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On The Saturday, January 14. 2017
for an afternoon that was as enlightening as it was elegant. Guests were treated to a workshop which was
organized and modrated by SynchAudio founder and creative director, Farinoush Mostaghimi with the
award winning music supervisor Mary Ramos, as she shared her insights into getting music recognized for
film, television, and advertising. Mary held an open discussion with artists, detailing her experiences as one
of film and television’s most notable figures in an often mystified craft.
Most renowned for her work as Quentin Tarantino’s go to music supervisor, Ramos has supervised music for
she describes her use of “kitschier, deep cuts” music as being the brand she has established.
Securing the use of unforgettable cult movie tracks such as Santa Esmeralda’s flamenco disco song -
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” or John Legend’s retro soul song “Who Did That To You” she has helped a
genius director define an entire genre of cinema that has come to be known by film buffs as Tarantino-esque.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and
Music Superviosr Mary Ramos
Music Supervisor Mary Ramos and legendary film Composer Ennio Morricone
The Sync Workshop
After the initial period of mingling, and enjoying the open bar an appropriate amount for a workshop at
noon, attendees gather into a lavish event room to await Ramos’ arrival. There’s a buzz in the room as
Ramos enters. The admiration is noticeable on the faces of the guests, most of whom are exceptionally
talented musicians in their own right.
While the room’s atmosphere is set to a Tarantino-themed playlist, Ramos’ eclectic taste in music
for film would score most of the afternoon’s events. As Ramos notices the soundtrack, music she is
undoubtedly all too familiar with, her face lights up. Her first words of the afternoon say it all about her
approach to work, “I love that song!”
The genuine passion Ramos has for her work is obvious throughout the entire event. The workshop kicks off
with Ramos sharing her demo reel. “It’s a little long,” Ramos cautions humbly, as the guests in attendance are
treated to a seven minute montage of what is as much a lesson in film’s most memorable music moments as it
is a demo reel. You can see the pride in Ramos’ face as she watches her own work. A reel with music she has
surely heard a thousand times, yet she can’t stop nodding along to the beat while subtly dancing and smiling to
herself. Ramos explains her intent with this workshop is to demystify the process behind synching music in film,
seeing beyond the ‘gate-keepers’, while opening up a dialogue directly between her and artists.
Here are a few key points from the afternoon:
⇒ What does a Music Supervisor do?
Simply put Ramos says her job is to do her best to help the director find music for the project.
This can take many forms in the production process of the film. She acts as a casting director for composers,
she’ll select reels to pitch to the director, she’ll help create the temp track for the rough edit of a film. Ramos
explains that her job varies project to project depending on the production: “Sometimes directors have a
good idea of what they want…and once they set up the palette, I’ll just complete it with awesome music…
other times it’s a matter of really considering the project and helping the direction of the music” She says
that in some instances a project needs a “coolness factor” added to it. For a case in point Ramos details
her work on gothic fantasy “Beautiful Creatures,” and recording with Dhani Harrison at Abbey Road Studios
to give the teen romance’s score a Beatles-like quality with vocals and warm guitar in addition to a full
orchestra. In another example, director Zach Braff had not created a soundtrack
in 10 years since Garden State, so in the new era of soundcloud, spotify and youtube, the challenge was to
find brand new songs that could be totally unique to his film Wish I Was Here – Ramos convinced him to
commission new songs by Bon Iver, Coldplay and the Shins.
Music supervisors will usually submit a brief to a synch agency describing the scene and mood, along with
a time limit and budget. Often they’ll include a track that they like, which could not be cleared, for reference.
Ramos maintains that music supervisors don’t feel comfortable accepting music from just anywhere,
and generally only accept submissions from agents and representatives that they know and trust. Ramos
describes the challenge of picking a track: “When you love music, and you have to love music to do what we
do, it’s really hard to pick and choose. So it’s important for music supervisors to be very specific with the
⇒ How can an Artist get a Music Supervisor’s Attention?
Make it Easy
Ramos highlighted the importance of making it as easy as possible for a music supervisor to choose your song.
She says ideally an artist sends the full song, and an edited version that cuts to the track’s most
useable sections. This allows music supervisors to get the gist of a song if they don’t have the
luxury of time. Ramos explains the time constraints her line of work often presents: “We’ve got…maybe 25
tracks to go through, and they’re due in an hour, so we’ll give it a certain amount of time and fast forward
through it.” She explains that if she skips through to a chorus that she really likes, she’ll listen to the whole
song. Ramos also notes that if you are not capable of editing a track, it can be helpful to specify the exact
time of a build or chorus in a song.
Have an Instrumental Version
She also encourages artists to make an instrumental version of a song if they have the means to do so,
particularly for commercial or trailer work. “If it’s very lyric heavy, it won’t work under dialogue,” Ramos
explains. She also indicates that a lot of great songs tell stories that are too specific and contrast the
message of a film: “Like if the song’s called Jane…Well, okay there’s no character that’s named Jane,
and unfortunately it’s a gorgeous song, but I can’t use it because the name Jane is in the chorus – or if a
song mentions a specific city like New York – narrows it down to films set in NY”
Ramos also said be aware that expletives in the lyric can keep a song from being suitable for synch
- "it's not allowed on network TV shows or ads and some films, so it's ideal to have a clean
Know Where You Fit
Ramos also discusses the significance of knowing who you are as an artist, and where you should
be submitting your work. The artist in Ramos is apparent as she describes the challenges creators face
developing tracks for commercial use: “You must write what’s in your heart, but if you’re thinking about
synching songs, it’s good to look at what types of music gets used.” She advises artists to look at projects
that they respect, while paying close attention to what music is used and when. She finds certain styles of
songs tend to have an edge over others: “Swagger is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but
it’s really important.” Ramos is referring to swagger songs, a track she describes as portraying a certain
confidence. She notes that these songs have become very popular among music supervisors and directors.
She also finds that musicians can take advantage of the tropes that often reoccur in film and television:
“There are really typical scenes that are in almost any project that have a moment for music, and those are
the kind of things you maybe want to have something prepared for.” Ramos continues to describe how she
has entire folders full of music that could be used for a strip club scene, or for somebody happily driving in
a convertible with the wind in their hair, and of course swagger songs.
Record a Cover
Ramos strongly emphasizes the importance of having a good cover song in your repertoire.
She finds that covers are not only very practical to use in films, but a good way to introduce a music supervisor
to your distinct sound: “You’re using the covers as a lure to them. It’s bait for them to latch on and listen to the
rest of your music.” Ramos also explains that directors often want to stick with a song that is a “known entity,”
as they have a limited amount of time to grab the attention of an audience. When selecting a song to cover,
Ramos cautions bands to use something that’s easily clearable.
The next part of the event involved screening a scene from an upcoming independent film. Ramos gave the
afternoon’s guests a taste of life as a music supervisor, showing five different songs she had cut to the same
scene. She had been given Ryan Adams’ cover of Wonderwall as a template, and had gathered a handful of
heart warming tracks that fit the bill nicely. David Gray’s “Cake and Eat It” ended up being the Director’s
choice, an upbeat softly picked acoustic piece that was fitting for both the film and Ramos’ temperament
The day concluded with the artists in the room sharing their tracks for each other and Ramos.
SynchAudio artists in attendance included the likes of: Chloe Charles, Dani Paz (of Elhomme),
Lindy Vopnfjörd, Made Them Lions, Michael Olsen, Mimi O'Bonsawin as well as Tony Tobias on behalf of
his brother Ken. Each track brought something unique to the room’s atmosphere, while Ramos seemed
genuinely impressed throughout the entirety of the session. You could see her eyes light up in a similar way to
how they did watchingher own demo reel at the start of the event. The sense of excitement during dramatic
build ups, the urge to dance during enticing hooks, and an honest compassion towards the more sentimental
tracks. It’s obvious that she is somebody that truly feels music. As guests finish up their mimosas, Ramos
addresses the room: “What a room full of talent…nothing was meh…this was all fantastic.” Not a bad thing to
hear from Mary Ramos if you’re an upcoming musician. And though a music supervisor is often an unsung hero
in the filmmaking process, Ramos certainly makes it difficult to let the voice she adds to a film go unheard.
We at SynchAudio were honored to have Mary Ramos, music supervisor of Quentin Tarantino
in Toronto with us!
SynchAudio is a Toronto based creative boutique agency that provides one-stop, full service licensing
representation for the use of music and media in all screen based storytelling platforms.
To submit your music for licensing consideration: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow @SynchAudio for more great music industry news or log on to synchaudio.com to preview our
SynchAudio inc. Toronto, Canada January 25, 2017