Keeping Score: The Music in Movies

by TJ Ducklo 06/18/2013 13:34 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The music in movies can often be as important as the characters themselves. What would Jaws be without the iconic “Duh duh” string melody? Who couldn’t hum the Star Wars theme right now on cue? And would 007 look as awesome jumping from trains without his signature accompanying tune? In the latest in a series of events that celebrate the creators and makers behind film and television, the MPAA, together with CINE, hosted two experts in the field of music scoring and supervision to share their knowledge and discuss their craft. Dan Carlin and George Clinton, each the Chair of the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television department at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and Boston’s Berklee School of Music respectively, joined Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday for an educational and fascinating conversation on the music scores and soundtracks we hear in movies.

Clinton is a composer by trade whose work on film scores has appeared in the Austin Powers series, Mortal Kombat series, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and many others. Carlin is an Emmy® award winning music editor, conductor, music supervisor, and soundtrack producer on such Oscar®-winning films as The Black Stallion and Last of the Mohicans. They each brought a different perspective to the discussion to give the audience a complete view on how it all works. 

Clinton described his creative process and some of the new challenges he faces as a composer:

“The most important meeting a composer has is the spotting session- where we actually pick where the music should go in the movie. After that meeting, I’ll go away and I’ll write for two weeks. I’ll sit at my house at my studio at the piano, and after I’ve seen the movie several times, start to come up with some thematic material. I’ll pick a scene I think is going to work, and I’ll jam to that scene over and over again, trying to emotionally connect and have it be an instinctive reaction rather than an intellectual one.

And I’ll show it to the director and producers, and we’ll go back and forth until I record with the orchestra. But one of the unfortunate things about film these days is that they keep editing right up until the very last minute. There used to be a thing called a locked picture, now there’s not even a latched picture. Scoring these movies now is like trying to fit clothes on a running man.” 

Carlin, as an editor, producer, and music supervisor, has a different musical role than Clinton and is often tasked with searching for the appropriate existing song that evokes the desired emotion or fits the right cinematic moment. He emphasized the importance of working with other creative minds in this process:

“Collaboration is what I love about Hollywood. You’re on the team. If anyone’s got an idea, throw it out and if it’s good, it sticks and if it’s not, we move on. But let’s involve as many people as possible.”

When asked by Hornaday if there is any song he cannot stand to hear again, Carlin answered in the same spirit of his previous answer: “If it’s been a good experience, if you do it right through collaboration, you never get tired of hearing it.”

Dan Carlin and George Clinton serve as important examples of the thousands of dedicated, talented people who work every day to entertain audiences across the globe using their craft. The industry is full of gifted artists like Dan and George, and the MPAA looks forward to continuing to celebrate the creative community’s work through future events. 


From left to right: Ann Hornaday, George Clinton, and Dan Carlin

From left to right:Dan Carlin, Ann Hornaday, and George Clinton

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

MPAA and Capitol File Welcome Kevin Spacey

by TJ Ducklo 05/13/2013 09:24 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Fresh off of his now viral cameo appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, two-time Academy Award®-winning actor Kevin Spacey was back in Washington and at the MPAA last week for a special evening honoring his career and philanthropic work. Together with Capitol File magazine, who featured Spacey on their most recent Power Issue, the MPAA played host to the real life Verbal Kint, Lester Burnham, Jack Vincennes, and of course, Congressman Frank Underwood for a lively discussion moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer were also in attendance.
Spacey’s illustrious film career includes winning the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects and Best Actor for American Beauty, as well memorable performances in Casino Jack, Swimming with Sharks, Se7en, LA Confidential, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Negotiator, The Shipping News, Superman Returns, Beyond the Sea, 21, Horrible Bosses, and Margin Call. For the past decade, Spacey has been the Artistic Director of The Old Vic Theatre Company in London, overseeing all productions on the main stage and appearing in many as well. And most recently, he served as executive producer and star of the Netflix political drama House of Cards, playing the smooth-talking, ethically challenged House Majority Whip Frank Underwood.
MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd opened up the evening, drawing an interesting comparison between his and the guest of honor’s professional origins:

“My political career had a fairly typical beginning. I graduated college, joined the Peace Corps, served in the army, practiced law for a while, and then was elected to the House of Representatives. Kevin, on the other hand, started off as a subway thief at age 27 in Heartburn, in his thirties became the most feared criminal mind in the world in The Usual Suspects, then in his forties sat on death row in The Life of David Gale, and now he is serving as the House Majority Whip from South Carolina.”
Capitol File President and Editor-in-Chief Sarah Schaffer, the event’s co-host, commented that “our readers are just obsessed with House of Cards," a major reason the publication featured Spacey on their most recent cover. She added she believes the show’s popularity is “a testament to Kevin’s keen ability to pull back the curtain and expose a character’s true humanity.”
Spacey and Matthews discussed a variety of topics, from how he reads a script to the evolution of television as a storytelling medium to his passion for theater and the importance of arts to our youth. For this Washington DC audience, however, his latest work in House of Cards dominated the conversation: “Politics is always ripe for drama,” said Spacey.
Spacey also spoke on one of the most unique aspects of his new show, his character routinely breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly into the camera: “I first did it during a play, and I remember the glee, the naughtiness of it. It’s such an interesting area to be with an audience, to see what they are willing to accept.” 
Finally, in a time when audiences have more ways to watch their favorite movies and TV shows than ever before, Spacey offered his own take on House of Cards as the first original series to use Netflix as a delivery mechanism: “Give the people what they want, when they want it, at a reasonable price, and they'll watch it, and they won't steal it.”

From Left to Right: Sarah Schaffer, Senator Chris Dodd, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer asks a question to Kevin Spacey

Photo Credit: Alfredo Flores

On Eve of WHCD, Industry Leaders Celebrate Creativity

by TJ Ducklo 04/30/2013 07:47 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

“There is a desperate need for creativity here in Washington,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to open up Friday’s Creativity Conference, an event co-hosted by the MPAA, Microsoft, and TIME Magazine and intended to examine how technology and the creative arts are driving American innovation. “There is certainly a tradition of creativity in America. We are the creative capital of the world, and I believe it is the government’s role to provide a platform…for the growth of creativity.”

The four hour conference, held in the intimate Corcoran Art Gallery amphitheater, featured fascinating conversations on a range of issues from how technological innovation has shifted the consumer landscape, to the intricacies of the filmmaking process, to the role of creativity in the education system. 

Leader Cantor was joined by Harvey Weinstein, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, Beasts of the Southern Wild  Director Benh Zeitlin, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger, New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni, Sony Chief Digital Strategy Officer Mitch Singer, TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel, and other leaders from the political, entertainment, business, and media sectors.

Both Harvey Weinstein, as a filmmaker, and Richard Plepler, as a subscription-television executive discussed the creative process and how they make creative decisions. Weinstein noted his particular interest with the process itself: “The creative process is in a lot of my movies…I’m fascinated with the process,” he said. He pointed out past films Frida, the 2002 biopic on painter Frida Kahlo, and Shakespeare in Love (1998) as examples of celebrating the creative process through characters in his movies. Similarly, but from a different angle, Plepler described his experience in working with creators and how his platform is able to make creative decisions on particular shows: “The secret sauce to the HBO culture is creating an environment where people can tell their stories.”
Former President Bill Clinton closed the conference with characteristically insightful remarks on the wide purview creativity covers in our everyday lives, and stressed the important of cooperation through creativity moving forward: “The future will reward most richly those who are creative and cooperative,” said Clinton, adding “we’ve got a lot to learn, and the creators have to lead us there.”

For a weekend that so closely ties the creative industry with the political arena, Friday’s Creativity Conference provided a venue to explore some of the substantive issues at the crux of these two worlds. To watch a replay of the full conference, click here.


Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Harvey Weinstein

From Left to Right: Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel and HBO CEO Richard

President Bill Clinton

From Left to Right: TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel, Microsoft VP U.S. Goverment Affairs Fred Humphries, and Senator Chris Dodd

Photo Credit: Laurence Genon

MPAA Hosts "The Sundance Kid"

by TJ Ducklo 04/24/2013 15:05 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the book All The President’s Men detailing the Watergate scandal, which inspired the Academy Award®-winning film starring Robert Redford. On Friday night at the MPAA, Redford spoke about the his role in that film while discussing his distinguished career as an actor, director, and producer and the roots of the prestigious Sundance Institute. Bob Woodward, former Washington Post reporter and co-author of All The President’s Men, was in attendance, as was current Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday who moderated a discussion with Redford and MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd.
Redford recalled his interest in the Watergate scandal began even before President Nixon had left office, having read initial stories by Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Speaking about All the President’s Men, Hornaday remarked that she “could not think of a film that has fused so well with the actual event.” Redford, who was an Executive Producer in addition to starring in the film, said his initial goal before casting himself and Dustin Hoffman was to “film it with two unknowns” so the audience focus would be on the film's story and not the actors.
Senator Dodd later acknowledged that Redford’s greatest contribution to the film community is arguably not his on-screen accomplishments, but rather his off-screen achievement in establishing the Sundance Institute. Redford created Sundance, in 1981 to “foster independence, discovery, and new voices in American film.” Senator Dodd, who was a newly elected Senator from Connecticut in 1981, served on the first Board of Trustees for the Institute and has supported its growth ever since. 

In his own words, Redford commented Friday night on why he started the organization:

Success for me has a dark side. I wanted to appreciate it, it’s an honor. But I didn’t want to embrace it for too long. I’ve always wanted to be moving and trying new things. When I had success at the Oscars (in the early 1980s), rather than ride this horse, I'm going to do something else. That led to the idea of starting an independent film lab.

Redford added that once it appeared the venture would be successful, it became obvious they needed a way to disseminate their independent product out into the world. “We need a festival,” he said. “We need to create a community, to get everyone together and create opportunities.” In 1985, Redford’s group held the first annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which is now one of the premier gatherings of filmmakers and emerging artists in the world. 

From Left to Right: Ann Hornaday, Senator Chris Dodd, and Robert Redford


Robert Redford


Photo Credit: Kris Connor

A Look at CinemaCon

by TJ Ducklo 04/19/2013 10:48 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Please silence your cell phones, the feature presentation will begin soon. Theater darkens, crowd quiets, and you leave reality behind for a few hours, allowing yourself to be transported by the stories on the screen. Here at CinemaCon, the annual convention hosted by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), we celebrate the moviegoing experience that only a movie theater can provide. The conference features an impressive trade show, seminars, previews of studios’ upcoming slates, and a wide-range of industry related panels and sponsored events that explore the important issues facing the film and television industry.

The atmosphere was certainly buzzing with excitement over the summer movie slate, and with good reason. Super heroes are back in full force as the weather turns warm with Warner Bros’ Man of Steel, Disney’s Iron Man 3, and 20th Century Fox’s The Wolverine. Sci-Fi thrillers like Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness and Sony’s After Earth are capturing movie fans’ imaginations and an all-star cast returns for Universal’s Despicable Me 2. Brad Pitt (World War Z), Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2), Johnny Depp (Lone Ranger), and a host of directors were on hand as well promoting their upcoming work.

On Tuesday, together with NATO President John Fithian, MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Dodd announced the launch of the “Check the Box” campaign, a new effort aimed at emphasizing the importance of ratings descriptors and reminding parents about how the ratings system can be used to make smart viewing decisions for families. Senator Dodd penned a recent Huffington Post blog that goes into further detail, and you can watch the campaign’s newly unveiled PSA here.  

At the Filmmaker’s Forum on Wednesday, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, and Oliver Stone spoke about their love of horror films, the magic of the theater experience, and the art of storytelling in a fascinating panel. Del Toro comments: “What you want as a storyteller is to evoke emotion. The horror is not people loving or hating your movie, it’s indifference”.

The forum also included the premier of a new meet-a-maker video by the MPAA sponsored content site TheCredits.Org. The Credits is dedicated to the world behind the camera, and often highlights the hard work of the various individuals it takes to create a film through the meet-a-maker video series. In honor of CinemaCon, the site focused the entire week on celebrating the American movie theater experience and capped it off with this fantastic profile of AMC Lincoln Square 13 General Manager Amy Hunter.

Below are a few images from the week. An enormous thanks to our hosts at NATO for coordinating yet another exceptional tribute to world of film and moviegoing. For more in-depth coverage from CinemaCon, go to

NATO President John Fithian (left) and Senator Dodd (right) announce the "Check the Box" campaign

from left to right: Salma Hayek, Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Kevin James promoting Sony's Grown Ups 2

from left to right: Sam Raimio, Oliver Stone, and Guillermo del Toro at the Filmmakers Forum

photo credit: Ryan Miller, Lead Photographer, Capture Imaging, Inc. at CinemaCon

The Untold Story of “The Invisible Men”

by TJ Ducklo 03/20/2013 15:52 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The MPAA, together with The Embassy of Israel to the US, The Human Rights Campaign, and A Wider Bridge hosted a screening Tuesday night of “The Invisible Men”, a documentary that sheds light on the largely unknown population of gay Palestinian refugees hiding in Tel Aviv. Winner of several international film festival awards, it has been called a darker “Huck Finn” of the Middle East for its social importance, exposing and personalizing an unpleasant but very real issue of persecution based on sexuality in the region.

The film’s writer, director, and producer Yariv Mozer was on hand Tuesday evening and answered questions following the screening. Mozer has produced more the 15 documentaries, including the award winning “My First War”, a first-person account of the Second Lebanese War, and is currently working on his first feature film “Snails in the Rain”. Mozer said many from his homeland have reacted positively since watching his film: 

“I have received numerous phone calls, texts, and Facebooks telling me thank you, saying that I opened their eyes and showed them something happening among them that they did not know.”

The Honorable Dan Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State and Noam Katz, Minister of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel were also present at last night’s screening. Das Baer, in his opening remarks, commented:

“If you look at the Human Rights Reports, the Middle East is a tough place to be gay.” He added “We look forward to continuing to think creatively on how to engage on this issue.”

Katz, in his introduction of Mozer, said that his film has “opened an important dialog within Israeli society and ensures that we are always moving forward.”

“The Invisible Men” has completed a North American tour and is available to buy or rent online at 

Filmmaker Yariv Moze


The Honorable Dan Baer

An Evening to Honor George Stevens Jr.

by TJ Ducklo 02/07/2013 13:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Three, shiny gold Oscar® statues made their way into the MPAA last night for an evening honoring a giant in the film industry, George Stevens, Jr. Stevens recently received an Honorary Oscar® for his over 50 years of work as a writer, director, producer, and founder of the American Film Institute. Stevens is the son of George Stevens, who won the Academy Award for Best Director for both A Place in the Sun (1951) and Giant (1956). All three Oscar awards were on hand for an evening that featured Stevens discussing his career with current AFI President and CEO Bob Gazelle. 

Stevens began his career working with his father on the classic motion pictures Shane, Giant, and The Diary of Anne Frank. In 1962, he was named the head of the U.S. Information Agency’s motion picture division by Edward R. Murrow and more recently, has served as President Obama’s co-chairman of the President Committee on the Arts and Humanities. His most significant contribution to the film industry, however, is arguably his role as the founding director of the American Film Institute, an organization established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to “enrich and nature the art of film in America.” Stevens spoke of the organization’s beginnings last night:

“I never hesitated, never questioned whether this was a good idea or possible. (It had) that energy. Ask not, do it. It was a wonderful adventure, and a tremendous collaboration.”

Gazelle described AFI’s founding in the Rose Garden as an “idyllic moment when the President said we will invest in the arts.” MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd was also in attendance, and described Stevens as a uniquely humble individual who could bridge the gap between Hollywood and Washington. “He was the Democratic Party’s Ronald Reagan,” said Senator Dodd.

Bob Gazelle (left), George Stevens (middle), Senator Chris Dodd (right) 




photo credit: Joy Asico

MPAA Welcomes Filmmaker Dror Moreh, Screens Oscar® Nominated Doc THE GATEKEEPERS

by TJ Ducklo 01/24/2013 08:10 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In the country of Israel, the Israeli Secret Service, known as the Shin Bet, lies at the center of a highly visible and often dangerous clash of cultures. Through groundbreaking interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, filmmaker Dror Moreh explores the conflict through their unique eyes in The Gatekeepers, focusing in on key decisions and actions that have shaped history. The film has already won Best Documentary from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, was an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, and is an Academy Award® nominee for Best Documentary Feature. Moreh shared his thoughts last night with moderator Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm, who is a George Washington University professor with over 30 years of experience as a foreign service officer:

“With this film, I wanted to put a mirror in front of Israeli society. Then they’d have two options. If they didn’t like the mirror, they could just put it away. Or if it was telling them something they didn’t like, they’d be forced to change something fundamental about themselves. I hope people chose the second.”

Moreh is one of Israel’s leading cinematographers, having shot several other feature films including Urban Feel and Desperado Square, which won the Best Film Award at the Montpelier Film Festival. The Gatekeepers, a Sony Pictures Classics film, is set for a limited U.S. release on February 1st.

Gnehm (left) and Moreh (right)


photo credit: Michael Kandel

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