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Music Supervision Deserves An Emmy- Start with Scott Vener
Music supervision is an art. It is a pursuit of emotion and the ethereal. But it is not as easy as it seems. For instance, you may hear a song called “drive” and think that it would be perfect for a car commercial. Maybe, but most likely not. The game is really about the perfect placement, the exact choice of a familiar (or soon to be) track that ties what you are seeing visually into what you are feeling or what we want you to feel. Often, picking the ironic choice is best. Sometimes a song can transcend the moment. It can setup the next scene while wrapping this scene and giving you insight into background. Trust me, bad music supervison or none at all, is painful.
I couldn’t possibly list all of the amazing supers here. Some stand out as giants- Calamar (what would True Blood be without the opener?), Patsavas (plugged into the teen angst and rainy overtone of Twilight and counteless others) and of course, there are many, many more. But for my money, the hottest hand out there has been Scott Vener (Entourage, How to Make it in America etc.) You should follow him @brokemogul.
He has been killing it on Entourage for a long time now and apparently just turned in the #lastsongever for the finale. His choices have often been hip hop oriented as you would expect in a show about Hollywood grinding. But he has also made amazing choices involving The Clash, the Doors, Stevie Ray Vaughn and one of my favorite placements- The Allman Brothers’ Southbound in Season 1. He has defined the feel of the series by his musical choices.
Music supervision is somewhat of a misnomer. There are so many disparate aspects involved that the “supervision” part is often overlooked. Finding the perfect song is really just the beginning. You always need a back up. You might find the diamond in the rough to turn in and then it gets shot down because of licensing needs, legal arrangements, clearance issues, partnership deals, producer’s proclivities, timing, track availability and on and on.
It’s a job where listening to, understanding and pushing music is your primary task. It’s also one of those elusive “magical jobs” that so many people crave but few realize what it takes to do the job well and more importantly, the kind of battles that are fought. You may listen to 150 songs and find the perfect one, only to find out the producer or director simply doesn’t get it or the label won’t release the master. While being paid to listen to and find music may sound awesome to you, what do you do when you simply cannot find a song that is good enough? Or worse, you find a great song with a really crappy audio master! What happens when all of the blogs and sources you normally go to simply have shit-sandwich songs on them? Every supervisor goes through a depression on projects where they swear they have heard everything in the world and it can really be defeating. Until you hear that one, you put it against the rough cut and see it come to life. It makes the world itself a better place.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool gig to say the least. I’m sure anyone would trade places. But, to those who have done it, sometimes the battle of licensing, the arguments, the budget and all that it entails - makes it not quite as fun as you think it might be. So, to see someone do it at such a high level is a joy. Entourage just started the 8th and final season and in a show known for it’s music choices, Vener has a heavy task ahead of him.
I think he should be commended/celebrated/feted (because there’s still no fucking emmy category) for the End Credits of Season 8, EP 1.
It is 1:16 of pure genius. There is so much going on in that 1:16 -this is possibly one of the best placements ever and her’es some of the reasons why:
1. Eminem was part of the Season 7 closing as the newly sober Marshall Mathers throwing a party. The song “Going through Changes” as perfect allegory to Vince’s troubles and an ultimate respect dap to Proof.
2. He chose the 3rd verse instead of the 1st. The cut edit is great, but this is so important to understand. This choice made the poignancy of the lyrics hit harder. Using the opening cue as the camera panned off of Ari crying and up to reveal the surreal scene set the emotional tone for finality. Then editing into Nate Dogg on the Chorus threw it into another direction. Another tip of the hat to a lost soldier and it alluded to the Winehouse thing (probably a bit lucky on that one). But finding another Em song that fit so perfectly with the scene. Ari crying, a house literally burning and therefore a dream, etc.
3. Just as important to the actual song and scene is a supe’s ability to set up an arc. That is the genius of the placement. This dream is over, the house has burned down, but NO ONE is going to stop grinding. It sets a backdrop of do or die and makes the viewer start to contemplate what kind of stories they might see coming up.
4. All of this juxtaposition, Eminem-drugs-rehab-Vince-respect it is simply perfect.
5. Til the smoke clears out, til my high burns out.
(Should probably shoutout here to Clearsongs and some of the other consultants that work with Vener and Doug Ellin who had the foresight.)
5 1/2: Not sure if he felt it, but if it were me, knowing that there is no big thank you or Emmy award for killing it… The line: ”And it’s absurd, how people hang on every word. I’ll probably never get the props I feel I ever deserve.” It probably is no accident that this line is over Scott Vener’s actual credit.
So, to the powers that run the Emmys - can you seriously tell me that this artistic endeavor doesn’t deserve the industry’s repect and admiration by award? The person who mixes it (sound editor) is eligible, but not the guy who who creates the moment?