Composers Get the STAR Treatment

Article excerpt

Ghent's World Soundtrack Awards has inspired fest clones throughout Europe

With the exception of a few top-tier names, most composers toil away in the shadow of A-list movie stars and directors. The exception comes with six European film music festivals, where they - and their scores - shine brightly in the spotlight.

At this year's second Intl. Festival of Film Music in Cordoba, Spain, autograph signings by composers "went on for three hours," recalls ASCAP's senior director of film, TV music and new media Mike Todd. "They're rock stars there."

BMI vice presidnet of film/TV relations Doreen Ringer Ross recalls composer Christopher Lennertz walking across the room for a bathroom break at one festival only to get "a standing ovation."

The granddaddy of these composer showcases remains the Flanders Intl. Film Festival (also known as Film Fest Ghent) in Ghent, Belgium, which culminates with assorted live music events by invited film maestros, a highlight that dates back to 1985, and the World Soundtrack Awards, which launched in 2001. The film festival turns 40 this October and will be celebrated by 40 one-minute compositions by 40 different composers that will be performed live. Among those whose contributing are Oscar winners Mychael Danna, Dario Marianeiii, Rachel Portman, Gustavo Santaolalla and Gabriel Yared.

The second-oldest is the Cordoba festival, which moved last year after seven years in Ubeda last year. Fimucite, held in Tenerife, Canary Islands, celebrated its seventh edition in July. The Krakow Film Music Festival turns six with this September's event (moved from its previous May home in order to take better advantage of grant funding). The Transatlantyk Festival held its third annual conclave in Poznan, Poland, in August. And the newest, the Festival of Music and Images, will hold its second outing in October in Paris.

Most of the conferences share several elements, including workshops, Q&As, competitions and live performances of film music, usually by the local orchestra, that are open to the public.

For performing-rights organizations, attending the conferences is a way to support their composer clients, as well as network. "At ASCAP, we have to be mindful of our foreign composers who license through us in the U.S. We want to make sure we're visible," says Todd.

Many of the soundtrack record labels - including Várese Sarabande (whose 35th anniversary was heralded in concert at Transatlantyk and Tenerife), La-La Land Records and MovieScore Media - often attend the festivals, though Várese Sarabande VP and producer Robert Townson says his label sees no obvious sales bump from its participation. "It's just about spreading the word," he says, "taking music I feel passionately about and sharing that with the audience. We're so grateful to have that experience and see in their eyes what (the music) means to them."

For the composers, invaluable connections can be made. After presenting his music at Ghent's World Soundtrack Awards concert, Howard Shore picked the festival's house orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, to record his score for Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator." Elliot Goldenthal returned to Poland to record his ballet "Othello" at Alvernia Studios near Krakow, after being honored at the festival.

Plus, the festivals provide composers with excellent promotional opportunities that can lead to more gigs. "I've been fortunate to have been (at Ghent) with my clients to premiere several scores," says First Artists Management agent Robert Messinger. " 'Brokeback Mountain' with Gustavo Santaolalla, 'The Kite Runner' with Alberto Iglesias, and 'The Ice Storm' with Mychael Danna, as well as Clint Mansell's first film music concert." Mansell, best known for scoring Darren Aronofsky's movies, then went on to perform his film music concert at Tenerife and at stand-alone events in London, Los Angeles and New York, notes Messinger.

However, like Townson, some composers say the festivals are wonderful events but the professional benefits are marginal. …