Los Angeles Film Festival Rounds Out its Schedule With 'Coffee Talks' Featuring Industry Creatives

The Los Angeles Film Festival rounded out its offerings of Lunch Talks, Porch Parties, and Other Events with 'Coffee Talks' this year at the Geffen's intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater venue.  Some of the industry's best actors, directors, composers, and screenwriters were lined up to offer their thoughts and insights about their respective crafts.

Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI's VP of Film/TV Relations, and composer Thomas Newman ("American Beauty," "Shawshank Redemption," "In The Bedroom")

The Geffen is a charming playhouse, complete with two lovely outdoor areas.  One of these spots, the Victoria and Ronald Simms Courtyard in honor of Ted Mann, features a Mediterranean garden feel, complete with a gurgling fountain of Italian tile.  A big olive tree stands nearby, adorned with Japanese paper lanterns

The Coffee Talk for composers featured Terence Blanchard ('Their Eyes Were Watching God'), Thomas Newman ('Shawshank Redemption'), and Harry Gregson Williams ('The Chronicles of Narnia') in conversation with Doreen Ringer-Ross, VP, Film/TV Relations for BMI.

Doreen Ringer Ross has held artist development positions at A&M Records, ABC Records, and MCA Records, and also worked in television production, producing a broad range of shows.  Her extensive knowledge of music and entertainment served well as she expertly led the group in conversation.

The composers were slated to discuss their creative processes, as well as current trends in film scoring for independent and mainstream films- but the conversation became even more intimate and informative as the composers talked about their challenges.

They were such a congenial group that they actually began asking each other questions, and it was wonderful to experience the participants becoming less like panelists and more like musicians and creative artists engaged in something like an actual 'coffee talk.'  They made themselves vulnerable about what they do and how they deal with their creative lifestyle and its challenges.

'I'm more (prone to) pain avoids,' Thomas Newman said in response to a question about working appropriately so that the composer will produce a score in keeping what the idea in the film director's mind.  'I'd rather be rejected in the workroom than on the podium.  There's a moment where the director squares off with the music.'

Thomas Newman won an Emmy for 'Outstanding Main Title Theme Music' for HBO's award-winning drama 'Six Feet Under.'  He has also received seven Oscar nominations for his film work.  He is known best for his ability to move 'effortlessly' from drama ('The Shawshank Redemption,' and 'American Beauty,' through a range to fantasy ('Finding Nemo,' and Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events').

Thomas spoke of hearing a remix of his music from 'American Beauty.'
'I was flattered and horrified,' he said.  'We don't own our own music, it's typically owned by the companies that hire you.'

New friends with composer Terence Blanchard (third from left) ("Inside Man," "Their Eyes Were Watching God," and "Eve's Bayou") and actress J. Karen Thomas (Who Killed the Electric Car)

'Post production is not as well thought through,' Terence Blanchard opined in response to a discussion about the fact that a film composer usually only receives a twelve-week contract- what would seem to be a rather short period of time to do all of the work that goes into scoring a major motion picture.

Blanchard won a Grammy nomination for his soundtracks for 'Mo' Better Blues'and 'The Heart Speaks.'  He also garnered a Golden Globe nomination for his score for Spike Lee's 'The 25th Hour.'  He is well known for his composing talents for television and film, but also for his abilities as a bandleader and a trumpet player.

The group talked about their childhood training and such to compare any patterns for the career decisions. 

'I was packed away at age 6 to a school started by Henry VIII,' Harry Gregson-Williams joked.  'I've never had a composition lesson in my life.'

Harry Gregson-Williams received the Composer of the Year Award from the 2005 Hollywood Film Festival.  He recently received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score for his music for 'The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,' based on the C.S. Lewis classic.

'The road is long and windy,' Gregson-Williams added.  '(Mine is) a career based on luck and genuine interest- and more to the love of music than to the love of movies.'

All of the panelists were so comfortable that the audience couldn't help but feel welcomed to ask 'anything and everything.'  Questions \ included a request for suggestions for those considering scoring films for a living.

The general consensus was that the art and craft of scoring a major motion picture is something that takes precedence- despite earnest attempts at otherwise keeping home life 'normal.'

Blanchard spoke of his daughter's attempts to get his attention with her own budding musical talents- and how difficult it sometimes is to take focus from a pressing work project and maintain an even flow of parental attention.  Growing 'older'- if one could say that of these buoyant youthful folk- presents its own challenges to a creative career.

'I'm learning that a lap around the field does not always equal a lap around the field,' Newman offered.  'Creative work is somewhat self-absorbed, and it takes discipline.  Remember,' he added, as though also telling himself, 'sleep is your friend.'

Photos 1 and 2 and text copyright M. D. Caprario

M.D. Caprario is a free lance writer working in NY, LA, and San Francisco


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