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Job Title: Music Supervisor

Job Overview

A music supervisor is hired to oversee all the music that is used in a production, whether for film or television. The supervisor works closely with the director in selecting songs, choosing a composer, if one is used, and acquiring the rights for the production to use the songs. If there is to be a sound track, the supervisor will secure the record deal and work with the appropriate parties involved to bring the album to release.

Special Skills

“The ultimate skill is sensitivity,” says music supervisor Barklie Griggs. “When they're looking at a scene in a film, you have to imagine how that character feels, what is happening in their life in this movie, and what song could make that scene better; what music could enhance the feeling. All the while being perceptive about what the director is trying to convey. Also, knowing every kind of music and remembering songs.”

Expanded Job Description

Most days, Griggs arrives at his office between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. His first two to three hours are spent listening to music he has selected for a film he is working on, to ensure that it fits suitably into each scene. “Between, I jump on my computer and check who wrote the song, who has the rights, and how much it will cost to use it.” Once Griggs determines that a song works in the scene and will fit the film's budget, he places the appropriate CD in a pile that he will later play for the director.

In the early afternoon, he phones those working with him on current projects—publishers, record company people, and directors. He sometimes meets a director at an editing room to play songs for him. Afterward, he makes calls to find music or to get more specific information about a song he is interested in using. He may be involved in negotiating a composer deal, working to get a new song recorded by a specific artist, or putting together a sound track deal. In the evening, he often attends film screenings.

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

“Do your homework,” says Griggs. “That means you have to know your music. It really helps when you're listening to the radio and you hear a song you like, if you stop and remember how it makes you feel. Did it make you feel sad or happy? What kind of scene could you see it in? Remember feeling, the song title, and the album. Start compiling CDs and make a separate place for songs you love.”

Professional Profile: Barklie Griggs, Music Supervisor/Owner, Tilted World Music

It would be hard to decide which Barklie Griggs loves more: films or music. As a teenager, the two consumed all his time and money. “I was always a music fan and a movie buff. I loved going to see movies and I loved listening to music. I paid attention to the music used in films. ‘I'm Alright’ by Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack, Simple Minds’ ‘Don't You Forget About Me’ in The Breakfast Club, ’Get Into the Groove’ in Desperately Seeking Susan by Madonna; the sound track to Diner was a favorite. I began to buy sound tracks and just started learning more and more about music.”

After high school graduation, Griggs moved from New York to Los Angeles and worked as a waiter while trying to decide what to do with his life. Talking with a regular customer one day, he discovered the man was a film music supervisor. The idea that someone was paid to organize the music for a film had never occurred to Griggs, but now that it had, he realized this was a way to combine his two great loves into a career. Offering to quit his job on the spot and work for free to learn the business, he was politely turned down. Undaunted, he formulated a plan.

Griggs began frequenting record stores daily, reading album covers and making a list of the names and titles of all the music people involved with film sound tracks.

What do you like least about your job?

“There is a certain amount of ego in the movie business, and some of those with bad egos can ruin the business because they make everything so uncomfortable and limiting. You're not inspired by somebody trying to impose their will just because they can, not because that is the best creative choice.”Barklie Griggs

What do you love most about your job?

“Being able to have control over or having a big part of the emotion of a scene that makes people feel a certain way. There is nothing greater than sitting in a screening of a movie and a scene comes on that you know the music is going to start turning people inside out emotionally. They start to feel love or scared or conflicted; that's really the best part of this job. You get to have a creative impact on a movie.”Barklie Griggs

“I started to learn who all the players were.” Through a friend who knew a theatrical director, he began supplying music for plays. He studied the Hollywood Reporter's film and television music issue, learning everything he could about the people who held the job he wanted. After four months, he quit waiting tables and began telephoning everyone on his list.


* “The most valuable asset that you can have in this business is trust.”Barklie Griggs

* “Be straight with people and expect and demand the same from them, and you'll save a lot of time.”—Barklie Griggs

The roommate of a friend telephoned music supervisor Sharon Boyle and secured Griggs an opportunity to send a résumé and cover letter. With a résumé of nothing but restaurant experience, he focused on writing a powerful letter of introduction, stating: “I'm a record junky and I know a lot about music. I have over 800 records and I would die to work for you. And, I make really good coffee.” The line about making coffee, he confesses, was a lie: “I couldn't make coffee for the life of me.”

After several follow-up calls trying to get a meeting with Boyle, Griggs was given an appointment. “It was Monday, the fourth of March 1990. I threw myself at her. I said, ‘Please, I'll do anything. I'll work for free. I'll work from midnight to 6 a.m.’“

With no openings at the company, Griggs left the interview with only the assurance that Boyle would consider his offer. The very next day, one of Boyle's employees announced the need to go part-time, so she decided to give Griggs a chance to come in on a temporary basis and see how things went. He ended up staying for five years, working on a number of big films, including The Air Up There, Kalifornia, Girl in the Cadillac, The Last Word, and Mr. Holland's Opus.

Ready to test his wings, Griggs opened Tilted World Music in 1995, and under his own company banner has supervised a number of independent films and feature films, most notably The Associate, Guinevere, Let the Devil Wear Black, Ring of Fire, Scorched, Still Breathing, Thick as Thieves, and Wing Commander, and television series The Lone Gunmen and Pasadena.

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Additional topics

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