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1/24/2017 "A Music Creator's Sync Workshop" with Music Supervisor Mary Ramos

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 selection 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 number - “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 syncing 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:

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 it narrows it down to films set in New York.” Ramos also said to be aware

that expletives in the lyric can keep a song from being suitable for sync: "It's not

allowed on network TV shows or ads and some films, so it's ideal to have a clean version


Know Where You Fit

Ramos also discusses the significance of Know 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 syncing 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: Dusty Emer, Irene Theo,

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.

SynchAudio inc. Toronto, Canada January 25, 2017


SynchAudio is a Toronto boutique music placement company that provides one-stop, full

service licensing representation for the use of music and media in all screen based storytelling

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