Why do songs play such a vital role in cinema storytelling? What is your favorite movie song of all time? When you first started out as a songwriter, what do you wish you knew about the ups and downs of songwriting for film that you know now?
These were some of the questions answered by seven world-renowned songwriters when they joined Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022 Oscar contenders. Watch our full group chat above with Ron Mael and Russell Mael (for the song “So May We Start” from “Annette”), Idina Menzel and Laura Veltz (for the song “Dream Girl” from “Cinderella”), Nicholai Baxter (for the song “Beyond the Shore” from “CODA”), Diane Warren (for the song “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days”) and Jamie Hartman (for the song “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” from “Respect.”) Click on each name above to view each person’s individual interview.
“A song in a movie will just take it to another level,” Warren declares about the value of a good song penned especially for a film. “It’ll either tie it up emotionally or within the movie and take you somewhere else that that nothing can take, because nothing can take you there like music. When you have that combination of song and visual and it’s used perfectly, it’s like nothing else,” she says.
For Ron and Russell Mael, a good song is pivotal to the film overall emotional tone. “They set the tone for what the film is about, the sensibility of the tone and the sensibility of the story,” Russell declares, while brother Ron concurs, adding that “when the dialogue can’t fully express an emotional tone, music can sometimes do that in ways that, that even the most incredible dialogue and most incredible acting can’t do.”
Baxter agrees that songs can be most powerful when heard within the context of the film itself. “What surrounds the song and its placement in the film can also add to it,” he explains. “It can get incredibly powerful by putting it in the right place in the right context.”
“There’s a timelessness to them,” Veltz says. “The song that came to mind was ‘America’ from ‘West Side Story,'” she notes. “It is incredible to me that it was written so long ago and then we hear the modern version and it not only sadly hasn’t changed, but like it’s still amusing, it’s still funny and it’s still true. And I don’t know, that kind of stuff really stays with me.” Menzel agrees that songs can take an audience to another level. “There’s something intangible about them,” she says, describing how “music seeps into us and our souls, connects with an audience and you don’t need words.”
“Songs fulfill basic emotional functions. If they’re great, you know, they make you want to cry, they make me want to dance,” Hartman suggests. “They make you want a rage or they make you smile when you need to smile the most, you know? And so those emotions being put together in such a blunt and brilliant way that if you do really couple that with the right dialogue and the right scene, you get movie history.”
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