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Interview: Andrea von Foerster - Chronicle Soundtrack

Andrea von Foerster may not be a household name, but her work as a music supervisor helped define the present generation’s teenagers and twenty-somethings from her work on The O.C., (500) Days of Summer, and most recently, the sci-fi action flick, Chronicle (opening in theatres Feb. 3). In this exclusive, we chat with Andrea about the life and work of a soundtrack curator, Asking the burning question, What do you listen to?

Q1.) What’s a typical day like for you as a music supervisor?

One of the fantastic things about being a music supervisor is that you get to be both creative and business minded. In a typical day, I’ll answer an obscene amount of emails, send out requests and confirmations, search for music to pitch to my projects and go to meetings or spotting sessions or mixes. I have an exhaustive need to hear as much music as possible so I have music on from morning till night. I need music like I need air so if music isn’t playing, then I’m humming, whistling or singing something.

Q2.) When working on the film, Chronicle, did you have certain songs or artists in mind to feature in the film? How much give-and-take is there amongst you, the film’s director and producer?

It’s always exciting to work on a project with teenage characters because it generally means you’ll be using quite a bit of music. The director, Josh Trank, chose not to have any score in the film so it meant we would be using more source music at parties, in bedroom, in the car, etc. We ended up with just fewer than 40 cues in the film. After reading the script, I knew I wanted the music to be fairly diverse and a little more under the radar. I’m not a fan of people pigeonholing teenager’s musical tastes in films or television shows. When I was a teenager, I had a voracious appetite for music and listened to everything I could get my hands on. That’s never changed for me and I think that teenagers today listen to a little of everything simply because they have access to everything via the Internet. We had a limited budget for this film so we concentrated mostly on newer indie acts like Class Actress and A B & The Sea to lend us credibility but we were very happy that the publishers and labels of artists like David Bowie and M83 agreed to our fee requirements. Josh Trank has excellent taste and was very open to hearing new music as well as bringing his own ideas to the table so it was a very cool collaborative process.

Q3.) The opening of Chronicle’s trailer has the three main characters (played by Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, and Alex Russell) singing along to Jessie J’s “Price Tag.” That scene not only provides background music, but it’s very literary in that it foreshadows the rest of the film. Apart from researching artists and licensing costs, do you choose songs to fit a certain character/narrative/mood?

That scene is hilarious. I believe it’s just Alex Russell who sings the song in the car, much to Dane DeHaan’s chagrin. We definitely chose happier and more accessible music for Alex Russell’s character, Matt, and more sullen and diverse music for Dane DeHaan’s character, Andrew. Sometimes a film’s overall musical identity is more important than the individuals in it but for Chronicle, Josh and I agreed that each main character should have their own musical identity. Each project is different in that regard.

Q4.) In Death Cab for Cutie’s documentary, Drive Well, Sleep Carefully, Ben Gibbard talks about how the television drama, The O.C., helped their career in terms of exposure to a new audience. Did you have a hand in that? How did you discover DCFC and what does it feel like to be a factor in a band’s success?

I was the music coordinator on The O.C. under the helm of music supervisor, Alex Patsavas. The O.C. was such a fantastic opportunity for breaking bands and I’m so happy Death Cab For Cutie was one of them. A friend of mine had introduced me to ¡All-Time Quarterback!, the name Ben Gibbard once recorded under, as well as the early albums Something About Airplanes and The Photo Album in 2001. “A Movie Script Ending” from the latter album is still one of my favorite Death Cab songs as well as the video directed by Josh & Xander. Along with Alex, I pitched music for the show and Death Cab was one of those bands that always seemed to have the right lyrics and sound specifically for the character Seth Cohen, played by Adam Brody. The O.C. started airing the same year Death Cab’s album Transatlanticism was released (2003) and they were a natural fit. The show’s creator, Josh Schwartz, also had great taste in music and I think the show and the band grew together. The greatest thing about music supervision is being able to be a part of a musical story. You get to help a band on its way up and make your project cool at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.

Q5.) What is the proverbial Holy Grail of film/television project for you?

I’m a lifelong entertainment junkie. I was raised by television and movies. I was a film production major at the University of Southern California. Because I plan on being a music supervisor for life, there’s no one Holy Grail…there are many. I’d love to work on projects that use a lot of music with montages where you can really showcase songs. I love everything Kevin Williamson does and I’m obsessed with The Vampire Diaries, it’s my favorite television show. I’d be honored to work on films directed or produced by David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, Danny Boyle, Baz Luhrmann, Jason Reitman, Guy Ritchie and J.J. Abrams. I’m dying to work on a Marvel film. I dig superhero, action and especially martial arts films. I want to do it all.

Q6.) Looking over your career, the music picks range from French chanteuse songs like Carla Bruni’s “Quelqu’un m’a dit” in (500) Days of Summer to old-school hip-hop in Run’s House. When you’re not working, what music do you like to listen to?

When not listening to music for work, I go through phases. Some artists will be on repeat for months because their songs match what’s going on in my life. I tend to like music with a bit of duality: Sad music with happy lyrics or happy music with sad lyrics. Scandinavian and British artists tend to fit that bill more often than not. Sometimes I want songs with a big bass that make me forget the world around me. Other times I want quiet songs that feel epic from their simplicity and lyrical content. Right now I’m listening to Alex Clare, Liam Bailey, Various Cruelties, Woodkid, Nick Waterhouse, Gary Clark Jr., Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, Etta James, Kings of Convenience and a lot of `90s hip hop —mostly De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

Q7.) If you had to be the music supervisor for your own documentary, which artists/songs would you like to feature?

I spent a long time writing down all the songs that I would pitch for the documentary of me and realized that not only would the song list outlast the running time of the film but that the songs are far too telling of my opinion of life. So here is a list of the artists I would want to have songs from. (This would be the most expensive/unclearable soundtrack of all time.)
Radiohead, Guns N’ Roses, Kings Of Convenience, Feist, James Blake, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Daniel Merriweather, Sam Cooke, Mark Ronson, The Smiths, Jacques Dutronc, Coldplay, Françoise Hardy, Plan B (UK), Chase & Status, Tiesto, Kanye West, Various Cruelties, Michael Jackson, Adele, Notorious B.I.G., The Blow, Metallica, Whitney Houston, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Jay-Z, Otis Redding, Bloc Party, Alex Clarke, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Portishead, Jose Gonzalez, The Get Up Kids, ABBA, Carly Simon, The Verve, Run-D.M.C., The Promise Ring, A Tribe Called Quest, Madonna, Simple Minds, Death Cab For Cutie, Bruce Springsteen, The Pointer Sisters, Sia, The Sundays and The Magnetic Fields. And that’s just who I can think of right now.

Q8.) Do you find yourself having a different workflow for music in TV shows compared to films?

The workflow for TV is much faster than in film. On TV shows you usually have 1-3 weeks to complete an episode and it’s generally fast and furious to crank out a whole season. For films there is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait depending on what point in the process you get hired. I’ve been hired before films were even greenlit by the studio and pitched and cleared music for 1-2 years and I’ve been hired last minute and had one week to complete everything song related. I do like the immediacy of television as you can place a song and have it heard within the month, but I think films have a more lasting impact.

Grab the Soundtrack at the links below:

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