Episode 7: The Music & Magic Behind The Queen’s Gambit


Premiered December 29, 2020


He wrote and composed the score to the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, the runaway hit about an orphaned girl becoming a legendary chess player. Carlos Rafael Rivera, the Emmy-award winning composer and Frost School Media Writing and Production program director, interviews his colleagues from The Queen’s Gambit producer Mick Aniceto and Emmy-nominated music editor Tom Kramer.

Get the inside scoop on their experiences and what it took for them to thrive as music producers, as we journey through their stories in the soundscape of The Queen's Gambit.

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  • Transcript

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Hello, hey. My name is Carlos Rafael Rivera. I'm the program director of the Media Writing and Production Program at the Frost School of Music. I'm also composer on a show called The Queen's Gambit. And I'm privileged to have my music editor, who I'll allow him to introduce himself. His name is Tom Kramer. Go ahead, Tom. And you can pass it onto Mick.

    Tom Kramer:

    Yeah. I'm Tom Kramer. A music editor and score producer on the show. Worked with Carlos for a lot of years. You're up, Mick.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Hi, everybody. My name is Mick Aniceto. I am the producer on The Queen's Gambit. Specifically I produced all the post and visual effects, and have the lovely pleasure of working with these two guys now on our second show together. First one was Godless. Last one was The Queen's Gambit.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    All right. One of the reasons why I brought you both on is not just because Tom is a fantastic music editor. But in watching what Mick's role was in Godless and watching him put and manage so many things in The Queen's Gambit, I was thinking this would be an interesting conversation to even start off with what your role was on the show, and to give a perspective to not only my colleagues in the music school, but also the people who are watching who are not in music, what it is that you do. And how it is that you manage us to not get fired from our jobs. If you don't mind, take it away.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah. The latter part of that sentence is a little tough. It's definitely a perfect outcome to make sure that you and Tom don't get fired. No, that's a joke, everybody. They're awesome. So the role of producer really, for me in post, I help assemble basically the whole post-production team. A lot of times, the studio will approach me with a project and say, "There's this project," whether it's a feature film or a series or a documentary. And these are the creatives. Generally, it's a producer or a writer or a director. They need somebody to help them connect with the whole post team.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Post is an editor, assistant editors, a music editor. A lot of times a composer and visual effects and a colorist. All of that stuff to put together the final polish on a show. Fortunately, with Godless and The Queen's Gambit, Tom and Carlos, they both had an excellent relationship with Scott Frank the creator. So that was one big piece of the puzzle that I wasn't responsible for connecting the dots with.

    Mick Aniceto:

    But a lot of times, that's what my role as a producer, is to match creatives with other creatives. Then once that's done, I get, "Here's the pot of money you can play with." And I have to work with everybody in dolling out how much each of this pot that everyone can have. As we go along, I'm keeping a mind on it, then dealing with the schedule. Putting things together in terms of, "All right, this is when we're getting footage from production. And this is when editorial's going to get it, and this is when the editor will hand it off to the music team."

    Mick Aniceto:

    And they'll start composing things and putting ideas together. Then all the way through to sending cuts to the studio, the network. Then final delivery for when it goes out to the world. So a lot of it really is what we're doing now, is talking. I'm sure, especially Tom because Tom and I, we're in the same area for a long time, that we talked a lot. That's the way that the harmony works on a lot of the productions. Is that if you have open communication and everyone has trust and the ability to speak when things are not working.

    Mick Aniceto:

    When things are great, that's easy. The good times are easy. It's when things are hard is really when you really show what you have, your chops as a producer, to be able to juggle all of the different tasks with all the different needs with everyone in the production. So, in a nutshell, that's what I do.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    That's crazy, because I know there are a couple really weird, rough moment throughout the production that happened. I never felt you tense. I never felt you ... So I think that's one of the great things that you're able to bring to this, because I never felt your worry. It's funny how, people don't talk about it much, but it's contagious. The negative energy stuff. You know what I mean? When things aren't working out, you just hang up and you're like, "Oh my God." I never felt ... you're like, "Hey, looks like we're pretty screwed right now."

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah, but that's the magic behind being a good producer. I know where my strengths are, and it's not writing music or editing music or coming up with music choices like the way you and Tom do. So I know how to surround myself with the actual talent, with the people that I know I can go to, like, "Carlos, Tom, how are we going to do this? Because there's this crazy virus, this coronavirus, that's coming around. How are we going to now split up?"

    Mick Aniceto:

    Carlos, you have to stay in Florida. Tom, you have to stay in New York, even though I know you want to go to California. So it was tough for a while. A lot of it is right. I try to, like a duck, you're just cool on top. But underneath, I'm paddling like hell. So the idea of remaining and keeping that cool is something that happens. It's a trickle down, because luckily Bill Horberg our executive producer was that way, too.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Super cool cat, and was not easily ruffled. Scott also. Scott has a very strong way to collaborate. He knows what he knows and he knows where he needs to lean. And those walls and the people and those pillars that he needs to lean on. Just like you, Tom, Wylie Stateman, Michelle Tesoro. He knows that everyone is really good at what they do. So he'll just back off and say, "All right, you help me solve this problem," which is what I do.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I'll go to you, I'll go to Tom. Like, "Tom, so we're behind. How do we fix this?" A lot of it, like I said, it's communication. I never had any worry speaking to you or Tom about what was back tax. Like, "I don't have the money to do this. I don't have the time to do that. So what can we do?" There's a lot of, because we're all a little masochistic in that we love the art so much that we bleed for it. I think that's what makes it special.

    Mick Aniceto:

    That's what made The Queen's Gambit and Godless so special, for me, is that we all just loved and connected with the material so much that we were willing to work extra long, whether it's 24 hour days or 7 days a week. I know that Tom definitely did some stuff that I wasn't paying him for, which I completely appreciate. And you, Carlos, I know you were writing sketches for Scott years before we were even rolling on our first frame.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    That's right.

    Mick Aniceto:

    So that was a very, very special formation of people that we put together for this project.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I think Tom was just telling me he was going to send you the bill for those hours, just before you came on.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah, I got part one of the sixth installment that I know I owe him.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    But maybe that's a good handoff to Tom, because it'd be good for, again, for folks to understand what a music editor is because when I was doing ... more focused to classical music, I heard of music editors and I was like, "Oh, that's cool." No idea what they did. I think it would be good if, Tom, you could talk a little bit about what your role generally is, and maybe bring it a little bit more to the project. But then, just generally how it is that you help us keep our jobs, basically.

    Tom Kramer:

    Sure. Well first off, want to thank Mick for all his help. He's really one of the great ones to work with, if given the opportunity. As far as music editing, generally two parts to the process on a normal project. Where you might come in and the picture's just been shot and the director's putting it together. They usually have a certain amount of time to do that.

    Tom Kramer:

    During that time, you're looking for songs and temporary music usually, to put in to show preview audiences to get some feedback. While that's going on, a composer will be hired. Then you're working with that person to spot the music, figure out where you want everything. Then also get them rolling to replace all that temporary music you found. Working with Carlos and Scott on their shows, basically now there is no temp.

    Tom Kramer:

    Carlos is writing from before, like Mick said, the first frame is shot. Scott Frank likes to have in his head themes already. So when he's shooting, and it helps dictate some things for him. So it's great for us that the director never has a chance to fall in love with anything other than what his final music will be.

    Tom Kramer:

    There's a thing called Templa which some directors succumb to. So once Carlos has written, and he'll start handing me demos back that I'll then present to Scott, or the director. And start getting feedback and start that back and forth process. Luckily on The Queen's Gambit, there were a lot more yeses than nos. Certainly for the demos. I think we've got one seven minute piece in the last episode that there were no notes on. It just sailed through. I know that was a huge effort for Carlos.

    Tom Kramer:

    Then once we get approval on the demos, then start booking recording studios if it's orchestra or a band or whatever. So with COVID, it presented some of its own challenges as a lot of studios weren't yet working. So we luckily snuck in right as things started to open back up for the recording studios and got in.

    Tom Kramer:

    So then we'll record all the orchestra. Then when it comes back, it gets mixed. Then on these projects, I'll then do the first pass of mixing the music against all the final dialog and sound. Then we hand it off to Eric and Wylie who did the finish pass on it. That was the process on this one.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    This would be good time for you and Mick to talk about Wylie Stateman, who's not on this call. He's the sound designer. We also call him Obi Wan Kenobi, and Eric Hirsch and Erik Hane did. And how the role of sound plays and how it affected our post-production process. Maybe if you want to speak a little bit to that.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah, absolutely. Again, going back to ... this is a very fortunate setup that we had, is we had what's called a rolling mix during editorial, during post, which is very uncommon for series. It's very much a feature process, in that, like Tom was saying, you're dealing with final elements from the get that you don't have to temp things. Whether it's score, source music, sound effects, cleaned up dialog.

    Mick Aniceto:

    So that is very much a Wylie Stateman made process for us. It's beautiful. At the end of the day, it allows Scott to explore the sound fabric from the very first time he sees an assembly of a scene. Because traditionally, what will happen on a series is that your temp sound and temp music, for example, you will be sitting with for weeks if not months, until the final piece of your schedule, where that, "Okay. Now let's send all this temp stuff to a composer. Let's send it to a sound team to start cleaning up dialog, to start writing score that sounds someone like the temp or gives us that same feeling."

    Mick Aniceto:

    And that's when you start experimenting with stuff. At that point, you have maybe two, three weeks before you have to say, "All right, that's it. Let's send it off in the world." That really doesn't allow for a lot of exploration the way that the rolling mix does, in that ... the way the chess pieces move with the score. So there's so much in the sound design of the chess piece, the felt running across the wooden board, and the way that the beautiful strings or piano that ... making Carlos, how all of that plays into the scene because so much of this particular project is in her head.

    Mick Aniceto:

    The way that the sound mix was just constantly evolving requires, just like I was saying before, just incredible communication between sound, music, editorial and the director. That everyone had no ego about what they were doing. Everyone knew that this is the first pass at what we want to articulate with the feeling of the scene. So, Tom and Carlos really got to present something that could move. Scott could move our editor Michelle in that, "Oh, the way that sounds. I may want to linger on this shot a little bit more."

    Mick Aniceto:

    And vice versa, in that if Carlos and Tom sent something to Michelle to cut, as far as a piece of score or a piece of music, and something just wasn't quite hitting in terms of when the strings start or when the crescendo happens, we would all listen to it together. I think we all knew without even speaking, this needs to be changed.

    Mick Aniceto:

    That's where you, Carlos and Tom, became so valuable. That we didn't even have to say what was wrong. We all felt it. Then you were able just to change the composition altogether to make that scene flow beautifully. The thing that makes that difficult really is the time and the cost, because a rolling mix ... like I said traditionally, a composer and a music editor, and a full sound team don't come on till we're a little bit later on in the process.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Whereas you guys started from the very beginning. So that's a bigger price tag for the production to hold. Then same thing with schedules in that you guys were constantly getting turnovers from editorial. Meaning Michelle our editor would cut a scene. Then would send it to Scott, and then send it to you. You would do your thing, add your music, edit it specifically to your scene. Then Scott, Michelle and Bill Horberg, our executive producer, they'd be like, "I think we want to change this scene, and let's shake it all up."

    Mick Aniceto:

    Completely change. So then 48 hours after you've already delivered something, we've changed it already. So you have to change it again. Do a re-conform meaning you have to match your music to the new picture edit. That was constantly happening in order for this evolution and this exploration to happen, which is no small feat.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I know Tom, that that is a big undertaking that a lot of friends of mine and a lot of colleagues that I know, there's a team of people that do what you do. That do, "You are the captain of that." And there's usually three or four other people. So kudos and hats off, because I know that it's not an easy thing to do. But because everyone comes into it, like I said, with just no ego. There's no pretense of, "No, my work needs to stay untouched."

    Mick Aniceto:

    Everyone was so willing to adapt to the changes. That was the thing that I spoke to Wylie about, in that that was what makes this special. That's what makes a rolling mix work, is that everyone was open to communication. And because I think that it allows you guys the freedom to give your creativity, your feedback, on things outside of just music. That you have…

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Crazy.

    Mick Aniceto:

    ... the freedom to venture into other lanes, whether it be picture editorial, visual effects, sound design. Again, that was such a cool thing that you guys did with the sound of the clocks ticking. That was brilliant, and how you were able to weave that into the score. It was just so magical.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Cool. I appreciate you saying that also about sound, because I think a lot of folks watch movies, but don't really realize how important sound is. I even tell my students that to me, if I had to do this all over again, I would actually become a sound designer. I wouldn't do music. Because it's so crazy and it's such an inner world of creating the illusion, that to know the fact that about 80% of what you're hearing in a film is fake or made up or ADR'd, or additional dialog recording.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    It's not real. It's, to me, magic. It really is important to underscore the power of what a movement of a chess piece does to you as physically, as an audience reacting to the scene. There's a moment I know that ... and it's over the top, but you have to pay attention to it. If you're not paying attention, it just moves you. But there's a moment when Beth looks up at the ceiling towards the end. The moment where she has this realization thing.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    When she moves the piece, it's actually the sound of whip. It goes, "Whhpsh." It's impossible. That would never happen in reality. But it's there, and it goes along with the movie. And no one's aware of it. But that's what Wylie brings. That's the kind of magic that sound does in conjunction with music. So I love collaborating and getting to, like you said, getting to be able to speak and collaborate with sound.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Mostly, I think Tom and I spent a lot of time speaking to the sound design folks because we do want to make a holistic, aural landscape that works. I tread very carefully with Michelle. I think I called her once or twice to say, "Please." She was like, "Well, maybe. If I can, I'll do it. But don't count on it." Because the cut is king. Or queen. Get it? There. I said it. I did it.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Good one.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I did the joke. But I'll let Tom take over, because I got drilling in the background. About a little bit ... speak about what Mick just talked about.

    Tom Kramer:

    Yeah. It really is great that it's like family now. At least Scott, Carlos, and I have done pretty much all of Scott's projects together. I think I've done all of Carlos's minus one thing. It is great that I can even walk into Michelle's room or something and say, "Hey, you know what? Can we just add three frames to this shot? Because just tempo wise, it's completely messing us up."

    Tom Kramer:

    Definitely certain editors, you tread very lightly in those kind of suggestions, because like Mick said, their work has to shine through and it is what it is, versus ... it's a tenth of a second or less. And just help us out musically. But working with Scott, I kid Carlos that he told me, "Oh yeah, I just talked to Wylie." Okay. I just kid him that he talks to the sound people more than any composer I've ever worked with.

    Tom Kramer:

    Obviously to his credit now. We're all family. It is great having the rolling mix. When we were set up in New York, Eric was right next door to me. So we could just go back and forth and exchange ideas. Or say, "Hey, you know what? Could we try ... maybe make room for some music here in this spot?" Or "Can you guys cover us with some sound here in these spots?" Like you said, everybody's very open and willing to try and accommodate everybody else for the betterment of the project.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Tom, one thing I was going to ask you to also speak on is how, outside of the music that I wrote, how you actually worked to add ... Randy Poster was a music supervisor for the show. People have been asking me about, "How did you pick the songs?" And I take full credit for that. No, I'm just kidding. No. I was like, "I so have all this knowledge of all these really great '60s pop tunes." No, but can you speak to me a little bit? Because I really want to know myself how some of these songs are picked and not picked and are replaced? Which would be cool.

    Tom Kramer:

    Sure. Yeah, as a music editor, you have to deal with all the background instrumental music that Carlos or the composer would write. But then you also have to deal with all the songs, which is generally outside of their realm. So oftentimes, there's a music supervisor who's ... some are more creative than others. Some are very creative.

    Tom Kramer:

    Randy gave us some great submission stuff. Some are really just there to say, "Hey, we found these songs. We want them, go license them. Do the paperwork and get it going." But Randy and Melaina, his assistant, would send submissions for each spot that we had spotted for source music.

    Tom Kramer:

    Generally, they'll just give me a ton of submissions. I'll line them all up and see which ones I think work and narrow that down to a more manageable level, because directors generally don't want to sit through 30 alternates of some department store music. So we'll get those. Then it's up to Scott to choose which ones are working for him. And hopefully then they're available and affordable. Actually in The Queen's Gambit, the song in the montage, the French song, “Tut Tut,” which is a cover of a...

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Such a cool song. Such a cool song.

    Tom Kramer:

    Yeah. That we found ... and I'd given Scott six or seven things, but that was my favorite and it turned out to be everybody's favorite. Then we got to the final mix in July. It's the publishers, I believe, one was deceased and it was their estate that they were trying to get ahold of. I think, is it in France, that July's basically a holiday? So you can't get ahold of anyone.

    Tom Kramer:

    They couldn't get permissions or clearances on it. We're trying to find some alternates, and nothing was as good. We're all keeping our fingers crossed. Finally, I don't know if it was you, Mick, or if Randy ... or how it came about. But finally we ...

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    How did it happen? Hold on. We got to know how it happens. Who called back?

    Tom Kramer:

    I'm guessing it went to Randy first.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah.

    Tom Kramer:

    But we were just, I don't know, a day away, two days away, or something like that from having to turn this whole thing over. Not knowing if we could have the song. Then finally we got it, and everybody was just so happy.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I don't know why, that song really is the one that stuck to me because of the, "Tut, tut, tut, tut." It was just such a weird, quirky, perfect little song. But what's also interesting about this process, getting to discover and read in interviews with other folks, I don't know how to say his name ... Uli Hanisch?

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    We'll go with ... he's a set designer for the show itself, is how focused everybody is on their craft and what they do. And how people are appreciating the sets. The wallpaper, for example. Scott was making a joke that Uli's going to start his own wallpaper company because of the prints in the show. But Gabriele Binder, I believe, was the costumes and how detailed those things are. The chess patterns, the squares.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    The idea, whatever this shirt is, which is not intentional, to wear. But the idea of that playing subconsciously throughout the show, or playing consciously in the production, goes back to also the fact that I didn't notice. I wasn't paying attention to the songs. The only one I noticed was that one because it's just a weird song.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    To hear and to read so many amazing comments about the soundtrack, meaning the songs used and how they put people in their place. And a lot of folks who are a bit older who grew up in that time are like, "Oh my God, I hadn't heard that in a long time. What a great placement of this song." It just speaks to the level I feel like I got to work with, because yourself Mick and Tom, you're all bringing your best game.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    So the joke for me is to bring mine, to climb up and get in the room, because it's all good. I've learned to appreciate that. But it's funny to me how focused I was on just the music and sound. Then to see all these other parts come together that I didn't even notice. The last thing I'll say is nerdy. But the acting, which I was already very aware of how awesome she was for the dailies, Anya Taylor-Joy.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    But this thing with the hand that people have been doing and doing memes and stuff like that, I never noticed it the whole time. It seems to be her thing. It's the poster of the show. I never noticed that this was a thing she did. That's when you go, "Oh my God, man." You're just so focused on your job, that when you get to look up ... and now it's been a thrill to do that, man. So anyways, I think it's time. I think we're getting close, right Mick?

    Mick Aniceto:

    Yeah, I think that you really hit it. All of the things that we've been discussing as far as music and incorporating the sound. Your notion that once you saw the production design, once you saw Anya's performances in the dailies, you knew that you had to step up. That's what Michelle and I, when we were first talking about this when we were first seeing dailies like, "Wow, this is going to be something." You felt it.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I'm sure you guys know, when you've done a few things, you can sense, "Okay, this is different than what you normally get." It was a joke that we had in the cutting room for a little bit. Like, "Who's our audience? Who's going to watch a chess movie, a seven hour chess movie?" But it was more than that. It was a story of triumph and struggle, addiction and genius and madness.

    Mick Aniceto:

    It was so magnetic, these characters. It wasn't hard to imagine that people were able to really find escapism in Beth's journey. I think what you're talking about, not realizing the hand and stuff like that is because there's so many things that just hit on so many levels that is one of those things. I've had friends tell me that they're on their third, fourth watch. And every single time, they're seeing something new.

    Mick Aniceto:

    It's so crazy, because it was like, "Whoa." It's like Tarantino and Scorsese, Christopher Nolan. These things that were planted subconsciously. I'm sure Scott had some degree of understanding to it. But it's because everyone was delivering at such a high level, there are so many things that you want to be immersed with in the world that you're seeing on your screen, that every part of the frame is something new when you see it. Because once you stop seeing this, then you start hearing that.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Yeah, exactly. I have to say this, because I caught this, or my wife caught it because she's so much better at this whole thing than I am. It's really weird. For example, cinematography, Steven Meizler, there's a scene ... where she has to sell her house. Her stepfather is asking for it. There's a conversation, and the camera is on him and the camera's on her.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Camera starts overhead for her a little bit, and under him. So there's a cinematic language. Stuff that I'm learning, and I'm 50. You know what I mean? I get to see this thing where the conversation begins with him being the authority. Steven starts to actually raise the camera on the guy to make him little, and lower the camera on Beth's character as she's like, "I'll buy the house, dude. I'm fine."

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    All of a sudden, the camera slowly pans down. All of a sudden, she's over the frame. I was like, "Oh my God, that's so cool." Things like that, you get to nerd out on. Obviously to bring it all back because we haven't talked about it, is Scott Frank who is the brilliant mind behind it. Who saw this as something that could work from the beginning.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I think the writing, I notice the writing tricks that he does. They're not tricks. They're craft stuff. But how he would place something and pay it off later. This happens throughout the show in scenes that you wouldn't even pay attention to. But he's so good at that. It is there on the third watch or the fourth watch.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    It's a simple thing, not even a deep thing. But Beth with Jolene brushing her teeth in the orphanage. When we see Jolene again, they're brushing their teeth again. There's a moment of ... that little thing is a call back. It seems like nothing, but it is everything. It's a good way to tie things together. Anyways, I'll stop talking because they're drilling again.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I think, again, going back to the students who are probably listening to this, I know this is geared for music and for sound. You alluded to it earlier, how important sound is. I think the lay-viewer, the common viewer, doesn't realize that for almost everything that you're seeing in a movie theater or in a television show, it's been created. The sound of it has been created. It wasn't that's how it was when they shot it.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I think that is one thing, is going to school and studying the craft. Once you start learning at it, how visceral that reaction becomes, when you can marry the picture with the sound perfectly, that it then elevates everything that you're seeing on your screen. I think the really difficult part is what you guys do, is find this emotional theme that you convey with music.

    Mick Aniceto:

    That is so subjective, because one person can hear a D minor in a way different way than another person can hear a D minor. It evokes different emotions. But you have this magic that, as a producer, it's so like, "Wow. I've found someone who can translate what this means, the feeling that Beth is struggling. Or the feeling that now Beth is getting her friends back, and now she's going to lead this charge." That's something very special.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I think that is a really hard thing to find. I think that what makes it so successful, again, is going back to the open collaboration that Scott has. That he's empowered us all to be the best whatever we are to him, whether it's a production designer, director of photography, composer, music editor, producer. There are avenues, wide avenues, that he's giving us to, "Okay, impress me."

    Mick Aniceto:

    He then tailors that, tailors this, incredible source of creativity. He's sculpting. And going to a dad joke that you like too, is playing chess with all of us. We're all the different pieces on his board that he's put together and wants to move strategically in order to execute this thing. I joke a lot of times, the way he writes is so good for the people on his team. For example, the chess pieces. When he had written it, when you first see it, it's light figure descend from the darkness of the ceiling. How do you translate that?

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I know. I know, I love that.

    Mick Aniceto:

    It's so brilliant the way he writes it. It paints a picture, but you're not quite sure what that picture is, what it looks like what it sounds like. Then we all start this crazy mind meld. That is the trick that we try to play as filmmakers is that you can take a very simple idea or a very complex idea and translate it in a way that will convey a certain feeling that audiences can really find emotion, find truth, to what it is that we're trying to tell.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Going back to the importance of the sound and the music, you're absolutely right. There's so many things that the normal audience doesn't quite ... and nor should they. Nor should the normal audience have to understand that the sound and the music are working such harmony to give you this feeling. That is our jobs. That's our jobs.

    Mick Aniceto:

    For all the students, keep finding that. Keep looking for the ability to tell a feeling with a certain chord, a certain instrument. That is something that I think that you guys really explore. I think the real fortunate part for me is that it's easy for me to tell you what I like. It's harder to explain why something is bad and how to fix it.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Oh my gosh, yeah. For sure. For sure.

    Mick Aniceto:

    I think that's where you guys come in, is that again, we can all listen to a certain demo of a source cue or even a score cue. And we'll feel it. We'll all feel it. There will be a feeling as we're watching, and then you'll know how to fix it. Whether it's switching an instrument, changing a chord progression, changing a note. That's all with just doing. Just this trying out certain things and coming up on the other side, taking a breath after just really getting into it, getting into it. Then seeing it. Then again, it goes about no ego. No ego about, "This has to stay because I spent weeks or months or years doing this."

    Tom Kramer:

    Well, it's the bottom line with that, Mick, is that we're all there to serve the final product. As much as we want our little avenue to be featured…

    Mick Aniceto:

    True.

    Tom Kramer:

    ... it's like employing a keyback for Scott or anyone. Carlos or I might think it's the best thing ever written to picture. If Scott doesn't feel the same way, I'm just wasting my time and his if I try to explain to him why he should like it.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Exactly. Tom, I think, has taught me a lot about that, actually. If he could speak to how you actually navigate the nos and making them yeses, without it being the same cue.

    Tom Kramer:

    Yeah. I think generally with our process is Carlos will send up a bunch of demos, and then I'll arrange some time with Scott. Pre-COVID anyway, when we got to be in the same room. Scott would come in and I would just have a list of things to show. Yeah, some notes. Thankfully, we do have this working relationship and a trust built up between all of us that I can get some feedback from Scott. If he's got certain notes, I can address. Just say, "Oh, you know what? If I do this, I think that'll take care of this one problem you have."

    Tom Kramer:

    Or sometimes it might be a more major thing that Carlos needs to readdress. Just in running meetings, it's just a strategy. If you're getting a bunch of yeses, keep going. Maybe play a couple extra cues that you hadn't planned on because you just got the right vibe. If somebody comes in a bad move and they're just going to dislike everything right off the bat no matter what you do, then maybe make the meeting a little shorter than you planned and save those for the next time.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    But that's the genius right there. That's the experience. If you guys can, look up Mick Aniceto on IMDB and look up Tom Kramer on IMDB. Compare that to the three critics I have, and you'll see what I'm talking about. But it's true. The thing is, Tom, that psychology aspect of it is something that comes with, I think, a lot of experience. You know how to play the room. There is so much to be said about that, because a cue could live or die by the mood of the director. From what you're saying, Tom, it's very much the case, right?

    Tom Kramer:

    Yeah. Oh, definitely. I got to tell a quick story of the first time I played a ... first time working with Scott, and Carlos was in the room. Barely knew each other. I played a piece of temp music for A Walk Among the Tombstones. I played for Scott. He just looked at me and said, "That's the worst piece of music I've ever seen up against a piece of film." I just looked at him and just started laughing. I just turned and laughed and said, "Okay, let's try this next one." It was funny to me, anyway. But those meetings can go anywhere from a complete three pitch strikeout to a grand slam home run. You never know until you get into it how it's going to go.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Yeah. It's amazing, man. Again, I think we should close, because I figure people are already either checked out. But I'm going to do the sign, or signal, to call it a day. This is our hand signal we did with Andrea, who's running this whole thing guys, by the way. Andrea Vidal is helping us organize our technology. So I do want to say ... What? Go, go, Tom.

    Tom Kramer:

    Let me say one more thing, just for the hometown crowd.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Fine, fine.

    Tom Kramer:

    When we started this project, the last thing we did together was Godless. We had gun battles and horses and all kinds of things going on that we could hide behind a little bit, as far musically. Or we didn't have to carry the shoulder as much of the load as we did on this. I told Scott and Carlos, me coming in, I might have told you Mick as well, this is the first ... I've done 130 movies or something.

    Tom Kramer:

    I told Scott, I said, "This is the first time I'm really a little nervous or anxious about the heavy lifting the score is going to have to do." So just kudos to Carlos for just knocking it out of the park. As much as I hate to tell him this.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    I know. He's suffering inside, folks. Just know that it's hurting him really hard right now.

    Tom Kramer:

    We live to make each other miserable.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Literally.

    Tom Kramer:

    But no, just kudos to Carlos. And for Mick's support along the way with-

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Yeah, man. Thanks, Mick.

    Tom Kramer:

    ... all the juggling he had to do to help make our jobs easier and possible.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    Yeah. It was a thrill to get to work with you, Mick. Of course, again, Tom. It was a learning experience, again, for me for sure. So I'm glad we got to do this and I'm glad you guys agreed to get together and talk a little bit and share with the audience what you do. And get to hear some hammers and drills in the background as well, so that's cool. But thank you guys so much, and thanks for helping and for being here.

    Carlos Rafael Rivera:

    And for all the folks that are watching at the Frost School of Music, I'm grateful for your time. For the folks who are watching at the University of Miami, thanks. For the people who are outside of the University of Miami, wow. Anyways, thanks so much, guys. Have a good one.

    Tom Kramer:

    Thank you everybody.

    Mick Aniceto:

    Bye.