An unusual awards season has prompted studios and distributors to test new methods for connecting with voters and fans alike.
Mike Knobloch, president of global film music and music publishing at Universal Pictures, has been reminiscing a lot lately about how the studio pulled off its first project under COVID-19 restraints. While recording the Academy Award-nominated orchestral score for the Tom Hanks Western News of the World, Knobloch says composer James Newton Howard did the “unimaginable” by recording and executing his work from another country. While musicians safely gathered at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Howard remained at home in Los Angeles. “He had to come to terms with not being able to get on a plane and be in a small control room at a recording studio for any of the sessions,” says Knobloch, “and that was a tough adjustment.”
Although the pandemic has altered the way in which all films, including Oscar contenders, are produced, an unexpected silver lining for News of the World is that such a successful pivot made for a compelling campaign narrative. While Knobloch stresses that a score’s ability to elevate the viewing experience should come first for award consideration, within industry circles, “being able to tell that story of innovation and the first-ever, never-been-done-before techniques that went into making it happen adds some depth and dimension to the final product,” he says. “Not that it should be graded on a curve, so to speak, but there is a pretty incredible story behind the making of the score under some more-challenging-than-ever constraints.”