Kathryn Bostic, Doreen Ringer-Ross, Laura Engel, Frankie Pine and Tracy McKnight
Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Women In Music And Film Talk Self-Confidence & Inclusion At The GRAMMY Museum
In partnership with Women In Film, on Wednesday, Jan. 22 the GRAMMY Museum presented "A Celebration Of Women And Film," a panel discussion focused on the women who bring film and television to life through music. Moderated by Tracy McKnight (music supervisor, Women in Film board member/former head of film music for Lionsgate), the all-female panel comprised of Doreen Ringer-Ross (Vice President of Creative Relations/ BMI), Frankie Pine (music supervisor/Whirly Girl Music), Laura Engel (co-owner Kraft-Engel Management) and Kathryn Bostic (composer/singer-songwriter), who spoke for an hour about their careers, their humble beginnings, the importance of self-confidence, commitment and inclusion.
Pine, whose music supervision credits include TV shows "Nashville" and "The Newsroom" and the films "Magic Mike" and "Love Hurts," said she "tripped and fell" into her job after originally possessing pop star aspirations. "I realized that if that is something that you really want, you have to put 200 percent into it and that if you can envision yourself doing anything else, you won’t be successful as an actual artist, so I was like, 'Alright, so I know I’m not going to be able to do that, but I love music and what can I do to help promote music?" While living in New York City, she began her career working in music licensing for Muscle Mixes Music, an aerobics music company, before landing a job at PolyGram Records where she was promoted to film and TV licensing. After a move to PolyGram Films in Los Angeles, she worked with music supervisor Dawn Soler (currently Senior Vice President of Music/ABC), soaking up all she could before branching out on her own.
Ringer-Ross confessed that she initially didn’t want the job that was being offered by BMI. Assuming it would be boring, tedious and solely comprised of paperwork and royalty statements, she turned it down. But BMI circled back to Ringer-Ross, clarifying that her position would be to work in artist relations, a field in which she had experience, having previously been employed at record labels where she had initially started working as a college rep.
Once she began working at BMI, Ringer-Ross said she was surprised at how truly, madly and deeply she fell in love with her job. "I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with composers. Truly. They are the most incredible hybrid artist because it’s not about writing a three-chord song, It’s about a depth of talent, both musically and personally, that makes these extraordinary individuals, who are the most compelling individuals I’ve ever met. That’s really what hooked me." Drawing upon her experience from her artist relations days at record labels, the highly innovative Ringer-Ross reached out to the Sundance Institute with whom she established the Sundance Institute Film Music & Sound Design Lab which connects composers and directors.
Engel, who manages music supervisors, songwriters and composers including Danny Elfman ("The Simpsons," "Batman," "Milk") and two-time Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat ("Little Women," "The Shape of Water"), said she was so passionate about music as a little girl that despite having no musical or singing talent whatsoever, she'd find herself standing in her bedroom singing very loudly into a pink hairbrush. She revealed that she got her GED at 16 years old just so she could go on the road with bands. She initially came out to L.A. to be an actress after having spent years immersed in New York City's music scene and organizing block parties. She set aside her acting dreams, however, when a musical troupe rented out the theater and she became their stage manager. As it turned out, the troupe became new wave band Oingo Boingo, led by Danny Elfman, for whom she worked for 18 years in various capacities including guitar roadie, tour manager and manager until the band broke up. When Elfman began scoring films, Engel became his production coordinator and manager before joining Elfman's film music agent Richard Kraft with whom she formed Kraft-Engel Management.
Bostic, the sole creative artist on the panel, whose film scores include the documentary "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" and the film "Dear White People," stressed the importance of fiercely and firmly believing in oneself. "We're so hard on ourselves for reasons that have nothing to do with anything. Try not to second guess your desires. You have nothing to lose. Put one foot in front of the other and understand the value of your relationships, your relationship with yourself and others." Bostic also encouraged budding composers to persevere in the face of rejection. "Do you know how many 'no's I’ve had? To the point that I might as well not be alive if I let that define what I do."
She stressed the importance of staying open to opportunities and recounted an amusing anecdote in which she landed a film composing gig after having made a contact while grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.
When talk turned to being a woman in male-dominated industries, Prine said she endured experiences in which she found a male executive sitting across a table staring at her breasts instead of her face. But she said she persevered and focused on doing a good job and working hard. She said she feels that being a woman brings a special and unique aspect to her job. "I feel, as a woman, what I do bring to the table is a little bit more of an emotion that comes with watching something and feeling something. Throughout the six years on 'Nashville,' the big joke was, 'Is this episode going to make Frankie cry?' I would be in the playback and I'd watch the episode and these were original songs and I found all these original songs. If I cried that, to me, means I did a good job. I think being a female brings a little more emotion into the picture."
Engel said she’d always been a bit of a bull in a china shop, and a workaholic who has blinders on and who never really thought twice about gender as she'd always focused on her work to the exclusion of all else. But when she began to work with composers, she noticed a huge disparity in the ratio of men to women in the field and felt obligated to do something about it. “I thought, ‘I actually have a responsibility to look to my left and look to my right and to reach a hand and help out and so I started making a more conscious effort to sign more women composers."
McKnight, whose music supervision credits include the films "Beasts Of No Nation" and "Hunger Games" added, "The best people should always get the job. I truly believe that. And that has nothing to do with gender but, sometimes, it’s about making sure the list is well-rounded and making sure there are opportunities. We all need to champion each other."