At Sundance, music’s also in the spotlight

Musician and composer Andrew Bird
Musician and composer Andrew Bird

The Sundance Film Festival starts Thursday in Park City, Utah. The annual gathering of actors, directors and producers is a fairly good indicator of the most buzzworthy movies soon to hit theaters. But it’s not just the images that matter – the music in a film can set the mood and even make or break a scene.

This year’s festival will see an increase in music as a theme, and musicians as an attraction. Dave Grohl’s new documentary “Sound City” will premiere there, along with “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary about the legendary Alabama music studios, “Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer,” and “History of the Eagles Part 1.”

Opening-night film “Twenty Feet From Stardom” will be celebrated by a performance featuring backup singers who have worked with Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Sting and Chris Botti.

And at this year’s Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe, KCRW will curate a new nightly showcase of musicians.

We wanted to take a look at how musicians fit into the world of independent filmmaking. KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox, who also works as a music supervisor, talked to Steve Chiotakis about why music matters at Sundance.

Wilcox highlighted a couple of musicians working in the film industry.  Dustin O’Halloran started his career as a guitarist in the L.A. band Devics, but soon focused on his piano playing. He recorded exquisite, beautiful solo classical piano pieces and started composing scores for a few small independent films, including the breakout Sundance hit “Like Crazy.” This year his composition is featured in the Sundance selection “Breathe In.”

Another artist with some name recognition, Andrew Bird, has been making records for a long time and whose music has always had a strong cinematic quality to it. Wilcox first noticed his potential as a great composer with the 2010 release of “Useless Creatures,” an album of mostly instrumental outtakes from his “Noble Beast”‘ recording sessions. Filmmaker Jonathan Segal then hired him to score his film “Norman.”