Notes from Cannes

Fall 2007


As I return from across the Atlantic, I am happy to report that our profession is alive and well and nowhere more revered and heralded than in the hearts and souls of our European colleagues. For the third year our organization has been a sponsor of the Film Music Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. In this endeavor, we have joined with our sister organizations in Europe, whose alliance The Federation of Film and Audiovisual Composers of Europe (FFACE) is responsible for creating this pavilion, which is dedicated to extolling the virtues of our craft.

At the urging of FFACE president, Bernard Grimaldi and the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund Administrator, Dennis Dreith and with the blessing of the Board of Directors, I provided for the first time, a physical presence for the SCL. Although skeptical at first as to how my attendance could add to our organization’s cachet, what soon became apparent was the significant place our country stands in the eyes of the European community, not only as a leader, past and present in film music, but with Hollywood as the undisputed center of the film world, my presence added a physical connection, reaffirming the SCL’s leadership role in representing our community.

In my five days there, the majority of my time was spent at the Pavilion, which had numerous highlights. The first day, SCL advisory member, Howard Shore spent time there discussing his multi-faceted career with those in attendance. He had been engaged in a panel the day before, and the afternoon provided an excellent opportunity to hear his thoughts on film music. Howard has always been concerned in advancing our profession, and among the many things that came out of our discussion was his interest in moves that could further enhance our bargaining position within the industry.

As Howard shared his concert appearances with us, it became apparent that a significant bi-product of his busy schedule is the elevation of our profession, along with the heightening of our prestige as film composers in the musical world as a whole. Our illustrious founding members such as David Raksin and former Composers and Lyricists Guild president, Elmer Bernstein would be proud to see the recent increase in the number of festivals that are showcasing our members’ work. Our great friend, Basil Poledouris conducted a festival orchestra at Ubeda, Spain last summer and Bruce Broughton, John Debney and Alan Silvestri, among many others are having suites performed throughout Europe.

One of the primary goals of the pavilion is to raise the awareness of the craft of film music. I took part in a round table discussion about how FFACE is reaching out to the composer community in their respective countries to raise the stature of our profession. Members from England, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and France have been active in education, much as a number of our SCL members have taught within our collegiate environment. FFACE has set up a task force to interface with the best universities in encouraging more programs to deal specifically with the discipline of film music. I indicated that we would be receptive to sharing some of our experiences in this area for our common good; programs not only for the film composer and songwriter, but equally important for the emerging film maker as well.

I had the opportunity to visit and interact with two colleagues from Norway. I was impressed that their organization was comprised of over five hundred members, although not all specifically involved with film music. One of these composers was active in a performing group of musicians whose ensemble utilized instruments made of ice; certainly the most unique form of musical delivery I encountered.

Chris Smith from England’s British Academy of Composers and Songwriters and I had an extended dialogue on intellectual property. In discussing the differences between our respective countries, I was reminded of the superior position that the European writers have found themselves in regarding copyright ownership. Whereas in the U.S., we as composers and songwriters have operated under the “work for hire” contract as independent contractors, with the studio or company being the author of record, our European counterparts have retained authorship over the years and in the majority of cases even retain publishing rights to their work as well. Regrettably, our American prototype is becoming more common in Europe and our colleagues are joining together through FFACE to try to protect the status quo and have been effective in many cases in thwarting this dissipation of rights. Fortunately the European model of receiving royalties for movie performances is still in effect and as Americans, we reap these benefits when our works are performed overseas. I also had the opportunity to speak to several of our colleagues about the dangers inherent in down loading and streaming. All felt that our collective interest could be served by recognizing that these are all issues that we as a global community can join together to find solutions for.

On Thursday, our U.S. contingency, which included Phil Ayling and Jen Kuhn from the Recording Musicians Association, and the ever eloquent, Dennis Dreith, presented an over-view of our respective organizations, which included a video presented by the RMA chronicling the evolution of a cue, using a composition from Hook by James Newton Howard as the example. I was given the opportunity to introduce those in attendance to the SCL and our presentations were followed by a question and answer session.

Perhaps the most memorable moment was walking the stairs as a collective body of composers. This red carpet event was made possible through the efforts of Stephen Melchiori and the Union of Film Music Composers (UCMF) from France. The procession was led by Ennio Morricone and included a majority of composers in attendance at Cannes. Following a screening of one of the contenders, We Own the Night, the maestro was celebrated at a black tie dinner. Maestro Morricone and I had the opportunity to visit that evening, as well as at a lunch in his honor the next day, hosted by the UCMF and their president, Gilles Tinayre. At a round table discussion, once again at the Pavilion, the Maestro spoke at length about his concern that composers be properly compensated for their work, and he talked specifically about the distribution of royalties on blank media sales. This is a revenue stream that American composers have not been participating in. SCL Board member, Garry Schyman has been hoping to rectify this situation and perhaps now is a good time to re-visit this issue. Maestro Morricone indicated several times of his pleasure at being honored at our Oscar reception with the SCL Lifetime member accreditation.

Following Cannes, I had the opportunity to attend a recording session in Madrid, where Alberto Iglesias was recording guitar tracks for the forthcoming Marc Forster film, The Kite Runner. Coincidently, I ended up on the plane ride back to the U.S. with him and was happy to hear that he is recording the orchestral tracks here at Warner Brothers with our great musicians. Later in the week, I had lunch with Javier Navarette in Barcelona, as he graciously took time during the last few days of writing the score for Jean-Jacque Annaud’s Sa majeste Minor, which is recording on the outskirts of that beautiful city. Both composers have expressed that one of the highlights of their respective Oscar nominations has been our SCL reception and having the opportunity to meet with their colleagues in an elegant setting, where our noble profession was the common thread.

The Film Music Pavilion was an unquestionable success and what became apparent to all of us was the similarities in issues that all of us have in common. As well as this most recent experience, I am fortunate to have met with representatives from composer organizations from Canada, Australia and New Zealand over the past year. As we move ahead into uncertain times, I feel that we will be closer to finding solutions to difficult challenges and raising the awareness and appreciation of our craft by uniting with the great talents throughout the world.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number Three, Fall 2007]