The following is an interview with LA-based filmmaker and author Allison Burnett about his latest film and its soundtrack.
Dusty Wright: First, let me congratulate you on the release of Another Girl, your sequel to your wonderful film, Ask Me Anything. I hear it's not strictly a sequel.
Allison Burnett: Correct, the film functions both as a sequel and a stand-alone work. Those who haven't seen Ask Me Anything won't have any trouble enjoying this one. Those who have seen the first film, will enjoy this one in a different way.
DW: I want to hear about the music in Another Girl, but first give us some background on the music in Ask Me Anything.
AB: When making the first film, I wanted the score and soundtrack to function in entirely different ways. The score, written by the great John Ehrlich, would tell the story of the 17-year-old heroine Katie's emotional life--her buried pain and longings. The soundtrack, on the other hand, would express the preoccupations of Katie’s ego--the daily junk that distracts her from the issues she needs to face.
When it came to building the soundtrack, there was no money left to license songs, so I got the idea of holding a contest. I posted ads on Craig's List inviting female singer-songwriters 21 years old and younger to submit up to three songs each for inclusion in the film. I gave them an Amazon link to the novel, in case they wanted to know more about the story. Winners would get their song included in the film, plus a license payment of $150, and royalties from any revenue generated by the sale of the soundtrack. Important to note, we were just licensing the songs. The artists still owned their works and, after a couple of years, could even license them to other films.
DW: Such a simple, yet forward-thinking idea. It gives young unknown artists a chance for professional validation while allowing you to afford fantastic music. Plus share new artists with new listeners. And probably for some of these singer-songwriters even a wider audience than social media would normally offer them. Def a win-win for everyone. It's a wonder it had never been done before.
AB: I agree. And because it hadn't been, so many people advised me against it. I learned a valuable lesson from this: when you come up with an original idea, the world often allies itself against you!
DW: I'm curious, why did you limit yourself to females 21 years old and younger?
AB: I wanted to convey the sensibility of a 17-year-old girl. I wanted young, sincere, unguarded female points of view. I wanted the lyrics to reflect the priorities and passions of youth.
DW: How did the contest turn out?
AB: We received a perhaps a hundred submissions, most of which were recorded on the girls' home computers using Garage Band or similar programs. All of the songs I chose were dropped into the film exactly as we received them, except for one.
A 16-year-old girl named Rachel Faith submitted a remarkable song called "Start."But it was recorded crudely. There was electronic hissing. It sounded as though it had been recorded in the woods and the percussion was a stick banged on a rock. It could not have been more primitive and haunting. But I loved it so much that I had Rachel fly out and re-record it with Jon Ehrlich in his studio. The result was remarkable. I used it over the end titles.
Artistically, the soundtrack and score were everything I had wanted. We won Best Music at the Nashville International Film Festival.
DW: Okay, fast forward. You're making Another Girl. Take us through your thought process when it came to the music this time around.
AB: The first thing I did was go back to Jon Ehrlich for another score, but he was far too busy. I got a lead on a talented Israeli composer named Haim Mazur, looking to do indie features. We hit it off instantly, and he did a superb job on the score. In addition, I recruited a talented composer out of Chicago, named Justin Dahl, to write electronic music for the final credits. Using the sublime vocals of Ashley Gonzalez, he brought me two great tracks, one of which I also used in the trailer.
As the soundtrack, the film's budgetary restrictions were not as bad this time around. They were far worse. We had just half the budget as before. Which meant all I could offer the artists was a $100, plus royalties. Since the heroine of the film is five years older than the previous heroine, I raised the age limit to 26 years old and younger.
We received many wonderful submissions. I was thrilled that three artists whose music was included in the soundtrack of the first film also won placement in Another Girl: Zanny Nicholas, Toni & Ash, and Christiana Schelfhout. For the first film, Zanny, at just thirteen, was the youngest singer-songwriter to place a song. She placed two, actually. Since then, she had graduated from Berklee College of Music. She placed two new songs in Another Girl. My collaborator in building the soundtrack was my film editor Michael Yanovich, who has superb taste, as well as a deep understanding of how music functions in a film.
DW: When do we get a chance to hear it?
AB: The soundtrack is available now for pre-order on Apple Music. When it officially releases September 3, it will be available on many platforms, including Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Pandora, etc.