Inaugural Grant Recipients of Reel Change Film Fund Announced

Reel Change: The Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring, powered by SESAC and Christophe Beck and administered by New Music USA, announces the first recipients of the grant program. The mission of Reel Change’s five-year grants and mentorship program is to elevate the careers and opportunities of composers of diverse backgrounds who have been marginalized in film composition. The first four grant recipients are composers Sultana Isham, Cali Wang, Emer Kinsella, and Daniel Jimenez Afanador.

Written By

Megan Ihnen

REEL CHANGE: The Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring announces first recipients of the grant program

a SESAC, Christophe Beck, & New Music USA collaboration

Reel Change: The Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring, powered by SESAC and Christophe Beck and administered by New Music USA, announces the first recipients of the grant program. The mission of Reel Change’s five-year grants and mentorship program is to elevate the careers and opportunities of composers of diverse backgrounds who have been marginalized in film composition. The first four grant recipients are composers Sultana Isham, Cali Wang, Emer Kinsella, and Daniel Jimenez Afanador.

Composer Christophe Beck explained, “The Reel Change fund was born not only of a desire to promote opportunity for underrepresented composers, but also to enrich the art of film scoring itself by embracing a wider breadth of musical perspectives. With deep gratitude to my partners at SESAC and New Music USA, I’m proud to witness this idea finally come to fruition.”

Erin Collins, SESAC’s VP of Film, Television and Developing Media, says: “Christophe Beck and I knew that something needed to be done to solve the problem of underrepresented voices in the world of film scoring. When we suggested this project, SESAC’s chairman and CEO John Josephson immediately agreed and approved one million dollars towards the effort. We’re excited to hear fresh, innovative scores that more accurately represent the world we live in, and can’t wait to see these composers smash through the glass ceiling. This has been a long time coming, and SESAC is honored to be part of the journey.”

Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, says: *“In 2020, 95% of the top 250 films at the box office were scored by men; no data has been published about the representation of BIPOC composers in film scoring. Reel Change is the first fund to tackle these inequities. We’re proud that New Music USA will make this program happen, and we look forward to hearing from music creators whose voices will define the soundtracks of today and tomorrow.”

Composer and Reel Change Advisory Board member Kris Bowers says: “The type of content that’s been made with people who look like me has affected the way that I see myself as a person of color. Pushing the boundaries and figuring out how we can be represented in beautiful, complex and positive ways is something I want to be part of.”

The five-year fund, established in 2020, accepts applications from US-based composers. It supports film projects currently in production, by providing additional funding, gear, and mentoring to assist composers at a pivotal moment in their careers. Four to six grants averaging $20,000 are allocated each year of the program. Supported expenses include composer compensation, musician fees, recording and sound mastering fees, studio expenses, orchestration, production equipment, and more. Sponsors are Spitfire Audio, Steinberg, and Native Instruments. Spitfire Audio will donate $1K in software packages to each grantee and promotional support of the Reel Change program. Steinberg will provide hardware and software packages. Native Instruments will provide the flagship music production suite Komplete Collectors Edition for each grantee.

Reel Change Advisory Board

Reel Change Advisory Board

Applications are reviewed on a rolling timeline by an advisory board made up of leading composers of film music, including Christophe Beck, Jongnic “JB” Bontemps, Kris Bowers, Miriam Cutler, Chanda Dancy, Tony Morales, and Pinar Toprak. Members of this advisory board offer additional support and mentorship for interested applicants. Read the bios of the Reel Change Advisory Board here.

*Statistics and research: https://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2020_Celluloid_Ceiling_Report.pdf

Reel Change grantee Sultana Isham says, “The support I received from Reel Change was instrumental in the completion of my score for The Neutral Ground. This fund allowed me to connect and build positive relationships with an international network of orchestras, choirs, and engineers. I am extremely grateful for this deeply affirming initiative as I was allotted more space to grow as a composer.”

Reel Change grantee Cali Wang says, “I cannot thank SESAC, Christophe Beck, and New Music USA enough for supporting aspiring composers with Reel Change: The Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring program. As a working female professional, the competition in a male dominated business has always been fierce. With the fellowship, I was able to collaborate with many talents in the industry and take my career to the next level.”

Reel Change grantee Emer Kinsella says, “The opportunity to realize my music score the way I truly envision it with the support of the Reel Change Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring is an invaluable experience, which has given me the time and resources that has allowed me to make full use of the artistic process of exploration between composer and director on a very unique, visceral and impactful film.”

Reel Change grantee Daniel Jimenez Afanador says, “My career in music has been a long and challenging road, particularly as a Latino immigrant. To me, this grant signifies an effort to create a thriving and diverse music industry. Thanks to this grant, I’ll be able to record all the instruments necessary to create a truly exceptional score that could be a stepping stone in my career. Not only will I benefit, but also the musicians in my community. I’m tremendously grateful!”

Miriam Wiener, General Manager of Spitfire USA says, “Spitfire Audio is honored to partner with the Reel Change Film Fund to support and encourage diversity in film scoring.”

“Reel Change is making a difference with its mentorship program for talented film composers from a wide range of different backgrounds. Steinberg appreciates the opportunity to support this fund that will contribute to improving diversity in the film scoring industry,” comments Stefan Trowbridge, global PR manager at Steinberg.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with the Reel Change Fund for Diversity in Film Scoring. Success in the industry is as much about having access to the right tools and instruments as it is about being part of a supportive and thriving community. We are excited to collaborate with Reel Change and help create more opportunity for film composers from diverse backgrounds,” says Jonas Sudendorf, Director of Community & Partnerships at Native Instruments.

About the selected composers and their projects

Sultana Isham

Sultana Isham is a film composer, violinist, writer and ethnomusicologist based in New Orleans, LA. Sultana’s film composer credits range from avant-garde, horror, fantasy, and archival. Sultana was a researcher and the composer for the documentary “All Skinfolk Ain’t Kinfolk” about the historic mayor race between two Black women in New Orleans directed by Emmy-nominated Angela Tucker, which premiered on PBS. As a scholar she has lectured at universities and conferences, sharing her research with a psychoanalysis of sound, lineage, and memory. She is also the co-founder of Alphabet Sound Observatory, an audio engineering library for Black and Indigenous women and gender variant artists of color. Sultana is a composer fellow with Sundance Institute and her upcoming film score, The Neutral Ground, is a feature film about the removal of confederate monuments, directed by CJ Hunt. The film will broadcast nationally on PBS show POV in late 2021.

Project Description:

The Neutral Ground is a documentary feature film about the removal of confederate monuments in New Orleans, LA, which has sparked a movement across the country to reckon with our past and present with white supremacy. This film is produced locally in New Orleans, by Darcy McKinnon of Gusto Moving Pictures and directed/hosted by CJ Hunt, a comedian and producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Much of this film explores the perspective of confederate apologists to expose the lies, cognitive dissonance, and violence passed down from generations with a touch of comedy. This film also features movements of resistance against white supremacy such as Reconstruction Era and German Coast Uprising of 1811. Sonically the score is a mixture of modern, folk and classical music with confederate aesthetics. The Neutral Ground will have its festival premiere in 2021, and broadcast nationally on PBS show POV in late 2021.

Cali Wang

Cali Wang’s compositions cover a variety of genres, from orchestral scores to industrial/electronic sound design. She is passionate to explore the creative possibilities and continues to expand her horizons as a part of the exciting film industry here in Los Angeles. Her recent awards include 2019’s LA Live Scoring Film Scoring Festival’s Best Score Winner, and Krakow Film Festival Young Talent Award 2020 top ten selection. She was also honored to be awarded 2018’s BMI Foundation Pete Carpenter Fellowship. She is currently working at Blizzard Entertainment as composer’s assistant in Los Angeles, as well as doing other personal projects in LA.

Project Description:

This is the story of three young orphaned sisters who are accidentally transported to an Island where no signs of civilization other than a lighthouse seem to exist. In order to survive, they must find a way to reach the lighthouse despite all danger on the island in search for help. The Island of Lost Girls showcases searing landscapes and alternate, sometimes brutal worlds while reaffirming the beauty, the cruelty and the tremendous grandeur of the nature as well as the braveness, growth and sisterhood that are formed throughout the adventure.

Emer Kinsella

Emer Kinsella is a film composer, classically-trained experimental violinist and songwriter from Dublin, Ireland. Emer is known for her textural and minimal introspective string writing, blended together with ambient electronics and poignant soundscapes. Her credits include working with Johnny Klimek on the Netflix show Sense8 and the motion picture Jungle starring Daniel Radcliffe. Emer recently scored the documentary film Faith, which screened at the Vancouver and Atlanta LGBT film festivals, and the award winning short film Suburban Jungle, which won Best Short film at the San Pedro International Film Festival in 2018. At the heart of her musical voice is the violin, an instrument she has played since the age of two. Emer is based in Los Angeles.

Project Description:

Set in the town of Port Townsend, WA, She The Creator is a psycho-spiritual drama feature film about a traumatized painter losing touch with reality, as she is misled by her young and enamored caretaker. Emer Kinsella is writing the music score for the film.

Lilith, an isolated painter with a fascination for alchemy finds her only connection through her caretaker Kat, an aspiring writer who cares for Lilith, though with hazy boundaries of morality and professionalism.

As Lilith decides to stop taking her medications, she begins painting for the first time since her trauma years prior. Through reconnecting to her work, Lilith becomes increasingly obsessed with the alchemical process of creation and destruction.

Both Lilith and Kat become increasingly invested in the completion of her latest series ‘The Elementals,’ pushing Lilith’s mental state to the limits and causing the boundaries of her worlds to collide.

Daniel Jimenez Afanador

Colombian-born and Los Angeles-based Daniel Jimenez Afanador is a songwriter, composer and producer. Daniel has a Bachelor of Music with emphasis in Media Composition from CSUN, a certificate in Film Scoring from UCLA Extension, and a certificate in Recording Technology from Citrus College. His credits include Becky G (songwriter/producer), Andy Allo (Prince collaborator and Amazon’s “Upload” star, songwriter/producer), “El Barón” (Sony Pictures Television, main title songwriter), “Naco Es Chido” (film by Sergio Arau, soundtrack/songwriter), Elan Atias (former front man of The Wailers, songwriter/producer), “Sami Yaffa – Sound Tracker” (documentary, producer), Coco Jadad (Sony Music, songwriter/producer), “This is Kelly” (short, composer), “¡Corre!” (short, composer), Fruko y sus Tesos (salsa legends, songwriter/producer), Fania (salsa record label, producer/remix). Additionally, Daniel teaches Music Production and World Music at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences, New Roads School, and Harmony Project (Compton Sheriff’s Youth Activities League).

Demi’s Panic will be a short film animated by the legendary Bill Plympton. The film tells the story of a Latina professional in the beginnings of the Covid-19 pandemic in NYC. Demi’s world gets shaken when her own mother falls sick and dies of the disease, while Demi is stuck at home unable to see her in her final moments.

About the Partners

Christophe Beck, an LA-based, Canadian composer, started piano lessons at five, and by eleven he was learning Bee Gees songs by ear and performing with his first-ever band, the unfortunately-named Chris and The Cupcakes. During high school he studied piano, saxophone, and drums, and wrote many tender 80’s love ballads. Beck studied music at Yale, and attended USC’s prestigious film-scoring program, where he studied with Jerry Goldsmith. Beck scored the second season of WB’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for his score to the Buffy episode, “Becoming, Part 1.” In 2000, the cheerleading comedy Bring It On launched Beck’s film career, which includes such diverse credits as Under the Tuscan Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, Crazy Stupid Love, Pitch Perfect, and the Hangover trilogy. More recently, Chris scored the Oscar® and Grammy®-winning animated film Frozen, and Marvel’s Ant-Man films. Christophe works out of his studio in Santa Monica, California. christophebeck.com

SESAC Performing Rights Organization currently licenses the public performances of more than 1 million songs on behalf of its 30,000 affiliated songwriters, composers, and music publishers, which include such familiar names as Adele, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, R.E.M., RUSH, Disclosure, Zac Brown, Rosanne Cash, Mumford & Sons, Burna Boy, Shirley Caesar, Kesha, and Lalah Hathaway. SESAC has long represented the music on some of TV’s biggest shows including Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Parenthood, Dateline NBC, Dr. Phil, Seinfeld, and The Doctors among many others, and is the PRO of choice among many of Hollywood’s most sought-after film and television composers, including Christophe Beck, Danny Lux, Jon Ehrlich, Dennis C. Brown, Bruce Miller, Randy Newman, Paul Shaffer, among many others. sesac.com

New Music USA supports the sounds of tomorrow by nurturing the creation, performance, and appreciation of new music for adventurous listeners around the world. We empower and connect US-based music makers, organizations, and audiences by providing funding through our Project Grants; fostering new connections through our programs; deepening knowledge through our online magazine, NewMusicBox; and working as an advocate for the field. New Music USA works in collaboration with its community in response to pressing needs and to amplify the diverse voices of music creators. New Music USA envisions a thriving and equitable ecosystem for new music throughout the United States.

About the Sponsors

Spitfire Audio makes sample libraries that enable anyone with a computer to realistically emulate and write for the instruments of the orchestra. Our mission is to redefine what it means to be a composer and to enable anyone with a computer to write music that includes beautiful, orchestral sounds – be they aspiring film composers or pop pioneers. spitfireaudio.com

Steinberg has been providing award-winning, technologically advanced music and media production products for musicians and producers of music, video and film since 1984. Today, Steinberg is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of music and audio software and hardware, with millions of users worldwide. Steinberg also provides business customers with license-management and copy-protection systems. The Steinberg range of products has long since found world renown in all aspects of modern digital audio processing. They form the backbone of facilities specializing in music composition and production, mastering, restoration, sound design and audio post for the music, game and film industries. steinberg.net

Native Instruments is a leading manufacturer of software and hardware for computer-based audio production and DJing. The company’s mission is to develop innovative, fully-integrated solutions for all musical styles and professions. The resulting products regularly push technological boundaries and open up new creative horizons for professionals and amateurs alike. native-instruments.com