Music Supervisor Profile is a recurring feature on Rollo & Grady where we interview the top supervisors in the business to learn their secrets and get valuable advice on how to break into world of music supervision. Some of our previous interviews have been with such heavyweights as Thomas Golubic, Liza Richardson, Andrea von Foerster, Scott Vener, Michelle Kuznetsky, and Gary Calamar.
This month we interviewed Chris Mollere, one of the rising stars in the music supervision business. Mollere runs the Los Angeles based firm, Fusion Music Supervision, which fulfills musical visions for Film, Television, Documentaries, and Video Games. When sourcing music, he draws from a lifetime of influences, including childhood travel around the world and his days as an undergraduate in Austin, Texas. Honing not only is tastes but also his business acumen, Chris has served in managerial, production, and promotional capacities throughout the music industry and since he moved to Los Angeles, has combined his interests in music with a passion for film. Over the past six years Mollere has supervised many television projects including The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Greek, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Kyle XY. His films include The Box, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, and I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. Chris also put together the soundtracks for Season One of The Vampire Diaries and Season One of Pretty Little Liars.
He does an excellent job of using Twitter a tool to promote artists on the shows he is supervising. You can follow him at @cmollere.
R&G: Tell me how you got your start in the music supervision business.
CM: I went to UT Austin, where I studied Advertising Psychology and worked with bands on booking, tour management, management, merch, and even the creation of merchandise. When I had finished up at UT, I worked for three years in advertising in Austin, and then decided to move to Los Angeles. I landed a job doing creative and music in advertising, and then I went on to work for a couple of movie producers for a very brief time – six months. I don’t think for six months I slept more than a couple hours any night because I was doing so much work. I’d finish up working and then I’d have to read three scripts because we’d have a meeting the next morning. It was kind of like being under fire, which was a great way to learn how to break down scripts. Then I worked for a composer, Anthony Marinelli, up in Hollywood, and he had a company called Music Forever, where we were doing commercials, movies, TV shows, and producing records. A director came in who loved a variety of songs he couldn’t afford. I told him, “Give me a week and I’ll get you some ideas.” He came back a week later and loved my choices and the price of the songs. After that, I worked more in the studio at Music Forever before going out on my own. I did some indie movies and TV movies, struggling a bit until I got an opportunity to work on Kyle XY with one of my friends who was the co-producer of the show. From there, I’ve just tried to keep busy and so far so good.
R&G: What does your day-to-day job entail?
CM: I’ll get the script and break it down. If there’s anything coming up like a band, piano player, or a string quartet on set for a formal party in some scene, we have to deal with that before we shoot. If there aren’t any musical issues after we read, I work with the editors and get my ideas through the scenes just looking at the script. Sometimes, they throw Quicktimes to me and I’ll work with those. I find it helpful to use ProTools or Final Cut Pro to cut in the music to the scenes, so they have a clear representation of how I would edit in the music, including levels, crescendos, and everything else. Then I’ll have the Quicktime sent to the producers. That way of working is better than having to send a song to Post, have them cut it in, and risk them cutting the song in differently than I had intended. That way, I don’t waste the editors’ time, producers can give feedback right away, and we can keep rolling until we find what we need. At the same time, we’re able to keep in mind what we can afford.
R&G: Besides finding affordable source music, what is the most difficult part of your job as a music supervisor?
CM: Navigating all the clearances as well as getting all of the people who are involved in the decision-making process involved on one unified front of, “This is great, this is great, this is great,” and getting decisions made. Sometimes you have to push people to make decisions because everybody’s busy. Music tends to be the last element of a film to be considered in all aspects, especially budget, but it’s also a very important part. It can either make or break a scene. The right song can take an episode to another level and just make a scene that much more memorable, but the wrong song can actually fuck up a great sequence and make it worse.
R&G: What is the most rewarding part of the job for you?
CM: Personally, I love the creative aspects of supervision. I love cutting in music and trying to find the right songs to heighten and accentuate the scenes or episodes that we’re working on. Also, on some of these shows, especially on The Vampire Diaries, we’ve had the opportunity to feature a bunch of artists that aren’t huge bands yet. This is actually the music I listen to and love, or a huge portion of it, like TV on the Radio, Arctic Monkeys, My Morning Jacket, stuff like that. That’s been such a pleasure and a great opportunity, because not everybody gets to incorporate music that they love into the shows they work on. I’m also able to help out the artists a little bit; they see a bit of exposure, see record sales bumps, and stuff like that. I try to get the word out on different artists.
R&G: What’s the best way for an independent or unsigned artist to get on your radar?
CM: Hit me up, definitely. They can go through my website and just hit submissions. I check those all out. I don’t necessarily email everybody back because if I did email everybody back, that’d mean I didn’t really do very much and wasn’t very busy. Me not getting back to everybody is probably a better sign of the opportunities I can make available to artists than would be me getting back to everybody. Digital links have kind of overwhelmed me a little bit, so make sure to put in a link that doesn’t expire. Sometimes it’ll take me a month to get back and download from a link I’ve been sent. If a show’s in dub stage, I’ll find some time to go back and search for submissions. My website enables me to sort for submissions, and I can see everything I’ve been sent, but if I try to download from a link that expired after fourteen days and I’ve only gotten a chance to click through to it after three weeks, it’s unlikely that I would write to the sender and request that they resend the link.
R&G: Do you use Dropbox, SoundCloud, YousendIt, or Box.net?
CM: Yousendit and Dropbox are fine. I like SoundCloud a lot, because of how you can see the Wavform. I’ve been getting into thumb drives lately, which remind me, “Oh, I need to check out this music.” They don’t take up much space. I can have boxes of them and I can log them in and check them out. CDs are back. It’s funny. As much as all of us tried to go totally digital, it’s kind of impossible, because there’s so much coming in; everybody’s doing digital, and I don’t know how to deal with all those links. Los Angeles traffic, as you know, is kind of good for CDs. It’s good to just grab some CDs and throw them in my car and roll; I can listen while I drive. One thing all artists should do is to include metadata in their MP3 files, so that when I press Apple-I to check it out, I can see your phone number or email address. Gracenote your CDs, it makes it a lot easier to track artists down, especially because the track names don’t always transfer. Sometimes you put a CD in and the tracks come up as “Track 4”, “Track 1”, “Track 7”, or whatever. How am I going to know where the hell that came from? That could lose a placement. It could be a perfect song, but I’m like, “Shit, I don’t know what this is.”
R&G: What’s your best advice for someone trying to get into the business as a music supervisor without previous experience?
CM: Go do smaller projects where if you mess up, it doesn’t mess up your name completely. Go help out at UCLA or USC or whatever colleges are around. Go to the Radio, Film, Television departments and see if you can help out some kids there or something like that. Hit up indie producers. There are plenty of libraries or indie artists that you can utilize for low budget projects. Doing a project is going to teach you a lot more than reading books. There are a lot of great books out there with a lot of information, but that info isn’t going to make sense until you’ve worked or interned with a supervisor. Firsthand experience always means more than reading. Also, keep your expectations believable, because every single person that’s actually working on stuff right now went through a long time of, “Oh shit, should I keep doing this?” I mean, if you really want to do it, stick with it. A lot of times, people get to LA and six weeks later, they leave, like, “I didn’t make it.” Well, if you do that, you didn’t give yourself a chance, so that’s bullshit.
R&G: Where do you see the music supervision business going in the next five to ten years?
CM: Down the road, supervision will be at least as necessary as it is now, especially as people rely more and more on music to help tell the story. It wasn’t too long ago when bands were like, “Oh, putting your song in this and that is selling out.” It used to be weird if you had lyrics going through a dialogue scene, for example; now, it’s totally commonplace. It happens all the time. I think music is something that is becoming more and more vital to projects, and supervision of that process is accordingly more and more important. All of us have a ton of devices – iPhones, email, etc. – and yet we still don’t necessarily know how to communicate. Songs help us understand how we’re supposed to feel during emotional scenes, because we no longer no how to communicate or emote as well as we could. I think music brings a lot to the table and adds to the story, but is hopefully there to work hand in hand with the narrative and not just cover up a shitty scene. Sometimes people try to save their projects with music. I hope things don’t keep pushing that way, where there’s a bunch of projects that aren’t that great that they’re trying to save with music. If that’s what happens, that’s not going to be good, but I think there are a lot of creative things out there. I’ve been getting a lot of cool TV shows and films that utilize music in the right way, and I see it becoming a bigger and bigger thing as we progress.
Music Supervisor Profile :: Thomas Golubic (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Gary Calamar (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Scott Vener (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Liza Richardson (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Andrea von Foerster (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Michelle Kuznetsky (click here)
Rollo & Grady Music Productions (click here)