The Sound of Gender: How Women Composers Vigorously Maneuver Hollywood’s Show Biz

October 30, 2009 · Posted in Entertainment , Inspiring People · 1 Comment
WIF Speaker Series Panel

WIF Speaker Series Panel

“In my opinion music is gender free so why should female composers get treated any differently than their male colleagues?” a woman in the audience commented at the speaker series panel - Music in Film and Television - organized by Women In Film .  The five female composers who made up the panel at El Torito Grill in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, October 28, all nodded their approval. “Exactly right,” composer Wendy Melvoin agreed. “But unfortunately as women composers we have to work twice as hard to achieve our goals.” Melvoin knows what she’s talking about. Even though she and her musical partner Lisa Coleman used to work for none other than Prince it took them years of knocking at doors in Hollywood before they got their first composing gig. Today, “Wendy & Lisa” are scoring the Emmy-winning NBC drama Heroes , Showtime’s critically-acclaimed Nurse Jackie and NBC’s new drama Mercy .

The Many Roads to Success

For singer and composer Lisbeth Scott the doors to show biz opened easier. As she recalls: “Shortly after I arrived in LA, a friend asked me to sing for Hans Zimmer . I asked back “Who’s Hans Zimmer?”  While Scott’s entry to the world of film music seemed easy, she pointed out that she has always had a very strong work ethic without which she wouldn’t have made it so far. Scott’s uniquely moving and shiver-inducing voice has been heard on literally hundreds of films. John Williams wrote a 5 minute solo specifically for her in the score for Spielberg’s film Munich . She was the featured vocalist and co-lyricist for the John Debney score to the film The Passion of the Christ , and was the featured vocalist and songwriter for the Disney film Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe . Her latest project is the score of James Cameron’s highly anticipated movie Avatar featuring vocals from Lisbeth Scott. But Lisbeth is not only working in film and television. She is currently running an innovative web-based photo campaign called Hope is a Thing in conjunction to the release of her new album of the same title this November.

Lisbeth Scott (right) at the WIF Speaker Series Panel

Lisbeth Scott (right) at the WIF Speaker Series Panel

Helene Muddiman , a British feature film composer, shared her insight into the Hollywood music biz. “It’s important that as women we stand together and help each other to realize our dreams,” she said. Muddiman has been living in LA for a few years and has just made her first national film release for the film Skin .  The British composer has come a long way. “With my school band in England, we got a deal with EMI . Well, we  failed miserably,” she said. “But if it hadn’t been for that experience, I wouldn’t have made it this far.” Today, Helene Muddiman enjoys her work as a film composer.

“Don’t Judge Your Own Music”

, a young film and TV composer and Women in Film member, took a straight and strategic road to working as a composer in Hollywood. A graduate of USC’s prominent film composing progrram, Hillary attended a lot of panels and meet-the-composer type of events during her time at college. “Connections are important,” she said. And her advice to other young composers: “Don’t judge your own music, and always have an arsenal of themes in your back pocket!” Hillary’s diligence has paid off: She has scored the award-winning film On Great White Wings and has a number of upcoming projects secured for the future.

The Secrets of Female Success

When asked about the secrets of (female) success, Wendy and Lisa suggested

  • to be prepared
  • to know your lines
  • to believe in yourself
  • and to never give up.

Lisbeth Scott pointed out that even though it can be tough at times to work in an industry that is dominated by men, she feels that relying on her female intuition has usually always helped. “There are challenges that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t a woman, but I welcome these challenges because they make you stronger.” Lisbeth shared her oddest rejection line: “Someone told me after hearing my music that I was too musical.” How can you not achieve your highest potential upon hearing such thing?

German Filmmaker Andreas Dresen on Movie Making

Andreas Dresen at the Goethe Institut LA

Andreas Dresen with screen writer Karin Howard at the Goethe Institut LA

German writer/ director Andreas Dresen shared his insights into movie making at the Goethe Institut’s “Show and Tell” series in Los Angeles on Monday, October 26. He talked about his beginnings studying directing at the Konrad Wolf Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg back in the 80s in the GDR. “The school under direction of  Lothar Bisky was a place where creative freedom of expression was somewhat allowed,” said Dresen. “One of my first films as a student was a documentary on military service in East Germany. I wanted to portray the realities of the young soldiers - and even though at the time in 1988 political times were already changing, the film was preceived as too provocative and I couldn’t show it any more.”

Andreas Dresen in Conversation at the LA Goethe Institute

Andreas Dresen, whose career began as the Berlin Wall was crumbling, is currently one of Germany’s most successful filmmakers. He was born in Gera, East Germany, in 1963.
After finishing his studies in Potsdam-Babelsberg , he began working as a screenwriter and director in 1992. Among his most successfull films are: ” Nightshapes”, “The Police Woman”, “Grillpoint”, “Cloud 9 ” and his recent “ Whisky and Vodka “.

Movies that Show Real Life

His highly successful 2008 movie “Cloud 9″ was a small production. “We had a small team because we wanted to be more flexible on set since we shot without any dialogue,” said Dresen. His improvised style in Cloud 9 paid off - despite some critics who felt provoked by seeing love scenes between elderly people, the movie was very well received by an International audience. “I like to make movies that show real life”, explained Dresen. “Life is not black and white and very rarely is there a happy end in real life - so why should there be always happy endings in movies?”

Guests at the LA Goethe Institut

Karin Howard (left) and actress Nina Franoszek (right) with Dresen's wife

Dresen’s new movie “Whiskey and Vodka” is currently playing in German movie theaters and it is Dresen’s first comedy. “My new movie might be seen as a comedy”, said Dresen. “But we are really pointing at important social questions with this film. Does our competitive society make people replacable? “Whiskey and Vodka” tells the story about a film production crew where one actor is backed up by another actor to prevent the production from failing.”

How to Live Green in Los Angeles - and in any other place for that matter

October 15, 2009 · Posted in Trends & Style · Comment

I was happy to learn from reading Chris Guillebeau’s blog post that it’s Blog Action Day today! This year’s theme is climate change. Better writing late than never I’m thinking - so here’s my contribution to the worldwide “climate blog action”:

How to Live Green in Los Angeles - and in any other place for that matter

People who don’t live in Los Angeles often say to me: Isn’t it hard to live green in L.A.? All these cars, no public transportation… Well, let me tell you, you can do things to lower your carbon footprint even in a city like L.A. (especially in a city like L.A.!). So here’s my list of suggestions of what you and me can do to help act on climate change in our own front yard.

The List:

1. The Obvious One: Don’t turn on your a/c until it’s absolutely necessary. (My neighbors in LA are just powering the a/c as if there’s no tomorrow.) 2. The Clever One: Switch off electronic devices completely if you’re not using them. Some electronics keep on draining power while on standby.

3. The Healthy One: Walk, ride your bike, roller blade or skateboard (you LA’ers) for a change - just don’t use your car to drive 2 blocks to the nearest liquor store.

4. The Communal One: Use public transport - yes, even in LA they do have strange looking vehicles like buses and commuter trains .

5. The Fun One: CARPOOL - ’cause it’s much more fun being stuck on the freeway while in good company.

6. The Smart One: Sign up for with your local energy provider.

7. The Natural One: Plant a tree in your neighborhood

8. The Foodie One: Eat Smart, preferably vegeterian and shop at your local farmer’s market

9. The Brainy One: Follow the news , read blogs, participate in educating others on climate change and take action daily

Have I forgotten something on the list? Why don’t you continue it? I’d love to hear more suggestions and tips from you so that we can truly inspire each other and take action together - it’s so much more fun!

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