The Brits who are making a big noise in Hollywood
Home-grown success in movie soundtracks is being given a business boost, reports Ian Burrell
Monday 29 March 2010
Just like British actors, the composers who are resident in these islands have a great track record in their contribution to Hollywood. It's just that they don't get the same recognition for it.
The best-known of all is the Yorkshireman John Barry, who gave us all the greatest Bond soundtracks – "Dr No", "Goldfinger", "Diamonds Are Forever", "The Man With The Golden Gun" were among his 11 scores for 007 films. He won five Oscars and four Grammys, his music adding to the critical acclaim of such films as Midnight Cowboy and Born Free.
But that tradition didn't end with Barry and his lyric-writing partner Don Black. Cutting Edge Group is at the forefront of a new British-led drive to provide the music for Hollywood.
The group is an amalgamation of the key British companies in film music supervision, which is the task of sourcing composers and selecting and clearing the rights to use recorded songs for use in a soundtrack. At its heart is the 40-year old London-based business Air-Edel, where Hans Zimmer (the composer of the score for Gladiator and more recently Sherlock Holmes) once worked making advertising jingles.
Maggie Rodford, Air-Edel's managing director, has worked as music producer, co-ordinator and supervisor of a wealth of hit films including Gosford Park and Pride & Prejudice. She recently produced the music for The Last Station, which featured Helen Mirren.
Within Air-Edel's roster of composers are Dario Marianelli, the London-based Italian who won an Oscar for the soundtrack to Atonement and also composed the score for the recent Robert De Niro movie Everybody's Fine, and Scotsman Patrick Doyle, who created the music for Bridget Jones's Diary, Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Cutting Edge also represents Neil Davidge, a producer for the band Massive Attack who has helped create the score for the new Ralph Fiennes film for Warner Brothers, Clash of the Titans.
Philip Moross, Cutting Edge Group's chief executive, says the contribution of British film composers deserves greater recognition. "The UK is creatively very important and a disproportionately high number of soundtracks on American-made films are produced by composers who either live in Britain or who are British and now live in America," he says.
"Music for film is not about notes on a page, it's about understanding the director's vision, listening to what he wants and combining the audio with the visuals."
Also beneath Cutting Edge's umbrella is Music Supervision, whose founder Liz Gallacher, has worked on more than 40 films including The Full Monty and the recent Oscar-winning The Cove. She is currently selecting the music for Cemetery Junction, a film about small-town Britain in the Seventies being directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
Gallacher has moved to Los Angeles with Cutting Edge and is also supervising the score to Barney's Vision, which stars Dustin Hoffman. "She is the best-known music supervisor in the UK," says Moross. "We've consolidated the marquee players in our world into one British company and people are starting to take note that a British company is making headway in the American marketplace."
Cutting Edge is about to start working on the music for the new Liam Neesom film Unknown White Male, which is being shot in Berlin. Meanwhile Moross has secured an arrangement with the Hollywood producer Joel Silver and his company Dark Castle Entertainment to supply music for his films. Silver's upcoming comic-book inspired film project The Losers, starring Zoe Saldana (best known as the blue-faced Neytiri in Avatar), will be released in America next month.
The film features the work of Californian composer John Ottman, but the music supervision of the project was overseen by Cutting Edge, which hopes to incorporate a track from the Scottish band Biffy Clyro adapting an Ottman composition into a rock format.
Many of the big Hollywood studios have traditionally supervised their film scores in-house but Moross is hoping that restructuring within the industry will provide new opportunities for Cutting Edge and its British composers. The group often secures music supervision rights for films by investing in nascent movie projects through a fund called Resonant, which it set up in 2008 with the investment fund manager Nicola Horlick.
"Everybody realises music is a very important ingredient in any visual medium. That goes for feature films but also for television programmes, computer games and advertising," says Moross. "We are trying to create an independent provider of music services across the visual world."
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