With a string of TV and film credits that extends back to the 1998 television series V.I.P., Andrea von Foerster’s over 12 years of music supervision experience have earned her some serious Sunset Boulevard street cred. You might picture her sitting comfortably in front of an expensive entertainment center, listening to Explosions in the Sky while watching the first cut of Transformers to assess the fit, but in a recent interview with Hive, Andrea dispelled those illusions. She says the biggest misconception about being a music supervisor, in fact, is that they sit around listening to music all day. In reality, some of her best discoveries occur just like ours, “[Watching] endless videos on YouTube at four in the morning.”
Music supervision is absolutely an artistic process, but there is also a tremendous amount of paperwork, number crunching, and litigating involved that make up the bulk of Andrea’s day-to-day dealings (and also involve a bit of creativity). Read Hive’s entire interview with her below, where she touches on her recent project Chronicle (which includes tracks from Class Actress, Bikini and M83), her favorite song placements of all-time, and the subtle benefits of having indie-leaning music taste.
First off I want to touch on Chronicle. How was your experience making the soundtrack?
It was actually pretty amazing, working with a young director [Josh Trank] who is super in-touch with what music is out there right now is really nice, and he was really open to hearing music that he hasn’t heard before, which is unusual. And so, you know, we had almost all new or on-the-rise or underground artists on the soundtrack for the most part, other than a few of them.
Is there a particular scene you are proud of in Chronicle when it comes to the music?
I can’t stand watching rave scenes that have music that you would never ever hear at a rave. If you’re at a rave, you will never ever hear LMFAO. LMFAO is great party music, but it’s not rave music. It drives me crazy when I see that in a project and I’m like, “Wow, you just lost me.” I think the three songs we have in our rave scene are closer to what you would actually hear. We have Simian Mobile Disco, Crystal Castles and a band called No/Fi Riots. I like to be accurate, because I think if you aren’t accurate with things, especially for teen-driven movies, then you lose your audience super fast. Also, “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie when Ant is putting on his fire suit. And then, honestly, the end title song, “This Bright Flash” by M83 was awesome.
Have you ever felt like you’ve helped break an artist by including them on a soundtrack?
Definitely, but it’s always a piece of a greater puzzle. It’s not just the placement, it’s also what the artist, or management team, or publisher does with that. Often times you use something, but there is no plan in place so it doesn’t go anywhere. The Temper Trap, “Sweet Disposition” in 500 Days of Summer, that was definitely one. With the Chronicle, I don’t know if there are any standout tracks for people, I feel you either know that music and you’re in touch with it or you’ve never heard any of it.
I see Congorock is on the Chronicle soundtrack. With the whole EDM thing happening right now, I feel like every other commercial I see has dubstep in it. Do you get a lot of request for dubsteppy kind of stuff for scenes or commercials?
No, mostly people know the word but they don’t really know what it is. The word is used a lot, but once you play dubstep they are like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought it was.”’ It’s harder to place in TV or film I think, unless it’s a very specific scene. I think it’s easier to place in ads than anywhere right now, but I don’t do commercials.
What would you say is your most moving use of music in a film or TV show?
For me, any song that I can’t hear anymore without thinking of the project that it was in is an amazing placement for me. And there are a lot of those. I mean, for my own purposes, definitely Hall & Oates in 500 Days of Summer. Another one that I definitely love is “Jaan Pehechaan Hoe” on the Ghost World soundtrack by Mohammed Rafi. And then, pretty much everything on Trainspotting, “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed and “Lust for Life” [by Iggy Pop], amazing. And to go way back, “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything, pretty epic. And “Where is My Mind” at the end of Fight Club by the Pixies. Another big one too is “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger in Boogie Nights, I absolutely love that.
I don’t know if you had a chance to see Drive, but a lot of people we’re talking about the soundtrack after that came out.
I’m a little confused by that, not that I’m hating on it at all, because I love that movie and I did like the music, but there are only five songs in that film, and one of them I’m sure was used twice. So, I’m surprised. Obviously the overall music made an impression, [but] I think it was the score that got people more than anything.
What does your inbox look like?
It’s so sad … I get about a thousand emails a day.
Yup. Already this month I’ve sent out over ten thousand myself. And I’m exactly 8,024 download links behind.
I thought being a blogger was tough.
I’ve been doing this for twelve years, so the labels know me, the publishers know me, the agents, the managers, the artists themselves, and sometimes their moms find me. It doesn’t matter. People know where to find me now. It’s great, I like that I get so much even though it’s really overwhelming, just so that I can get through it all at 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s really interesting to see what catches your eye. Obviously you want to go for what fits you project, so that’s what you are listening to first.
“I don’t care what other people’s opinions of music are, because it might not fit their ears, but it fits my project.”
Do you ever feel like the skills you’ve accrued over your years being a music supervisor and coordinator would be applicable to another job if you wanted to make a career switch?
Oh, for sure. I mean, I want to write and produce at some point, as well as supervise. I think supervision is pretty darn close to producing, just because you’re putting all the parts together and making it work, and making it legal and making it fit within a budget. I think it’s kind of a bird’s eye view of how a lot of production and post-production goes. It’s a nice overview if you’re in entertainment.
With technology and things changing so quickly, do you ever feel your job will be in jeopardy at some point?
For sure. Since music supervision has become a job that everyone knows the title of, everyone thinks they can do it, which is kind of frustrating. It is a job, it’s a real art. You have to balance the creative and the business side of music, and most people don’t understand you aren’t just picking whatever you want. There is an approval process, from both the artist side and the management and publishing side and labels and the rest of it, and the people that employed you for the project. You have to sort of be the ultimate co-dependent worker and find what pleases everybody. And so, when people undervalue the fact that you do have to know people to get things cleared in a certain amount of time, and you have to know what’s gonna cost what.
Does it feel weird to have an IMDB page?
To be honest, I’ve been obsessed with entertainment since I was two years old. My dad called me “Little Miss Hollywood” from two years old. I kind of always knew I would end up in entertainment in some regard. When I went to college I was convinced I wanted to be a director of photography, and that very quickly changed. Then I was like, ‘I’ll be an editor’ and that changed. Then I went through the whole thing and I was like, you know what, music is awesome. I really like putting things together, especially those worlds [of music and film], I love them both. Getting to see your name on a screen is kinda the coolest thing ever.
What do you think shaped your taste in music?
Honestly, moving a lot. I moved 33 times. I started in England, my mom is English. Then I moved to Indiana, my dad is American. And then the back and forth. I have a twin brother who liked all the music that I didn’t growing up but now I like, like metal and whatnot. The standout memory from my teenage years is hearing him teach himself “Iron Man.” So I think just being in different places all the time really affected [my music taste]. When I lived in Indiana I hated country, and when I moved away I was like, ‘oh I like country!’ Living in Orange County I liked hip-hop and punk and reggae and ska, you know. It just … I think the people that hang around you, if they have great taste that rubs off, and then being in the awesome position of having people send you everything new so you get to sift through things yourself.
How do you keep up with all the music coming out? Do you have a system?
I do not. I listen to everything that comes my way, and sometime it can even be a year later, but I’ve placed songs that I’ve heard a year later, so, it’s never too late for me to hear something, because you really only need the right project for it. I’ve definitely worked on things where people are like, this is out right now, you should listen to this, but I don’t have a place for it. Maybe six months later I’ve got the perfect place for it. So, you never really know what you’re gonna get. And, it’s still kind of frustrating, because in film, you don’t really get the chance to use something right away. You’ll be on a film for a year to two years, so, in the meantime, you have to worry about TV or ads or trailers playing something before it can be in your movie.
Are there websites or apps that you check once in awhile just to stay in touch with what’s going on in music?
No, just because I don’t have time. Everything is about finding something within the time limit and price that you have. For the most part, I’m not really on the hipster blogs that everyone talks about. I don’t care what other people’s opinions of music are, because it might not fit their ears, but it fits my project. I do actually watch endless videos on YouTube at like four in the morning, and I’ll just go from one thread to another to another to another. Having a British music background, I tend to watch as many British music videos as possible and find new artists that way.
Do you feel you over analyze movies or the scenes with music?
I’ve always been someone who analyzes the hell out of everything, so, if it wasn’t my job I would still be doing it, and I did it well before I ever went to film school, and [that] didn’t help! So, yeah, I will definitely listen to things and be like, ‘Bad choice! Bad choice!’ or ‘Great choice!’ But it doesn’t take me out of the movie, [to me] it’s just some added element of what’s going on.
Do you think it’s favorable to have more indie leaning taste in music if you’re a supervisor? I would think getting indie music is cheaper than getting more expensive singles.
I don’t even think it’s just the budget. I think it helps because if you’re working on something that doesn’t have a crazy budget, [the movie or film] might come out two years from now. If you do something that is under the radar, in two years it might actually be big. And so, [the director] might know a band, but they will only know the song that is on the radio and that’s not gonna help you. A music supervisor knows what is out now, what is going to be out, how much it is going to cost. It’s always the dance of when something is going to be released, and how big the moment is too. Some [song] uses are really short, some are really featured, and some are buried. You just never know, you can’t tell the importance of it until you see the whole thing.
I see the Secret Lives of Dorks and I Am Ben are in post-production. Do you have any previews on what to expect on those projects?
Yeah. I am Ben, we’re not done with it yet … but the director is young and has amazing taste. Right now we have Seabear, Zapp, Choir of Young Believers, I’m From Barcelona. For Secret Lives of Dorks, we have the Futures, Kyle Andrews, Neighbors, the Chang Gang of 1974, and Tourist. I’m also working on Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, which will be airing after Modern Family in April on ABC. In that, we got Lykke Li, “Get Some” in awesome spots, Nouvelle Vague, Sleigh Bells, some Lionel Richie. It’s kind of all over the place, we have some indie stuff and we have some major stuff. It’s all for the greater good of the comedy though, so it’s really funny.