The Oscar-nominated words and music of 'Beale Street'
From the Mon broadcast center KPCC. This is the frame. I'm Steven Cuevas sitting in for John horn on today's show berry Jenkins talks about turning James Baldwin's. If Beale street could talk to a movie hockey, not be lifted up by the subsoil DEA of two young black people as so mates. They're just something about it. That was so rich and potent is lush that grabbed me, then he'll street composer, Nicolas retell, he's come a long way since his first gig after college my band broke up, and the film that I had scored never came out. And I was looking for job. And I actually got a job training currencies in New York all that coming up on the frame. KPCC podcasts are supported by wonder brothers pictures, presenting a soulful authentic a star is born. Starring Bradley Cooper, lady Gaga and Sam Elliott in their Academy Award nominated performances for consideration in all categories. And by marvel studios. Black Panther now nominated for seven Academy Awards including costume and production. Design score original song all the stars performed by Kendrick Lamar and syzza and best motion. Picture welcome to the frame. I'm Steven Cuevas sitting in for John horn with his two thousand sixteen film moonlight very Jenkins turned his camera on liberty city, the predominantly black neighborhood of Miami. Where he grew up. The film won the Academy Award for best picture for his follow up. If Beale street could talk Jenkins ventured into Harlem Beale street is based on the nineteen seventy four novel of the same name written by author and social critic James Baldwin Jenkins at uptaken earned him. Another Oscar nomination Beale street tells the story of a young couple named Fani Tisch they fall in love, then Tisch gets pregnant then funniest charged for rape that he didn't commit but even with so much turmoil and suffering. There's a beauty to Bill street. Just as there was in move. Enlight? Well, the story takes place in Harlem, the real Beale street is actually in Memphis and the movie opens with a reference to New Orleans so in John horns sat down with Barry Jenkins. He asked to filmmaker what all these places have in common. I think it's about the universality of the experience that Mr. Baldwin's depicting the novel. And then I also depicted in the film, just this this common sort of like spirituality community this common. Lifeforce shared amongst black folks, especially in these enclaves. You know, whether they be in Memphis, Tennessee, New Orleans Harlem, as you said my hometown of Miami liberty city, I think all these places have these stories like the one that we see depicted in this film, your film, probably I would say even more so than the book is a love story. And the love story about two young people who are deeply in love with each other. And in one case in particular, the family of one that's trying to make sure that this couple is not ruined. Why did you respond so much of that part of the story and emphasize it what do you want to say about? These young lovers and about how much they meant each other and how much their families. We're gonna do whatever it took to make sure that they were together. How much the young was meant was the first thing that grabbed me it just it's such a I mean jumps off the page in a certain way, and especially in this novel because you know, Mr. Baldwin wrote with two very distinct voices, he wrote with many voices there were two that always jumped out to me the most one which just almost enraptured with this idea of sensuality with love with romance with passion. The other one was just as searing about depicting societal injustices, and particularly the way that the lives and souls of black folks has been treated by the country that we all call home. And so when I read the book for the first time and saw just how how devoted Titian funny arts one another how they're basically creating this world of two people. I was just I don't know. How can you not be lifted up by that this conceptual idea of two young black people as soulmates there's something about it? That was so rich and potent and just Le. Rush that grabbed me, and then when you bring the families into it as well what what I loved about. Because I wrote this at the same time that I wrote moonlight and moolah as depiction of a certain kind of families the family, I grew up in Bill street features two very different families from the one I grew up in. But what what I really felt like the volume it was working out was within one scene in the film. There's a scene where you have eight actress sitting in a room, and these two families, basically, the basic negotiating how do we treat the same problem? He's in air quotes, the same problem, you know, to one family as a blessing to the other family. It's a problem. And I just love how you put all these very different depictions of blackness of black family of religion, all these different characters, but very different concept of the same thing. And so as trying to solve the same scenario the same problem, they're all doing it with different tools, and I just love as dramas. Now, speaking purely ask somebody who to have fun making art it's like, oh, this is delicious. And I think when you wash the was in the film. It does read as delicious with a capital d the other thing. Baldwin is writing about your film is dealing with are the ideas of intersection -ality that on the one hand Beale street is talking about the way that black men are profiled and targeted and oppressed within our criminal Justice system, and on the other hand, there's this sexual assault narrative. There's a story about this woman who was raped and she believes the wrong person has committed the rape. What is the balance you're trying to strike about those two issues? So that they I guess in some ways complement each other, even though it sounds kind of horrible without kind of clashing with each other. Yeah. It wasn't about them complimenting or clashing with with each other. Because so much of the work had already been done in the novel. And so even in the depiction of the sexual assault in the novel. And in the film is going to be really looking at you know, funds not falsely accused of anything he's chosen out of police lineup. Right. He's place in a police lineup by a an extremely racist police officer and then in the sequence between the office addition funny. We see. The exact moment when the officer decides. Okay, I am going to teach you, and so when you really dig into the language of what's being understood this idea of these two things being in concert and not being not clashing. Then it starts to reveal itself. And I think the fact that the the character who was halted MRs Victoria, Raja's, she's Puerto Rican because Baldwin's is just playing with everything how close the American dream, can you possibly get without being granted full access to it. You know? I mean, it's just so much in this book was so just like searingly just right at the edge. I'm gonna all these things thrown into this pot together the creates this because you've mentioned New Orleans earlier this Gumbo. You know, that could only be described as Americana and terms of making art Fani is an artist himself. He's a sculptor wise that profession important because there's a scene in the film where we see him creating his art while he is thanking back to it as he's incarcerated what is his art represent to him. And why was it important? Represent it in the film. I think he found in the sculpting and this art away to express himself that cannot be corrupted that can be taken away from him by anyone but his own intellectual imitations, if he has the desire to create something can go get a block of wood and created now me making the film, the sequence you're talking about coming to the end of the movie where you know, we finally get to see stuff on James's Fani working on this piece of art trying to finesse this block of wood into a vision. But because of the circumstances that will be followed him. He just can't. And he's walking around it circling it, and I remember when I first understood that I wanted to make films kind of feeling the same way in. I think it's lovely that. You know, this movie adaptation moonlight was up as well. So it's not autobiographical, but there are moments when myself in the characters completely aligned, and when I think of both the character and stuff on James circling the thing that could be manifested into something the horrific or beautiful and almost being para. Allies. I'm like, oh, I know it feels like. Coming up berry Jenkins maintains that love family and community are what will get us through. KPCC podcasts are supported by one. Or brothers pictures, presenting the sole fli authentic. A star is born. Starring Bradley Cooper, lady Gaga and Sam Elliott in their kademi award nominated performances now nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture invested Apted screenplays. Kenneth Durant of the Los Angeles Times calls it passionate, emotional and. Fearless. An af I calls the film of stellar achievement in its own universe for consideration in all categories. KPCC podcasts are supported by marvel studios, presenting Black Panther the LA times raves. Black Panther is the cinematic event of the year Vanity Fair calls it, a political and social triumph USA today. Claims. Black Panther is a rousing cultural movement and now nominated for seven Academy Awards including costume and production. Design score original song all the stars performed by country. Clamored syzza and best motion picture. Welcome back to the frame. I'm Steven Cuevas sitting in for John horn on today's show. We're hearing about the making of if Beale street could talk with filmmaker Barry Jenkins, the film stars to relatively unknown actors newcomer KiKi lane as the character Tisch and Stefan James as her lover fawning. I love you. And I understand we going through. Because I'm with you. I like to say casting talker on this film, sending Tolan was the casting director. Cindy discover Jason Mitchell as easy in the film's drive competent. So I knew she could sort of like, look and sift. And, you know, find a diamonds in the rough as they say and with this film. The most important thing was this idea of soulmates, you know, between fishing funny, but also between Regina king and Colman Domingo, you know, as tissues parents. And I think Cindy just had a very very open idea of what that looked like. And what it felt like, and so you know, when we were casting very wide net. We were going to look at someone who had no credits just as diligently as we look at someone who had a hundred credits. I wanna ask you about the gatekeepers the people who allow stories like this to get told and those who thwart them when you're thinking about how the industry welcomes or does. Not welcome diverse storytellers what needs to change. So that we get to see films that look a lot more like. The country and not like movies that are made by a bunch of white guys. Yeah. I think oh, man. John horn said that not very Jenkins. It's you know, it's it's a multi prong multifaceted issue. I do think it's an issue. I think the most there's a couple things one. Most importantly, you know, we have to consider it a direction destination there so many times where we've thought oh, we need change and we set assigned post and go changes done. We got there. We don't eat this thing anymore. And then we realize now you are very premature so needs to be a direction another destination. You know, we're always in the path of progress. I think you look at a film like Black Panther with. It's amazing success. So clear the audience is there, and then you look at someone like Abram who's made a mandate where every person who directs an episode of sugar is going to be a woman just to show and prove that these women would not directed an episode of television. Can of course, come in and directing up soda television. 'cause they've been doing it on their indie films. So I think the more were doing these things out in the world. And we're in we're really planning a flag to go. See it worked here. It will work there. See this audiences here. The audience will be there. Then these myths that always somehow every three years come back up. Oh, black films don't travel overseas. Well, actually, moonlight made more money overseas than it made domestically. Let's not forget that conveniently two years later. And I think we're at a process where the stage right now where people aren't being allowed to forget those things. So I do think we're on the path of progress midnight actually made more overseas than this did. Yes, it did. See see? No. And the other thing I think that we haven't talked about is critics. I think if you have critics who come from diverse backgrounds and look at the world differently than most traditionally white male critics that that changes the way that movies reviewed and the conversations that happen around him, the best thing I'll say about that is there are sequences in both these films and moonlight and Beale street where depending on the personal experience you bring the auditorium. There were just things you pick up on. That's. Fine. Because there's thing I've been doing that for years. You know, we all have people of color have been watching material ingesting media that is not set in the world that we're from for years, and it's fine. We still find a way to enjoy it in. So now that she was on the other foot. You're right. There are certain things in the nuance in the subtlety in the foundation of this work that yes. Because the group that is watching these things, and then and then the mouthpiece that showing you this is what I saw on this thing. But if you can't see it all then are you maybe not the best person? But should you be the only person that's talking about this answer to that is definitely know the title of the book, and it had all of your movie doesn't have question, Mark. If the old street could talk, but if Beale street could talk what would it say, what would what it's take on the world today. I think it's take on the world today is, you know, there's a scene in the movie with with day Franko, and you know, Dave is this landlord who showing chiffon in apartment and to conclude. The same. He very simply says funny, ask them. I don't know. Why what it is? That makes you decide to treat negro some nice like as the line Fonte says and Dave Franken's character Levy says well, you know, I'm just my mother, son. Sometimes it's the only thing that makes a difference between us and them. You assume the us in them's black and white. But it's not, you know, the us and them as people who've been nurtured people who have foundation people who have loved families, and the people who don't and I feel like we have to find a way. And I think with the movie is saying as well is that this idea of love family community. That's the thing that's going to get us through these very dark times. Yeah. The other thing the landlord says is he dug people who loved each other. He does say that too. He doesn't do. Let's take it from the book Jenkins greatest. Thank you very much horn. composer, Nicolas Patel. I read the script from light thought it was like reading a poem inspired him to write the score. You're hearing now. Retell has become integral to bury Jenkins filmmaking. His score for if he'll street could talk also for an Academy Award at a live event hosted by the frame and KPCC's in person retell told John horn Jenkins first instruction was to evoke author James Baldwin's love of jazz. Barry had these great first instincts of horns and brass. You know, so what I started doing? I started exploring that texture of horns and brass of thinking trumpet Flugel horn, French horn and exploring in a lot of ways, I think the orchestration of it is completely linked with the notes for me with the composition of it. The sounds and the the sound world the colors of different instruments completely change the meaning for me of the pieces. So actually, there is a the first chords, and ideas, I had I was following this idea of brass and thinking of New York and mid twentieth century, let's nineteen early nineteen seventies. But so I was using jazz harmonies. Away. But then I was also kind of writing it very classically at the same time. So the first chords, I wrote are actually it was this melody. There's a piece that that. I did where feeling these sort of core. So feeling those ideas, but with brass so actually, I can should we should we see this? I wanna ask you about this idea of foreshadowing because Beale street is a love story. But it's a love story where somebody has been unjustly accused of a crime. So you are working in juxtaposition to a couple of ideas, beauty and ugliness at the same time. And there's kind of a convention of bad scoring where somebody comes on screen. We hear like the villains theme. And we know that that's going to be the guy who's gonna kill everybody. But as a composer, how do you think about the better smarter version of that where you're suggesting in things that thanks look good. But maybe they're not how do you do that musically different types of films required different like different dialectic films? That are more fantasy like will require more music. Oftentimes, for example, you know, magic Star Wars. The score is big the fantasy is big, you know, different genres required for music with with Beale street. I think. And with and with moonlight. It was really a question of discovering. What is that dialectic? And something that I don't think we knew it. I exactly how that was going to come together in Beale street, what we ended up finding together was we hit explored the world of joy and the world of love. There's a piece which we I hear when Titian Fani make love for the first time piece called euro. And you'll notice on the score. We actually we named different pieces after the ancient Greek words for loves as a piece called GOP. There's a piece called EROs Phileas store gay. So with euros, which is which is this these kind of cords. So those cords form the basis of this era, which is written out for cello, actually all cello, and what we wound up with was actually taking that piece euros and taking elements of the cello 's that I recorded and bending them and distorting them, and Barry would actually say he would say, how do we break it, and it almost had this symbolic what happens to the cello, and the breaking of it in the harming to it is in a sense what the injustice is doing to the love that the phone. Coming up nNcholas tells first job out of college was not composing film. It was trading currencies. You've seen the movie San Andreas, right? Just stick of. Got some bad news for you. When the big one hits the rock won't save. You wanna know how to get ready for the next major quake? I'm Jake Margolis science reporter and host of BCC's new podcast the big one your survival guide prepare yourself. Listen. An apple podcasts. KPCC podcasts are supported by. Fox searchlight pictures, presenting the favorite now nominated for ten Academy Awards, including best director your goes length. Best actress Livia Coleman best supporting actress, Emma stone and Rachel vice best original screenplay best costume design best, film editing. Best production design, best cinematography and best picture of the year for your consideration. Welcome back to the frame. I'm Steven Cuevas sitting in for John horn. Now more of John's conversation with Academy Award nominated film composer, Nicolas Patel has first big break on Adam mckay's two thousand fifteen movie the big short about the two thousand eight housing crisis and financial collapse. The music you're hearing right now retell retained with McKay on vice his movie about Dick Cheney, which stars Christian bale as the former vice president that film has eight kademi award nominations. We pick up John horns conversation now with propel talking about his life after Harvard where he had the fortune of meeting film producer, Jeremy Kleiner after college. My band broke up, and the film that I had scored never came out. And I was looking for job, and I actually got a job trading currencies in New York, and I was hired by a composer, actually. And he was sort of like, you know, we'll find something for you to do here. And so I did that for while in New York. And I think one day I was talking German. He was like the script big short actually hits the Mike Lewis novel turn into film, and he connected me with Adam. And I sent him a couple ideas just talked him on the phone. And he he said something like he was trying to imagine. What dark math sounded like? And I sent him some ideas, and we had a conversation. He thankfully, really liked what I sent him. So we hire. So now, I want to ask you about vice, and I'm sure there's a clever way of saying their similarities between the financial meltdown Dick Cheney. But when you start thinking about the themes of this movie, and it's not just about Dick Cheney. It's about its relationship with his wife. It's about his troubled past about his growth into power where do you start? And what are your first conversations without them about on this film will in the same way that I think the immersive. Kind of collaborative approach berry. Now utilize gets us to places that we wouldn't expect. I think you know, you do start with initial instincts. And then you see how they feel in the movie in the case of vice Adams initial instinct was that it needed a very symphonic scope because as he would say, this is such a huge story that initial instinct led me to think about well, what is the sound of that? What is the music and for me reading the script talking to Adam? There was this sense of dissonance that I wanted to weave into the movie and the way that I explored it was I think there's if we think about an American sound, you know, what that might be an American orchestral sound. And then if you think about what hero's journey in film might sound like this isn't exactly that story. It's it's it's a very specific take and variation on those stories and the variation with dissonance. What I would do is. I would explore for example, a trumpet fanfare, and I would imagine to myself. You know, okay. We can have a trumpet fanfare, but what if very occasionally, there's a note that's wrong. So you know, you can take this kind of feeling. Notes that like you're sort of what is something rate is something wrong. And in the main theme idea, which is actually we call the linemen theme because when Dick Cheney was young actually worked power lines. In Wyoming, those before he went to Washington and became a congressional intern under Donald Rumsfeld. So there's this theme which is work straighted for the end of the film, and it's orchestrated where all of those parts are playing, but there's actually eighty strings playing and six harps. Nick doesn't dominant do this. But Adam occa- has said that he sees big short and vice as two parts of trilogy and the third film. He thinks is about climate change. So we're gonna skip ahead a year or so Adam occa- mazing a movie about climate change. The title is thin ice. The hero of the story is a government scientist who has all of this great scientific data. And he's fighting the fight within the White House to convince them that climate change is not a myth perpetuated by the Chinese. So I'm Adam I want my for theme for this. Scientist totally yell it. Let's do it. Let's do it. So I think that's interesting. I think my first response some that is I think, you know, maybe if it's part of a trilogy with the big short vice maybe there is an element of dissonance to possibly so you think here. Not doing that ever. To have. Yes. And also, I don't think that's at all. We're feeling. And that's the thing. You know, a lot of the time you'll be I remember reading in Stravinsky had gave these great lectures at Harvard called the Poetics of music, and one of the things that he talked about in them was that sometimes he would just go to the piano, and he would drop his hands, and he would sort of see where they go and see how to work out of that, you know, composing a lot of the time if you're at a piano, it becomes sometimes very physical process where your hands kind of go to certain places habitually. And so one thing that that I like to do is different keys of different feelings. So you know, I would say, okay, let's try to do this. Let's do it in f sharp. So you're already getting I'm already thinking stuff that I didn't think before. So there's different ways like that. And and what's fun about it is then it almost matches the same kind of experimentation that I wanna do when I'm sitting with a director. And there are definitely times where the piano, hold you back to sometimes I'll write music on an airplane because I'm just just a piece of Mansur paper, and it triggers sort of different part of your brain. Nick patel. Thank you so much. That conversation was recorded in front of an audience as part of KPCC's in person series nuts. The show for today. I'm Steven Cuevas. Thanks for listening. John horn is back here tomorrow. Podcasting is supported by FOX searchlight presenting the favorite now nominated for ten Academy Awards, including director your goes length. Actress Levin Coleman supporting actresses, Emma stone. Rachel vice original screenplay and best picture of the year. Now playing.