Making A Movie Soundtrack: No Old Dudes Invited

If a studio chose to make a film from your novel, I’d imagine you’d be somewhat protective of the final product, down to the musical choices. Then again, if you’re a novelist who enjoys albums that came out before the Duffy record, your opinions about the soundtrack will probably be summarily ignored by the people financing the picture.

Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, wanted to include some of his favorite tracks in the film’s soundtrack, but found that his selections of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison” had been replaced by “For Reasons Unknown” by the Killers and “Enough Love” by Duffy. When Young emailed the film’s producer, Stephen Woolley, with his concern that new music would date the film specifically to the chart era of those tracks, Wooley expressed his disagreement somewhat vehemently.

I think you are so wrong about the music I don’t know where to start!

Tracks like Windmills of Your Mind (The Thomas Crown Affair), Mrs Robinson (The Graduate), The Third Man Theme (The Third Man), etc, etc, etc, become classics because they represent the time and sounds when the film was made. You are fighting like a sorry sad old man to keep on board a thirty-year-old track in the same way that a UA exec would demand that Mike Nichols put songs from 1938 on The Graduate. I saw the Pistols seven times in 76/77 but I don’t want to seep the film in Bowie/Buzzcocks/Roxy Music nostalgia! We haven’t got the music right yet, but it won’t get better by putting Supertramp/Sting or George Formby shit all over it. I also saw Led Zep in 72 but I would much prefer The Killers or Scissor Sisters to convince our audience we have made a 2007 movie.

I suppose I see Woolley’s point, especially since it would be easy to stack a soundtrack with tracks that sound they were chosen by someone nostalgic for music’s good old days. But on the other hand, I’m certain someone thought that including tracks by Letters to Cleo and Save Ferris would liven up the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack, but no one’s comparing either of those songs to “Mrs. Robinson,” are they? Has there been a movie from the past few years where the soundtrack has actually mattered?

How to Lose Friends Arguing Over a Movie Soundtrack [Guardian Music Blog]

  • Al Shipley

    Yeah, it’s not even a question of whether the music in a movie is current or outdated anymore. It’s more a question of “is this a song that captures the tone of the scene best?” vs. “what major label does the studio financing this film share a corporate relationship with and do we want a list of their pop/rock roster or their ‘urban’ roster?”

  • MickFNS

    >Has there been a movie from the past few years where the soundtrack has actually >mattered?

    Duh. “The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie” – Motorhead, “You Better Swim”

  • Marth

    I would point to Into The Wild, Magnolia, and About A Boy as three recent movies who took the ‘Graduate’ route with mostly single-artist soundtracks. In both cases, they do “date” the movie as contemporary (in a positive way), while remaining a cohesive aesthetic statement, in the way that a lot of randomly chosen (read: record-label-influenced) soundtracks just don’t.

  • natepatrin

    Has there been a movie from the past few years where the soundtrack has actually mattered?

    I thought about it for a few minutes and the closest I could come up with for a reasonable answer was ‘Dave Chappelle’s Block Party’.

  • Marth

    And also, I suppose if we wanted to help make Wooley’s case, we could grit our teeth and point out Garden State. How many people want to bang their head against a wall when a Shins song comes on and someone sarcastically makes a “they’ll change your life” comment?

  • Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    I never saw it, and from what I heard of the soundtrack I thought it was trash, but Juno was catnip for the masses.

  • dippinkind

    i guess these arent from the last few years exactly, but the only real memorable movie soundtracks from the last ten years or so are probably the Wes Anderson & Sofia Coppolla ones where the most memorable songs were older (or the O Brother one).

  • Dan Gibson

    @dippinkind: I had forgotten about it, but the Marie Antoinette soundtrack was an enjoyable listen, and well used in the film itself.

  • Cos

    “Has there been a movie from the past few years where the soundtrack has actually mattered?”

    Nope. Its all TV now. The OC, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy et al….. they’re the taste-makers now.

  • Dagnabbit.

    @Cos: No kidding about Grey’s. It started with that damn Fray song (which I swear was on Scrubs, and Grey’s and I think House). When I skip over to the adult contemporary stations which inexplicably have female names (Alice, etc) it’s all “music to perform surgeries to”.

  • Anonymous

    @dippinkind: But The Darjeeling Limited was (mostly) all Kink’s songs. I don’t think Powerman v. Lola is totally 2007.

    The I heart Huckabees soundtrack, all jon brion, is pretty excellent.

    So is the “I’m not There” soundtrack.

  • dippinkind

    @Thesemodernsocks: that was exactly my point, the recent soundtracks that are memorable to me are largely composed of older songs, not new ones.

  • T’Challa

    Stephen Woolley comes across as a completely pompous douche-bag. I love how he has to include that he ‘saw the Pistols seven times in 76/77′ and ‘Led Zep in 72′ but is still “hip” enough to name-drop the Killers and Scissor Sisters. If he’d even mentioned bands that have some actual staying power I could almost cut him some slack. But no. He’s just a self-righteous asshole that’s made it perfectly clear that I am not to spend a single cent on this movie. I’ll make sure to buy a copy of the book retail though…

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