G.Marq Roswell  


The total movie experience, more often then not, is as much about sound as it is about sight. In the right hands, music that accompanies film imagery is capable of evoking the full spectrum of emotion in an audience. The artists who orchestrate what you hear in the theater, who guide every aspect of a film's musical content, are called music producers/music supervisors and one of the industry's best is G. Marq Roswell.

A sixth generation Californian and graduate of UCLA's prestigious film school, Roswell knows all too well how music can contribute to almost any film's ultimate success. To date he's lent his talents to over 50 films, including The Great Debaters, (Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker directed by Denzel Washington) , Spy Game, (Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, directed by Tony Scott), Dawn of the Dead (directed by Zack Snyder of 300 fame) , The Hurricane (Denzel Washington, directed by Norman Jewison), An Unfinished Life, (directed by Lasse Hallstrom), For Love of the Game, (directed by Sam Raimi) to the important Iraq for Sale (directed by Robert Greenwald), and zany The Brothers Solomon, (directed by Bob Odenkirk).

Many of the films Roswell has supervised have played right into his vast knowledge of rock 'n' roll. However, his love of music goes far beyond that one genre. Throughout the years Roswell has employed a number of unique and different musical styles and combinations, earning him high praise from directors, producers and composers. His encyclopedic knowledge of music - both past and present - ensures that each project he takes on is infused with fresh ideas and unique cuts not heard elsewhere.

Roswell has the unique ability to seek out and immerse himself in the music for each project, no matter what genre it occupies. In the Denzel Washington directed The Great Debaters, he and partner Adam Swart mined the rich tapestry of African American music from the 1930's and produced new tracks with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. He worked with Queens of the Stone Age and Rahzel on Let's Go to Prison, pop/country artists Lyle Lovett, Trisha Yearwood, Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill on For Love of the Game , assembled hard rockers Guns & Roses, Korn, and Limp Bizkit for End of Days, sought out contemporary rhythm and blues artists Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, The Roots, Bob Dylan, Mos Def and Me'Shell Ndegeocello for The Hurricane), and worked with a host of Middle Eastern musicians for Spy Game. Unlike many supervisors working today, Roswell has the ability to actually produce the music for his projects, from assembling talent, picking the right songs, overseeing the actual sessions, to collaborating with the composer on the score. "I see myself as a musical consigliore to the director," he says. "I constantly work to provide the elements of music that contribute to the scope of his or her vision."

Due to the nature of how music compliments a film's content, Roswell prefers that his role begin very early in the process. And depending on the complexity of the music used, that involvement could last many months. For ‘The Great Debaters' which takes place in 1935, Roswell met with director Denzel Washington in preproduction, produced the music for on camera playback and was cutting music video extra's for the DVD release.

On The Commitments , the story of an Irish soul band, Roswell spent months in pre-production listening to and categorizing literally hundreds of R&B songs. He then traveled to Ireland to help director Alan Parker recruit the cast and finalize which songs would be used in the film. Once those decisions were made, Roswell organized and oversaw the recording sessions. "By and large," he says, "I've found that I get to be as creative as my collaboration with the director allows. Luckily, I've been fortunate enough to work with directors who have an incredible understanding of music."

Another such labor-intensive project was director Norman Jemison's The Hurricane, for which Roswell researched nearly 40 years of rhythm and blues. "There's so much fantastic music that came out of the period between the late 1940s up to around 1985," Roswell says. "Some of the songs we used were moving and very powerful," he says, citing Gil-Scott Heron's stirring "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" as a prime example of a song that quite literally made one of the film's scenes. This is the magical pairing of music and image, the kind of moment that make the job of music supervision gratifying.

The heartbreak on this film was losing a sublime potential end title song from Lauren Hill or having Bob Dylan waiting in a Philly recording studio, ready to sing on the chorus of the Roots Hurricane, only to have politics torpedo the process, illustrating the exhilaration and the disappointment as part of the music producers journey.

A significant amount of a music supervisor's time is spent negotiating with a variety of industry professionals. In these tight situations, diplomacy is key, and Roswell has proven time and time again that he has it in spades. He explains, "Like any aspect of the film and music business, sometimes negotiating chores aren't a lot of fun. Often I'll be simultaneously negotiating and structuring a composer's deal on a picture, clearing and licensing songs for a film, and monitoring a budget that always seems to be more than the producers would like to spend, and less than what a director's musical vision cost!" In an industry fixated on star power and ego, Roswell 's is a refreshingly laid back but confident presence.

However, with many big-budget projects, finishing the film is only half the battle. Even though C.D. revenues are shrinking, movie soundtracks if infused with vision can continue to be a lucrative and important aspect of the business. The Great Debaters soundtrack album on Atlantic Records has newly recorded tracks, produced by Roswell, featuring Sharon Jones, Alvin Youngblood Hart and The Carolina Chocolate Drops, lauded to be a Soul Brother Where Art Thou.

Roswell has put together some of the early winners. One of the biggest selling soundtracks ever is The Commitments , which has sold over 5 million copies to date. The Varsity Blues soundtrack went platinum, while The Fine Young Cannibals wrote both songs (including the #1 hit "Good Thing") and the score for Barry Levinson's Tin Men. The inclusion of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" in David Lynch's Wild At Heart almost single-handedly gave Isaak a career. The song eventually went to #1. As the music supervisor, Roswell was responsible for the producing or placement of these successful tracks.

G. Marq Roswell has a unique understanding of how music affects film audiences. It's no wonder that he's one of today's most respected and sought after music supervisors. Most importantly he keeps it fun and real!

Email G. Marq at gmarq@35sound.com