Published on August 16th, 2017 | by Landon Buford0
Film and Television Composer The Angel Talks “Born To Lead: The Sal Aunese Story” & More
The late great Mr. James Brown declared it was a man’s world, “but it wouldn’t be anything without a woman or a girl,’ a fact female Producer/Composer The Angel is proving to be true. The Angel (@supacrucial) is part of a small and elite group of women composers working musical magic on Hollywood projects in a competitive male-dominated field. The Angel, raised in Brooklyn, New York, began her career in the entertainment business as a self-produced recording artist that caught the eye of an urban record label, Delicious Vinyl in Los Angeles, California. The hip hop record company was home for other hit musical acts such as The Brand New Heavies, The Pharcyde, and Masta Ace. Ultimately, The Angel decided to spread her wings and venture out on her own, starting the record label Supa Crucial Recordings with distribution through New Line Recordings and a production company, Devilishly Good Productions. She soon made a name for herself with her unique urban and electronic.
The Angel transitioned from the confines of the original song format and into film composing with the genre defining scores for the features, “Gridlock’d” (Tupac Shakur) “Boiler Room” (Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel) and “KiDULTHOOD”(Noel Clarke), and later marked a television milestone for a female composer, by scoring the Fox Network television series, “Standoff” (Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt). In addition, The Angel was the composer for season two of Jada Pinkett Smith’s TNT series, “Hawthorne” as well as Ava DuVernay’s CBS drama pilot, “For Justice.” Devilishly Good Productions continues to develop unique, film and television content with the recent independent feature documentary “Born To Lead: The Sal Aunese Story” co-produced and scored by The Angel.
The Hype Magazine recently had the opportunity speak with the veteran Producer/Composer. The Angel discusses her journey as a musician, composer, and TV/Film Producer and how her experiences influenced her latest projects: “Born To Lead: The Sal Aunese Story” for CBS and her role as Producer/Composer on the recently filmed TV pilot “Beyond The Badge.”
Has it always been a dream of yours to be a professional musician?
I grew up in a very eclectic musical environment. My mother was a huge fan of all genres of music, so I developed a healthy love of everything from soul to jazz, to rock, to reggae, to hip hop to show tunes… I played piano, took lessons, but very quickly realized that my interest was not so much about being a proficient player, instead, I started writing piano pieces for my own enjoyment and never thought it would be a gateway to what I wound up doing as a record producer and film/TV composer.
Who are the individuals you considered to be a mentor at the beginning of your career?
At the beginning of my career there really were no mentors. I made my own way, learning how to use technology to get my ideas recorded. I started by recording an album when I was based in London but wound up signing a record deal with LA based Delicious Vinyl. This was in the early 1990s and they had just signed the Brand New Heavies, so they had an eye for acid jazz, funk and hip hop. Unlike most labels who assumed that as a woman, I must only be a singer, what made DV excited, was that I was programming, writing, arranging, mixing and producing the records… I had a vision for creating something fresh by blending musical styles, incorporating reggae and jazz over hip hop beats with rhymes and soulful vocals. They got me remixing The Pharcyde, The Brand New Heavies, later Spearhead… But it was my remix of Donald Byrd’s “Kofi” feat Mystic that caught the attention of Vondie Curtis-Hall, the writer/director of “Gridlock’d”. So, Tupac’s penultimate film gave me my first opportunity to score a film… and a lesson in composer politics. Being a first timer meant that the film studio, Polygram, insisted on hiring Stewart Copeland as the main composer. But the creatives hired me separately to score specific scenes… It was a springboard to becoming a film and TV composer.
Your work as a composer has been featured in documentaries, feature films, and television series such as; Boiler Room, The Heart of the Game, Hawthorne, The First 48, The Twilight Zone, and The Wire to name a few. Can you tell us which one was your favorite project and why?
Some of the TV shows you mentioned licensed some of my records as source music. For instance, I licensed the song “Make It Betta” feat Tre Hardson to The Wire… This is different from when I am hired as the composer to write and record all the original score for a film or TV series, where I synchronize and work to picture. The skills are completely different. As for the projects I have scored, they all have something special about them that I love. The films, “Boiler Room” and “KiDULTHOOD” were great creative experiences because of writer/director Ben Younger and director Menhaj Huda respectively, both wanted the score to blend seamlessly with all the hip hop, UK hip hop, and grime. Those gigs are rare…
But there’s something about scoring a TV series, where I work at lightning speed, jump through every kind of stylistic hoop and create the sound of the show, that I really love… I love the challenge and the camaraderie of working with a director or producer to manifest their vision, like working with Ava DuVernay on the CBS pilot, “For Justice.” When I scored “Standoff” for Fox, I was the second woman in 16 years to score a show on the network and when I scored Hawthorne, Sony said their stats were just as low. There’s a lot of talk about improving the statistics for hiring women directors and just about every other crew job in our industry, but the conversation never seems to extend as far as composers, where women are most marginalized and represent only 2% of all working composers in film and TV.
What intrigued you the most about your upcoming project “Beyond the Badge”?
When I first started speaking with (Creator/Executive Producer) Anita M. Cal about her vision, there was something about her passion and enthusiasm that immediately clicked for me. I dug the world she created, centered on an African-American family where the husband and wife are both undercover cops, and the effect that would have on their two kids and the extended family, which includes the husband’s white foster brother. It is thoughtful and progressive and I couldn’t wait to see the cast bring the script to life. When Anita and I spoke about ‘Beyond the Badge,” I thought, “this woman is so ambitious, determined and fearless…” She reminded me a little of myself because of the way she was taking the reins, not waiting for an invitation to create. And from there I wanted to help Anita succeed with this project as a Producer and Composer, giving Anita support with her script, interfacing with the director, Ryan Minningham and the superb lead actors, Don Wallace and Daya Vaidya during the shoot… and eventually scoring the pilot.
What are some of your other recent projects and plans for the future?
Being a huge supporter of women, I have Co-Produced and scored the documentary, “Born To Lead: The Sal Aunese Story” for the director, Lara Slife. The documentary airs on CBS Sports Network on August 18th 4 pm & 10 pm PST and is doing a limited run in AMC theaters Aug 18th – 24th in L.A. and N.Y. I have also scored the short film, “Smok’d” for writer/director Tamika Miller and the short film, “Niles Canyon” for director Sallyanne Massimini. Both shorts are currently making the festival rounds. I am also finishing an album that has been a long time coming…After spending most of my career working in post-production, I have expanded into Producing, Writing and developing for film and TV. The first TV drama series I developed with my producing partner, Kevin Herlihy, had Idris Elba attached as our partner, and the project garnered an offer from BBC America. It validated our process and instincts…and inspired us to do more. We are currently writing screenplays, developing and pitching TV drama series. And as I look back, I realize that the passion and skills I developed as a record producer and composer translate into development, where having a vision for what I’m creating, nurturing talent around me, and knowing how to execute the vision are paramount.
Can you describe what it was like working with director Ryan Miningham, creator/writer/producer Dr. Anita M. Cal, and producer Cheryl Jenkins?
Though Anita and I had been talking and emailing for a few months, I met each of them in person for the first time at the read-through, only two days before we started shooting. But you’d never know it because the camaraderie was organic… I was so impressed by Ryan as a director. He was thoughtful, focused, calm and open… He, Anita and I was able to troubleshoot and implement script changes on the spot without any static, despite the intense heat and the usual problems that inevitably occur during a shoot. Cheryl is an experienced producer and was incredibly cool to work with. She and Anita go way back and I loved knowing that Anita was so well-supported by her. The bottom line is that we pulled together, working guerilla-style, discussing things openly without treading on each other’s space. The same goes for Don and Daya, who is so experienced and inclusive. This was a rare group… and a testament to working with grounded, talented people. Everyone in the cast and crew had such a great work ethic and brought their A-game… I credit Anita’s vision and producing skills for bringing us all together!Tweet