pt: When you read the script for a movie, what criteria do you use in selecting music, whether it's songs or underscoring?
Roswell: Usually when I first read a script, I get a definite feeling about the general direction of the songs and who might be appropriate to score the picture.
scr(i)pt: Do you just read the script or do you also consult with the writer?
Roswell: Sometimes I have the luxury of consulting with the writer or the writer has been very specific about songs. Certain writer/directors have a clear idea about their music. At that point we are facilitators and sounding boards.
scr(i)pt: Do you use 'breakdowns' in the search for music? Do you send these breakdowns to labels or publish in tip sheets?
Roswell: Lately I have been posting the song breakdown on my web site. It cuts down on phone conversations. It gets me back to listening. I will talk directly to the songwriters or artists when it moves to that point.
scr(i)pt: If you do consult with the writer, are there ever conflicts with what the writer wants--even if you don't consult--with what the producer and/or director wants?
Roswell: Everybody usually has different ideas. Historically, the director wins or he takes his ball home. The original screenwriters are sometimes long gone by the time I get on a film or if they are involved in the production process, they can be very helpful to me.
scr(i)pt: Are there ever times when a writer hates the score? Does a writer have any final say before the film is released in terms of the score?
Roswell: If the writer has creative leverage or a close and respectful relationship with the director then he will have an opinion that will have an effect. Many times it goes the same way as the final film. The writer is not always happy with the outcome, I'm sure it's the same way with the music.
scr(i)pt: What happens when source music can't be licensed? Do you call the writer or does the producer/director? Do you offer alternatives in that case?
Roswell: It is important to have many musical options in every music scene. I do that both creatively and practically. The licensing issues are more complicated and songs are more expensive each year.
scr(i)pt: When you hire songwriters and/or bands to create original songs, do you just give them a synopsis or do they read the script?
Roswell: Sometimes they read the script and many times they only want a synopsis. Either way I try to communicate what the director is looking for in that particular scene. It usually makes for better and more interesting material.
scr(i)pt: Are writers appreciative of the work you do?
Roswell: I would hope so. I'm a big fan of the written word. I'm just a part in making the story come alive.
scr(i)pt: And directors? Alan Parker, director for The Commitments, also did Evita, Fame and Pink Floyd's, The Wall.
Roswell: Alan Parker may be the most brilliant director I have worked with. He understands every aspect of his film with a keen ear to the music. He is one step ahead of each department. There are only a handful of directors at this level.
scr(i)pt: I assume there are writers/directors-writers/producers who are more music savvy than others... any examples?
Roswell: Well obviously, Paul Schrader, Alan Parker, David Lynch, Baz Lurman, Cameron Crowe, Wes Anderson, Michael Apted, Barry Levinson, Mike Figgis, Oliver Stone, Lars Van Triers, Robert Wise, Quentin Tarentino, Marty Scorsese, Tim Robbins and the Cohen's, the list goes on.
scr(i)pt: To stress the importance of songs and scores for movies, all one has to do is imagine a movie without music. Yet, it seems writers write scripts'with the exception of source music or musicals'without any regard for the score. Is this no different than writers not being concerned about photography, set design, special effects, etc.? Should they be concerned? How would this improve the overall quality or success of a film?
Roswell: If the screenplay works on all levels, I think the music will take care of itself when the time comes. Some screenwriters are more musically minded including songs in their early drafts, making songs an integral part of the screenwriting process or getting their inspiration for writing from listening to songs.
scr(i)pt: In other words, would a more interactive involvement with you be better or is it better to have everyone stay in his or her respective corners, so to speak?
Roswell: Interactive collaboration is always better' that's the medium we're in.
scr(i)pt: Has a record company, artist or publishing house ever refused to license music or generate original music because of the reputation of the writer? Or, do they need to see a script before OK'ing release, licensing or creation?
Roswell: We send out a request letter to all the publishers and record companies outlining budget, director, cast, and studio for the specific song. Price or inability to find an obscure writer or publisher is usually the reason we don't get the license. Sometimes we will send the script depending on the use and the stature of the song. Sometimes a song will be denied if it is used in a violent or sexual scene. We had a couple of instances with Auto Focus but dodged the bullet. In Spy Game, we were almost turned down on an Arab tune based on the portrayal of Arabs in the scene. Because the song was used in the right context it was ultimately approved.
scr(i)pt: What do you do when a scene calls for the actor to whistle or sing a tune in the shower but the writer did not specify which tune?
Roswell: Speak to the director and the actor and see if they have a preference. In most cases, I will suggest a number of songs to choose from. I have worked with many actors in these situations. Nick Cage, Kevin Costner, River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Andrew Strong, etc. I love that part of the process.
scr(i)pt: The Commitments is special (won numerous awards)'tell me about how this came together. The script must've called for a significant amount of source music as well as classic R&B hits? Did you collaborate with the writer?
Roswell: Dick Clement and Ian La Franais had noted a number of the songs in the script. I researched songs for close to a year. We had a short list of 1000 songs. Alan Parker made all the final song choices for the band and the source songs. The casting and producing of the tracks went hand in hand. Because it was live vocal to playback, it required having all the tracks recorded, songs cleared before production began. The songs were the score.
scr(i)pt: When a song defines a scene, (like 'Old Time Rock and Roll' did for Tom Cruise in Risky Business), who decided on that song (Use an example from your own credits)?
Roswell: Usually the director decides with the actors input. Sometimes it is noted in the script and it stays. Nick Cage sang, 'Love me Tender' in Wild at Heart. David Lynch and Barry Gifford called that shot. River Phoenix sang a Harlan Howard song, ' Blame it On Your Heart' in The Thing Called Love. When he heard it, he knew that was the song for him. Chris Farley and David Spade sang a Carpenter's song in Tommy Boy.
scr(i)pt: By now, I'm sure you have far more respect in terms of creative control than when you started--how frustrating a journey has it been? You know your music'but a producer or director does not necessarily. What do you do when you know the choices they are making are entirely wrong? Do you ever have recourse with the writer?
Roswell: In every movie, I have a frustrating moment or two'some worse than others. End of Days was particularly frustrating. The writer was on my side but we were not able to use the slamming source music and remixed score the way we envisioned it. In our opinion, it would have directly affected box office performance. I had a Jewel song for the last scene of Pay It Forward that was sublime, and Bob Dylan singing on a Roots track for The Hurricane. Politics always plays the spoiler in the creative process.
scr(i)pt: Is there any advice you might have when it comes to source music or should a writer just go ahead and call for what they feel is right for the story or scene?
Roswell: Absolutely! It helps everyone if the screenwriter notes great source music. Go with whatever works in the scene. Let the powers that be worry about the logistics. Don't edit yourself.
scr(i)pt: I guess one of the biggest conflicts in what you do is music over story, or story over music--can you talk about that a bit?
Roswell: Story in my opinion leads the dance.
scr(i)pt: When a scene requires a character to write an original song because he/she plays the part of a musician in the film, do screenwriters often write the lyrics but not the music in cases like this?
Roswell: Many screenwriters do write the lyrics and collaborate with the composer or a songwriter.
scr(i)pt: Sometimes you have to do this before principal photography begins'that means you're under pressure to deliver pre-recorded music by such and such a date, right? And with the logistics of writing the tune, recording, mixing, mastering'this can be pretty hairy, huh?
Roswell: As mentioned, this is the most challenging aspect of what is required of a music supervisor/producer. Find it, record it and clear it, and have it work authentically'yeah, it's nuts!
scr(i)pt: You really have to be intimately involved with the script, especially when you're not answering to record company pressure and you're working directly with a composer (film scorer). You need to decide where there are songs and where there is underscoring. You determine what, if any, source songs will best enhance particular scenes and sequences in a picture. So in a way, you ARE a collaborator with the screenwriter, right?
Roswell: We are definitely collaborators with the screenwriter in delivering his or her total vision.
scr(i)pt: What are some of the intricacies involved in working with music coordinators, music editors and the composers. Shit gets cut. Something can't get licensed. A record company steps in. A band bows out. What happens when the source music conflicts with the audio-vision of the composer? You've got a stressful job I'd say?
Roswell: This is the hot seat puzzle. It's like herding feathers. You have to be part politician, quarterback, general, priest, Zen master and bulldog. Can you stand in the heat of a blowtorch?
scr(i)pt: You've achieved considerable success not just in what you do but the overall success of many movies because of the songs, scores and soundtracks'like the work you did on Varsity Blues and Slums of Beverly Hills, amongst others'do you think screenwriters are aware of your contributions?
Roswell: I would hope so. Small films and high profile films require the same pilgrimage to quality and verve.
scr(i)pt: Music for film is like a silent art'sounds like an oxymoron. Do you think this has been a driving force in using music that gets noticed by moviegoers, like using songs from well-known pop and rock bands?
Roswell: Sometimes the wrong loud music can pull you out of the film experience.
scr(i)pt: Attempting to get film executives to appreciate why composers and source songs are worth shelling out some cash for is often an arduous process (but one well worth the effort for truly talented supervisors who value how the right music can literally make or break a film). Are film execs music savvy or clueless?
Roswell: Some executives are extremely helpful in negotiating the treacherous waters to deliver the right songs or unique score to a film. But as always, there are some moments when grace under pressure would help.
scr(i)pt: Do screenwriters or others sometimes think of you as a fixture'an add-on'a way to increase the salability of a film but not really an artistic contributor? (Some films can't be imagined without an associated score or song, like 'My Heart Will Go On' with Titanic, the scores of Jaws or Godfather, or 'To Sir, With Love' to use an older example).
Roswell: It depends on film. Sometimes a great score is all that is required.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
scr(i)pt: You have input by producer, director, and record label. How does the label get involved? How does it know a Sheryl Crow tune would work; or do they? Do you tell them or do they tell you?
Roswell: The label suggests artists that they think might be appropriate to write for the film or have a track ready to go. It is a curious dynamic. The film needs the marketing of a hit artist and in many cases is looking for an advance to shore up their music budget. Only in rare circumstances do the stars line up for everything to work as one animal. 'Lady Marmalade' for Moulin Rouge worked and was not an intrusion, Destiny's Child's hit for Charlie's Angels worked out for everyone. The best axiom is serve the movie first and the album will surprise the nay sayers. O' Brother Where Art Thou and The Commitments proved that theory.
scr(i)pt: The business of writing original songs for film is about creating a custom fit and feel to enhance a scene or sequence. If you can find the perfect already-existing master (and can afford to license it) that's cool; but the advantage of hiring a songwriter is that one can tailor a song in real time and make changes or adjustments as needed. But like some musical numbers in musical theater, the lyrics are so wedded to the script or dialog that being a pop tune is impossible. This doesn't seem to happen in movies, right? In other words, songs are written to stand alone?
Roswell: The best example is Badly Drawn Boy's score and songs for About A Boy. Everything worked perfectly on it's own and in the film.
scr(i)pt: How much of your supervising process is the result of cross-marketing concerns (movies associated with music superstars or lesser music stars catapulted via the success of the movie) versus artistic concerns?
Roswell: That's the end game; hopefully we can make it all work. Discovering a new or established artist hit that compliments the film and helps put people in the seats is always the thought.
scr(i)pt: What determines whether you go with a superstar as opposed to an unknown songwriter/band? I know there are budgetary constraints in some cases but what about the script itself and how does this determine what to do?
Roswell: It all comes down to the record company soundtrack deal. The only chance you have with a superstar artist and singles rights is having the soundtrack deal at their label. Even then there is no guarantee and get the checkbook out.
scr(i)pt: I would assume there are times when you have songs written for movies but they never get used. Do you get chances to use them later?
Roswell: Mostly that is the best scenario for the artist. Many songs written for films end up on the artist's next album or become the direction for finishing an album. In Tin Men, we used the Fine Young Cannibals who had not been able to finish their album. The song 'Good Thing' from the film was a number one hit and led to 'She Drives Me Crazy.'
scr(i)pt: You must receive 100s of demos for song placement, film scorers and production houses. Do you ever receive scripts before the studio? Do you ever try and sell a script or idea to a studio or do they come to you first?
Roswell: I have had screenplays optioned at studios mostly music driven. I have also been attached to a project before all the funding is in place to help sell the music possibilities of the project.
scr(i)pt: You're a juggler in a sense that some songs, public domain for instance, might be public domain in the U.S. but not overseas, or there might be a copyright on a specific arrangement. But then, does a writer need to worry about this?
Roswell: No, leave it to the clearance process. Put in the best songs so that the script is the most comprehensive.
scr(i)pt: How digital are you? What services do you use and why? Do you negotiate personally? Does the cost of a length of segment determine your selection--are you budget-restricted? Are major or unknown artists a criteria in your selection based on cost? Or is it what the movie calls for? When does a movie call for a Madonna tune as opposed to some dance/pop neophyte?
Roswell: We use ASCAP, BMI, Harry Fox and numerous web sites for research. I have a clearance person I work with on every movie and jump into the negotiations when the going gets more difficult. Budget affects the options. But if you really want something and the project is quality, you can get major artists to cooperate. We got love from the major publishers and record companies on Auto Focus due to its low budget status, the quality of the project and my buying power by virtue of the fact that I license songs for big budget films. I always look for new talent whether I have the budget or not.
scr(i)pt: From production music libraries to Billboard's 100 to your own CD collection, how do you mine all these sources? You must have a staff, right?
Roswell: I have a staff of five I work, coordinators, clearance, and new media. That number can grow depending on the number of projects I have at the time.
scr(i)pt: Do you deal with extra musical components like hiring marching bands, choirs, wedding bands or other musicians featured IN the film?
Roswell: I have used all of the above in the film I've been involved in. The most important aspect is that they are authentic to what they play. It is then seamless in the scenes.
scr(i)pt: I believe a driving force behind many artists is the need to make something that will last. Being 'current' seems to be a priority. I mean, you, the producer, the writers, the songwriters, must all have a marketing side to your personalities that say, 'There is an audience out there that will go for this.' Why Spider Man in 2002? Why Titanic in 1998? And do you sometimes battle between a script that takes place somewhere in the past yet having a score that is current? Do you have new artists write old songs? Or if the piece is set in the 70s, is it then a question of licensing songs from that era?
Roswell: What ever is right for the film and helps the director's vision is where I keep my concentration. I use no steadfast rule. I have used new bands to cut old songs and written old songs to sound like new songs. Timeless songs that work because they are great. It all depends on the director and the material as to whether a novel approach to the music will work.
scr(i)pt: What made The Commitments, Spy Game or any of the other movies you supervised right for the time? Obviously you're keeping your eye on the Billboard 100 and the commerciality of selling a movie as well as a soundtrack is far greater with a 'hot' artist than a soundtrack of oldies. But then an oldies track can sell quite well also. But when is Britney Spears over? Is Michael or the Stones or Van Morrison no longer in vogue? Is what's in vogue'what's on the magazine covers'what everyone shoots for? In other words, get 'em while they're hot?
Roswell: Just look to Wes Anderson and the Cohen Bros. movies to see all bets are off. Good is good. Sometimes a great end title pop/hip hop song can capture the spirit of the film and work for everyone. Whatever works organically for that type of film.
CHOOSING THE FILMS YOU WORK ON
scr(i)pt: Is there any kind of movie you would not do? And I'm not referring to porno, industrial, or anything other than major studio releases. What about TV? Is there a subject matter that's taboo for you? Why? When you're called for a job do you then ask to read the script before signing on? You obviously have a track record now and any script or offer made to you is coming from well-established studios. It's reasonable to assume the next film to be released by these studios is going to be successful. Sure not all films reach expectations, like Sweet November or End of Days. But for the most part, when Universal or Paramount decides to do a movie, it has a much better chance of commercial success than an independent film or a script not affiliated with a major studio.
Roswell: My criteria are simple. I try to move to a different musical palette on each film and work with directors that are truly talented. The diversity of my work shows in my decisions and keeps me from getting pigeonholed. The Hurricane, Auto Focus, Spy Game, Varsity Blues, Playing God, The Commitments, Love Of The Game, Pay It Forward, Tommy Boy, Wild At Heart, etc., all reflect this idea. A studio release helps the process but I try to base it on the material and the talent.
For more detailed information on Auto Focus go to: http://www.sonyclassics.com/autofocus/
For more detailed information on G. Marq Roswell go to: http://www.gmarqroswell.com
LEGAL: Laurie Soriano, Mannatt, Phelps & Phillips 310.312.4138
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Flattum. In addition to numerous songs, Jerry wrote the first action adventure sci-fi musical screenplay, Time Travelers in the Celestial Age. Also, Loserville, the story of an out-of-work acrobat who mounts advertising on outdoor billboards, turns hero, and saves Las Vegas from a terrorist. His book, Bridge On Fire: A Holistic Journey in Song Creation, explores song creation from the technical, social and entertainment industry perspectives. He holds a Masters in Liberal Studies and a unique self-designed BS in Popular Music and Songwriting (Phi Kappa Phi)--Univ. of Minnesota. He's worked for CBS, Samuel French Play Publishers and the National Music Publishers Association/Harry Fox Agency, has numerous freelance writing credits and extensive performance as a singer/keyboardist with bit roles in film, theater and comedy. His website, http://www.SoulStarGalaxy.com, will launch in 2003. Email: email@example.com.
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