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Composers Feel the Music at BMI Awards

David Newman, Mike Post honored at the organization’s main event.

Composers and musicians gathered at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel Tuesday evening to fete the best of their industry at BMI’s 57th annual Film & Television Awards.


The night honored writers who had scored diverse fare from films like "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Sex and the City" to the Sarah Silverman skit "I’m F—ing Matt Damon."  


The biggest accolade of the evening, the Richard Kirk Award, went to David Newman, who comes from a family of three generations of film music scoring — including his father, Alfred Newman, cousin Randy; and brother Thomas. (Read our Q&A with Newman.)

Newman got his start after composing the original score for Danny DeVito’s "Throw Momma from the Train" in 1987.  


"His music gave textures to the film I just couldn’t get and really lifted it up," DeVito recalled in a video tribute to Newman that also showed clips of music from some of the 100-plus films he has scored, including "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure," "The Nutty Professor" and "The Brave Little Toaster."  


"I grew up playing violin in an orchestra," he said after receiving the prize and a standing ovation from the crowd. "It’s always a collaboration of the composer with the orchestra. The film itself is immutable, and we all end up loving it and putting our stuff out there and having someone say they don’t like it and picking ourselves back up again."  


Throughout the night, winners from across the industry each took the stage briefly to accept a glass award as short clips of their music were played. Producer Brian Grazer was seen dashing around the ballroom patting friends on the back; and actor/musician Corey Feldman discussed his aspirations to one day score for film or TV.  


Some composers shared their experiences working intimately with some of Hollywood’s most prominent filmmakers.

Lyle Workman, who received his first BMI Film Music Award for "Yes, Man" and whose other credits include films like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Superbad," said he often opts to write more dramatic music for comedic movies.  


"A lot of people think you need funny music for a comedy — cartoony stuff with trombones or plucky violins. But the music is generally dramatic, and it’s more challenging to not play to what’s in a scene," Workman said. "Judd Apatow is fantastic to work with, and he’d tell me, ‘oh, that’s not the tone, you’re playing to the woman and it’s more about him.’ It was very collaborative."  


Tyler Bates, who received his third film award for "Watchmen" and a cable award for "Californication," said director Zack Snyder didn’t allow his cast and crew to be affected by the legal squabbles that surrounded the release of "Watchmen."  


"Zack insulates people from all that mumbo jumbo," Bates said. "Doing his films requires using five to six genres of music, which is extremely challenging, but I loved working with him."  


Two writers who write for HBO’s "True Blood" said they were anticipating their music being played again during the second season of the vampire drama.

"Initially, I was surprised because I realized that horror is only about 20 percent of the score — a lot of it is drama and romance," said Nathan Barr, who writes music for the show. Jace Everett, a country music artist, wrote the show’s theme song.  


"It was a song I wrote about whooping a guy’s ass that the producers discovered on iTunes and thought had a more sexual nature to it," he joked.

The evening’s other big honoree was Mike Post, who took home BMI’s Classic Contribution Award for his involvement with the BMI Foundation’s Pete Carpenter Fellowship. The fellowship is in memory of Post’s late partner and friend Pete Carpenter, who composed themes for programs like "Magnum P.I." and "The Rockford Files."


Post, who is recognized throughout the industry for his work on classic themes for television series like "Hill Street Blues," "NYPD Blue" and "Law and Order," mentors each fellowship recipient for five weeks in his Los Angeles studio.  


"These are times that are funny," Post said on stage after accepting his award from BMI’s Vice President of Film/TV Relations, Doreen Ringer Ross. "What we do is being devalued and it’s a hard time if you’re starting out. I see these young people come in and I get a shot of optimism that reminds me why I do this."