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1/24/2017 "A Music Creator's Sync Workshop" with music supervisor Mary Ramos.

On Saturday January 14, 2017

SynchAudio hosted an exclusive group of artists and music professionals at Toronto Ritz Carlton Hotel, for an

afternoon that was as enlightening as it was elegant. Guests were treated to a workshop which was

organized and moderated by SynchAudio founder and creative director, Farinoush Mostaghimi with 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

a wide array of prominent directors over the last 25 years including the likes of: Tom McCarthy, Richard

LaGravenese, Robert Rodriguez and Zach Braff. Her work ranges from comedy classics such as South Park

and Happy Gilmore, to indie favourites like Spotlight, Win Win or The Station Agent, and seemingly

everything in between. While she has been a driving force in the music process of every Tarantino film

since Pulp Fiction, 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


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 musicfor 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 saysthat 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 Studiosto give the teen romance’s score a Beatles-like quality

with vocals and warm guitar in addition to a fullorchestra. In another example, director Zach Braff had not created

a soundtrackin 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.

⇒ Briefs

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 briefs.”

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 version too."

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

this afternoon.

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

watching her 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. Follow @SynchAudio

for more great music industry news or log on to synchaudio.com to preview our extensive catalogue.

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SynchAudio inc. Toronto, Canada January 25, 2017