Tag Archives: Where Hands Touch

Interview: Music Supervisor Laura Katz Talks Silk Road

credit: Patrick Pattamanuch

Los Angeles native Laura Katz is the founder of music supervision company Supe Troop, where she specializes in music supervision services for all types of media.


Prior to launching Supe Troop, Katz led Cutting Edge Group’s Los Angeles music supervision services division for feature films, television shows, video games, and other visual media projects, where she oversaw bespoke composition, creative supervision, clearance, licensing, soundtrack album releases, and more.


Katz’s notable film credits include The Grey, That Awkward Moment, Stuck in Love, Chappaquiddick and Big Time Adolescence. She also music supervised the Insomniac Games Xbox One 2014 release, Sunset Overdrive, which earned her a nomination for a Guild of Music Supervisors Award. Her upcoming projects include Stowaway and The Ice Road, and she is currently working on FXX’s television anthology Cake.


Katz collaborates with directors and producers to create opportunities for original songs in films, such as the original end title song from American Chaos, “All I Want,” by Matt Berninger (of The National) & Steph Altman, and “Requiem for a Private War” by Annie Lennox from A Private War, which was nominated for the 2019 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, Motion Picture.


We reached out to Katz to discuss music supervision and her latest project, Silk Road, score also out now on Lakeshore Records!


SSM: From Where Hands Touch, which is set in 1944, to Big Time Adolescence, which is current, you have worked on a wide range of films from different time periods. Are there general criteria with which you judge if a song will work for the projects you supervise? 

LK: Music supervision is simultaneously very specific and always the same – each project will require certain criteria be met, whether that’s time period or genre or mood or all of the above and more, but all also just need to feel right and accomplish what the director is going for. It’s always a collaborative process, but digging for that right song is the best part!


SSM: What are you best tips to those who are looking to submit tracks for placement? 

LK: I honestly think the best thing you can do as an independent artist is link up with a reputable third-party licensing company that already has working relationships with music supervisors and has already proven themselves a trusty resource. Other than that, make sure you know all the details of your music and have them organized – where all the rights lie, what the splits are, samples cleared (if there are any in the first place), etc., because what works creatively isn’t going to be something anyone outside the production knows.


Leave it to the supervisor to find the right music and just make sure you’re there with all the information and ready to seize the opportunity! I would also say make sure you have contact info very available and respond quickly – make it smooth for us to place your music!


SSM: Your latest project, Silk Road, is based on the true story of Ross Ulbrecht and his arrest for creating one of the largest underground black-market websites, the Silk Road.  Can you speak about the process of narrowing down the music for the film and what mood you were looking to create? 

LK: Tiller Russell, the director, had a clear vision of what he wanted, so we jumped in to find him options that hopefully ticked all the boxes of what he was looking for! There’s quite the variety of musical needs as the film progresses; we worked with Tiller and the film’s editor placing songs and I think we ended up with a great mixture of notable indie artists (like Temples, Liars, and The Rapture) and ones that are more under the radar. Early in the film we have a gem of a soul song called “I’m Sorry I Hurt You” by Nat Phillips that I loved immediately, and that’s an example of one we all agreed on pretty quickly. 


SSM: What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?

LK: I’m continuing to work on a television anthology show called Cake on FXX that’s so much fun, and I’m also really excited about a film called The Ice Road starring Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne and Amber Midthunder. Another film I music supervised called The Marksman just came out and stars Neeson, as well. The first movie I ever music supervised was Neeson’s The Grey, so it’s a bit of a nice circle there!

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Silk Road Soundtrack Available Now: [Download/Listen] 


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Anne Chmelewsky Spotlight: Celebrating Women Composers

Anne Chmelewsky - Composerr

Anne Chmelewsky is a Los Angeles-based composer who trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and went on to do a master’s in composition for screen at the Royal College of Music. Chmelewsky is a 2019 World Soundtrack Awards Discovery nominee for the Where Hands Touch score whose work spans film, television and stage.

Her recent credits include The Looking Screen, a one-woman operetta composed and written by Chmelewsky; Do We Belong, featured as part of The Atlantic Selects; Derek, the British comedy-drama written and directed by Ricky Gervais; and Where Hands Touch, which had its soundtrack released on Music.Film Recordings.

We reached out to Chmelewsky to discuss her process for composing music and to see what’s next for this talented composer.


SSM: I read that Bernard Herrmann made an impact on you in your early years with getting interested in film music. Is there a specific film of his that stands out to you today?

AC: I’ve always been fascinated by Herrmann’s music, and so many of his scores in my opinion are genuinely brilliant. The soundtrack to North by Northwest is perhaps the one that had the greatest impact on me, mostly because it was one of the first Hitchcock films that I watched when I was young. I love Herrmann’s harmonic language in it, his juxtaposition of dissonances with more traditional idioms. The score conveys the tension and suspense of the film, the epic nature of the undercover spy operations at hand, but also Hitchcock’s light touches of humour. It’s a perfect musical translation of the movie. There are similar elements in his unused soundtrack for Torn Curtain too, which I also regard very highly.


SSM: What music college did you attend? And while in college, was there a teacher that had an influence on you in any way that stands out? If so, can you speak into how that shows up in your work ethic or musical stylizations today? 

AC: I did my undergraduate degree in composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and then went on to do a Masters in composition for screen at the Royal College of Music, both in London. My first degree was really focused on standalone concert music and we worked a lot on harmony and counterpoint, as well as the importance of visualising structure in a piece of music. The latter especially is something I still think about a lot, especially when I’m in the early stages of working on a concert piece: the development of ideas, climaxes in the music, and so on.

I also had an orchestration teacher who also taught me about the importance of making every single instrumental part have its own logical shape and direction – extremely useful advice. After I finished at the Royal College I ended up working as an assistant for composer Michael J. McEvoy, who had actually led the screen music course while I was there. He gave me my first opportunities in film music and I’ve learnt so many practical skills from him over the years – I still call on him for advice frequently!


SSM: I can imagine you work with some amazing musicians! Has there been someone or an event that stands out as having positively influenced you over the length of your career?

AC: I’m in awe of pretty much every musician I’ve ever worked with. I’m neither a great sight-reader nor a great performer, so I’m always especially inspired by people who can get up on stage or in a recording studio and make a piece of music come to life. As for my writing, it has definitely been influenced by numerous people in my life. I used to live with brass players and that led me to write a lot of chamber music for brass, which I still do today. Similarly, I started writing operettas because I spent a lot of my time at college alongside some particularly talented singers.


SSM: I am sure life can become myopic when composing for a film within a tight deadline! What things do you do to decompress during those times, and how do they influence your creative process with creating the score for that project?

AC: To be honest, I’m not great at decompressing during projects! Part of my creative process (unfortunately) is to cut myself off from the rest of the world for chunks of time and try to live in isolation as much as possible… During some recent projects I’ve tried to build a daily routine of exercise and meditation which helps a lot, but although my friends are used to me disappearing for chunks of time, I’m still actively working to improve my sociability. Locking yourself in a room for long periods of time isn’t really sustainable in the long run. Once a project is over though, I tend to get back to ‘normal’ fairly quickly.


SSM:I read that improvising is one of your favorite exercises. Can you speak into how that plays a part with creating your amazing scores?

AC: I really like improvising to a narratives. I aim to improvise for an hour each day, which I’ll always record just in case I come up with something interesting. I grew up on European comic books and used to keep them open on the stand of the piano so I improvise along with their stories. I basically still do this today, but the books are loaded onto an iPad. At its core, improvising trains your ability to develop your material: taking a small group of ideas and reworking them in every way possible, stretching them to their maximum potential. I find that this extremely useful for film scoring, where we so often have to compress or elongate material to fit changing scenes and situations on-screen.


SSM:  I find the score for Where Hands Touch to be delicate and yet resplendent. How do you balance the softness and intensity of your scores to craft such stunning music?

AC: Where Hands Touch felt like a precious gift in many ways. The story was so poignant and incorporated the intimacy of an adolescent bi-racial German girl exploring her identity against the enormity the Second World War. So musically, there were really interesting extremes to explore and convey in the same space. Amma Asante, who wrote and directed the film, spent a lot of time with me sharing aspects of the story and its history, both impenetrable in horror and at the same time so deeply human.  While the softer, more intimate themes in the music came first, the more intense and tragic thematic material took a longer time to refine and came together towards the end of the process.


SSM: What is coming up next for you?

AC: I had a few concert performances cancelled due to Covid 19 – think it’ll be a while until they are re-programmed, but later this year I have a new album coming out of chamber music for strings, trombone, harp, vibraphone, and piano, so at the moment I’m writing the follow-up record. And I’m also working on a new operetta, a modern retelling of Narcissus about a woman who falls in love with her own online profile.