You’re a prolific music editor, whose credits include incredible titles like Pitch Perfect, Borat Subsequent MovieFilm, Sex & The City (1 and 2), Fifty Shades of Gray, Meet Joe Black and The Runaways, to name a few. How does a bass guitar band player and a songwriter become an in-demand music editor, who works on the biggest Hollywood films?
Wow. I love this question as it makes me look pretty badass! The truth is I wanted to be a rock star. By the age of 16. And I didn’t succeed at that goal.I started playing bass at 11 and wasn’t all bad by 16 honestly. Had been in a bunch of bands and even tried out for a famous all girl band in 1981. It wasn’t until I befriended Roy Thomas Baker, a record producer, who told me it was all about the songwriting and “just being a bass player in a band” wasn’t going to prove satisfying enough. Back then, he was right. Though one of my biggest regrets is not staying with being a solid bass player. At that time I did shift to songwriting. I was pretty awful for the first bunch of years. And on a side note, I just took a “songwriting class” with Ryan Tedder and learned SO MUCH. If only we had that kind of teaching at our disposal back then, I may have stayed with songwriting and not given up.
It wasn’t until a fluke of timing and the generosity of Ellen Segal and Bob Badami, who took me under their wings and offered me the chance to assist them as music editors, that I perhaps found my real calling: Music Editor. This mashed up all of my history and experience into this weird little job I had never even heard of.
I’ve been doing this since 1994 and I look forward to every single day…well, almost…
What are some of the ways a music editor can help a composer? Could you provide some examples from recent projects you’ve worked on?
There have been a few films recently that I have felt really valuable to the composer. I’d rather not get into names but I’ll see if I can describe why.
I’d like to think my temping abilities have gotten better over the years. And a good solid temp for spotting AND palette can be really helpful and time-saving for a composer, especially if there are time constraints OR money constraints. It’s a good jumping off point for the composer without all the back and forth of testing what works and what doesn’t (which can take a chunk of time). I also feel that my personality (fun to work with, confident, creative, honest) blends easily with the filmmakers thus making it a very comfortable post process. The team trusts me and therefore the work rises up instead of the drama (if that makes sense). Because in the end we’re all in it to make a great film. Period.
What do you like best about your job?
Temping. Temping. Temping. And the relationships. And the fact that each and every gig is wildly different so it feels like it’s a brand new job all over again. I don’t think I’ve been bored for one minute. Well, maybe waiting for something to download….
I also REALLY loved working on the 50 Shades Trilogy as I got to work with singers, songwriters, artists, and producers directly. We actually sat with Max Martin and wrote the film version of Love Me Like You Do IN THE CUTTING ROOM to picture. And got to shape and develop EARNED IT by The Weeknd from a cell phone demo.
You have much experience with Musicals and music-heavy projects, like the musical Pitch Perfect and Transparent’s Musicale Finale. This must be extremely challenging! Can you explain a bit about your approach with musicals- at what point do you come on board, what are your responsibilities there and what is the process?
Lip sync is hard. A cappella bands, even harder. Pitch Perfect kicked my ass. There should automatically be 3 music editors on each musical. One for ON CAM, one for songs and source and one for the score/composer. It’s a 3 ring circus for sure. And Pitch Perfect also had MASH UPS which we helped temp and create. So it was bonkers day and night.
Transparent was a bit different because I came on late and mostly had to deal with sync to picture with the editors and the music producer. It was tedious but lasted only a short amount of time due to the budget.
You’ve worked with some of the best composers and filmmakers in the business. What tips would you give for up and comers (both filmmakers and composers) who are about to start working with a music editor?
UTILIZE US. We’re here for you and the film.
My forte is not necessarily a composer’s music editor as I’m not a trained musician anymore and I don’t read or have a whole lot of theory behind me. But I’m a team player, an advocate, very in love with my job and here to help the process- so ASK.
And let’s ALL leave our ego and hurt feelings outside the door. Sometimes it’s my task to let the composer know cues aren’t working. Believe me it’s not a fun part of the gig. BUT IT HAPPENS. Just like a director asking an actor to do another take. Just do it. Who knows, the next version might be a whole lot better.
Interview by Nami Melumad
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