Interview with BRONWYN SAVASTA, Director of Music at Warner Bros. Television for Friends, The Drew Carey Show - Mar 22, 2002
"If an unsigned artist catches our attention, we certainly pursue obtaining their music."
Bronwyn Savasta is Director of Music at Warner Bros. Television in Los Angeles. She supervises Warner TV Shows, including Friends and The Drew Carey Show.
How did you get started in the TV and music business, and how did you become the director of the music department at Warner Television?
I grew up playing instruments and I read music. In 1996, I worked on the opening and closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympic Games as a production coordinator. I became friends with the music director of the show, and he was kind enough to involve me in some of the scoring and recording sessions. That experience inspired me to want to do it for a living. When I returned to L.A. after the Olympics, I started researching and reading music publications and speaking to everyone that would talk to me - music supervisors for film and television as well as studio representatives. I was fortunate that one of the producers from the opening ceremonies paved the way for me to meet with someone here at Warner Bros. TV and that at the time, it just so happened that there was an opening in the music department. I went through the process of interviewing and they gave me a shot as a manager of music.
Since then, I’ve worked on many of the shows that we have produced over the last five years, including sitcoms, dramas, movies for television and mini-series. Generally speaking, my position can be described as an in-house music supervisor. Our primary responsibility is to the studio - we help the shows creatively but also make sure we are on budget and that we take all measures to safeguard against union claims.
How do things happen at the music department?
We’re responsible for helping the producers select the songs for their shows; we hire the on-camera musicians and singers; we help the composers set up scoring and recording sessions, which also can include booking the studio and hiring the engineer. We also have a full service music library where the shows can check out music, as well as a clearance and licensing department.
What personal qualities are needed in your job?
Attention to detail and following-through. A lot of people think that you just take your favorite songs and put them into a show, but that’s not the way it works. First and foremost, a song has to fit the scene. Before you can pitch to a show, you have to make sure that a song will clear, that it falls within the budget, etc. We also have to make sure that musicians and vocalists are hired according to union regulations. There are a lot of different things you need to consider at once, so you have to be able to keep many balls in the air at the same time.
What experiences have been important to you in the development of your job skills?
Working on a large number of shows at the same time, each having different priorities, a different emphasis, etc. certainly contributes to developing skills in this area. Some shows are more song driven, others feature more pre-recorded music, and still others are score driven. Television has a very fast pace and at any given time you could be focusing your attention on any number of different things.
What are the creative challenges when selecting music for a TV show?
In this job, it is challenging to listen to music creatively at the same time that you are listening to it critically. I think of songs in terms of what show they would work in, what scene they would work in; I evaluate whether or not the lyrics are applicable or too on the nose. Would it work in a montage? As a main title theme? When selecting songs for a show, you have to combine these considerations with a basic instinct about how the feel, tone, pace, and timing impact a scene.
Who are the people you work with when deciding what music will be used?
It’s different on every show. I work mostly with the show’s producers, associate producers and on occasion, executive producers. I also work closely with other members of our creative and clearance department so that we have taken everything into consideration.
What resources do you use to find music?
We enjoy close relationships with the major labels and publishers who are instrumental in keeping us current with existing and emerging artists and writers. There are also quite a number of independent music providers who offer an array of talented unsigned artists. Our music library also houses production library music, which saves us on countless occasions.
Is the Internet something you use, or will use, when it comes to finding artists and music?
It’s definitely another resource, and one that we would use more if we had the time. Due to time constraints, it is easier to work with material that you have right in front of you.
Do you go to sites that feature unsigned artists?
Yes, absolutely. The unsigned artist is actually a good friend to us, because we can’t always use popular artists, so it’s great to be able to offer the show alternatives.
Do you accept unsolicited material?
Unfortunately we do not. The majority of the music we receive is sent in by people and companies that we already know or have been introduced to us by people we know.
Is it possible for an unsigned artist/act to get their songs featured in a show?
Yes. We draw from material that we receive from independent music providers who represent unsigned artists. We are also active in going out to see shows and if an unsigned artist catches our attention, we certainly pursue obtaining their music.
If you order a song from a writer or producer, what input do you have on the writing and production of it?
The first step is to have a creative meeting with the songwriters and the producers so that the creative criteria is established and communicated. Sometimes a writer is given free reign and other times detailed notes are given. Next, the writer generally turns in a demo, which is reviewed and either approved or notes are given for changes.
How easy or difficult is it to obtain sync and master licenses?
Many factors come into play, so it just depends on the song, artist/label, and songwriter/publisher.
How often do you release a soundtrack album for a TV show?
It depends. I believe we have released 5 or 6 since I began working here. And we have 2 more coming, so stay tuned!
Is the possibility of a soundtrack release something you keep in mind when you start working on the music for a show?
It really depends on the show – sometimes it feels like a natural inevitability for a show, other times, the idea evolves as a show evolves.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the TV/music industry, what would you do?
There is so much great music and I wish we could use it all, but for many reasons, we are not always able to. We are lucky that our studio produces so many different types of programs, because we know that eventually we will have the opportunity to feature various genres and types of music in our projects.
What has been the greatest moment of your career?
There have been so many! We work on things from concept to completion, so it’s always a thrill to be watching TV at home and see your work come to fruition.
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
I love what I do and love our department here at Warner Bros. Television, so I don’t see any changes coming any time soon. Sometime in the future, I do hope to have the opportunity to work in this capacity for feature films.
Interviewed by Jean-Francois Mean
Read On ...