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Composers Take Spotlight At 69th Cannes Film Festival Panel

Panelists from left to right: Laura Karpman, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, Dominic Lewis, Thomas Mikusz

By: Marjorie Galas

Sitting on stage as a participant of “Composers Panel: The Music Of Cannes”, Laura Karpman asked the audience if they could tell her what was unique about what they were seeing.  The attendees at the American Pavilion looked around for a moment.  Karpman was happy to share the answer.

“There are more women on this panel then men!”

Karpman, joined by partner Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, both of whom contributed to the documentary “Cinema Travelers” was joined by Dominic Lewis, the composer for “Money Monster.”  Lead by Thomas Mikusz of White Bear PR, the panelist spent forty-five minutes describing their experience involvement in the films featured at the 69th Cannes Film Festival.

Lewis was brought on late in the production of Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster” and describe the pressure of creating the film’s seventy minute score in less than three and a half weeks.

“I do better with a set deadline, otherwise my music trails off into uselessness,” said Lewis.

Karpman described meeting the directors of the documentary “The Cinema Travelers” at the Sundance Institute.  Karpman has been involved in the composers and directors showcases at the Sundance Institute for several years, primarily because she likes encouraging young filmmakers.  She was particularly taken by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s passion for their film focused on traveling cinemas in India and agreed to work as their composer.  She asked Kroll-Rosenbaum to join her.  At the time, she wasn’t aware the project would become a five year opus.

Mikusz asked the panel if they could elaborate on the spirit of collaboration they shared with the film’s directors.  Lewis described balancing the director’s needs with his own creative expressions.  He stated knowing the story and the arc was key for incorporating his own stylings with the requirements of the director.  Kroll-Rosenbaum described the desire to create a score composed for Eastern instruments reflecting the location where the film’s inspiration was born and the directors’ insistence that the score be composed for Western instruments.

“The filmmakers know what they want.  It is our job to help them find it,” said Kroll-Rosenbaum.

The panelists all agreed that their job as composer is not to impress their own ideas on the film makers, but rather act as film makers themselves, always watching for what will best help tell the story.  The sentiment was summarized by stating “you are there to serve the film.”

There was no simple answer when it came to which was better:  scoring to script or picture.  Each panelist had multiple experiences in the past working both ways.  There were times cuts were made to the score, while other times when the score was composed by looking at the story boards.

“You have to be ready for anything,” said Karpman.

The panelists had noticed a few interesting shifts that have affected composers over the years.  Ten or more years ago a composer was not considered a musician – they were pigeon-holed into strictly creating scores for film or television.  With the advent of Hans Zimmer, a mentor of Lewis (he worked in Zimmer’s studio before branching out on his own), who sells out concerts throughout Europe, the general public has come to recognize composers are, indeed, musicians.  The flip side of this positive change has resulted in fewer clients coming to the composers’ studios to review music as it is being created for a score, leaving more last minute changes to be wrangled.

Returning to her comment about the female force on the panel, Karpman did indicate it is still very difficult for women to be recognized as composers.  To help promote female composers, she created a directory that illustrates the women and their credits.

“There are hundreds of women with impressive credits.  No one can say now they didn’t know there were female composers,” said Karpman.  “This was a positive way to get their names out there.”

If you would like to learn more about the action beginning taken to support female composers, please visit: