“I remember being on set when we shot it, just the whole crew, it just crushed all of us; it was amazing,” songwriter Nicholai Baxter says bout arguably the most pivotal and talked-about scene in “CODA,” in which high school senior Ruby (Emilia Jones), beautifully croons the Marvin Gaye classic “You’re All I Need to Get By” to her deaf father (Troy Kotsur). “I was definitely inspired by that scene for sure. You know, all the scenes between them, but that one in particular is so powerful,” he reveals. We talked with Baxter as part of Gold Derby’s special film songwriters “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“CODA” stars Jones as Ruby, a “Child Of Deaf Adults” who is the only hearing member of her family. Kotsur and Oscar winner Marlee Matlin play her deaf parents, with Daniel Durant co-starring as her deaf brother. Ruby works with her family and their fishing business while also yearning to pursue her dreams of going to college and becoming a singer, after connecting with her choir mate Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and being mentored by her demanding singing teacher Bernardo (Eugenio Derbez).
The poignant musical drama for Apple TV+ has been a hit with critics and audiences since its debut at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a staggering four prizes: the Grand Jury and Audience Awards, plus directing kudos for Sian Heder and a Special Jury Prize for its ensemble cast.
“Beyond the Shore,” which Baxter co-wrote with Matt Dahan, Heder and the film’s composer Marius DeVries, plays over the film’s end credits. While “CODA” ends on a poignant and uplifting note, it is also bittersweet as Ruby goes off to college leaving behind her loving family. “It actually wasn’t part of our plan from the beginning to have this original song, it was something that was Sian’s idea as we got further into post-production and the edit came together and the story was becoming clear; the arc and the emotion of the film,” Baxter explains.
“We got towards the end of the edit and realized that you’re wanting more from Ruby’s character. The film ends, but it’s a new beginning for her character. So we thought in a perfect world, if we could write a song from her perspective, years later, that would be amazing,” he says. “We put ourselves in Ruby shoes, years later. Where’s her head at? She’s probably reflecting back on her journey and her family and craving some of what was such a big part of her life, being out in the ocean, being with family [and] reflecting on how important the father daughter relationship is and how much it shaped her.”
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