Randall Poster is one of those unsung film professionals whose name on a movie all but guarantees you're going to see something interesting. As a music supervisor, he's overseen everything from the sonic timeline that bum-rushes David Fincher's Zodiac through the 1970s to the credible Music Row ready-mades of Country Strong. He's also built ongoing creative partnerships with directors whose movies are unimaginable without the soundtracks Poster helped assemble: Martin Scorsese, Todd Haynes, Harmony Korine (with whom he's worked from the Korine-scripted Kids and Gummo to the upcoming Spring Breakers).
Perhaps his most striking work has been with writer-director Wes Anderson, dating back to his very first film, 1996's Bottle Rocket. The soundtracks Poster has put together for Anderson's films are more than just accompaniment: They're extensions of the protagonists' psyches and the movies' sensibilities — like the way Nico's "These Days" synchs up with Margot Tenenbaum's slow-motion despondence, or glam-era Bowie captures the exploratory spirit of The Life Aquatic's Steve Zissou.
On Thursday, Aug. 9, via Skype, The Belcourt will feature a live Q&A with Poster, who'll discuss his work with Anderson on the current Moonrise Kingdom — a movie that benefits immensely from a Poster-supervised soundtrack with Benjamin Britten and Hank Williams as its twin poles. If you haven't seen Moonrise Kingdom yet, you may be alone: It's still in the box-office Top 20 after almost three months in release, and it's on its way to the most successful run in Belcourt history. And if you have, you might want to show up again for Poster's talk after the 7 p.m. screening. Scene music editor D. Patrick Rodgers spoke to Poster last week in advance of his Nashville appearance.
Wes Anderson is known as an exceptionally meticulous, detail-oriented director. How is working with him different than, say, Todd Haynes or Martin Scorsese or David Fincher?
Well, you know, I think all of those directors that you named are some of the greatest directors of all time. And I think all, you know, have a very clear signature point of view and filmmaking obsession. And I think that the different or the unique element of working with Wes is that our collaboration has sort of run on from the first day that we met really. So, I would say what's most unique about it is just that we do a lot of work between movies. So as we start a film, we've already laid down a lot of the musical trail or the establishment of a musical framework or foundation. So that's really the most unique aspect of our ongoing collaboration.
When you say you two do a lot of work between films — as a plotline emerges in his work, will he give you ideas or notes?
Oftentimes it's born even before there is a plotline. For instance, the thing with Moonrise Kingdom was that Wes had wanted to use Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood). As a kid, he had been in a production of it. And he was like, "Well, I kind of think I want to do something with this piece of music." And, really, I think that was the seed of the whole enterprise.
Do you ever find yourself playing more of, say, an advocate's role with Wes or any other director? Where you have to go to bat for a song or an artist the director doesn't initially want?
Yeah, actually, that's an essential part of what I do. Because you know, there's finding the right music, and then placing the right music, and then making sure we can get rights to the right piece of music. So I'm both a detective and then a hitman, really.
You worked on Country Strong, which was filmed here. Do you have any personal connections to Nashville?
Well, I'll tell you, I love country music. And, people would ask me, people in the industry, "What would you like to do?" and I would always say, "I want to do a country music movie." And I would tell you that I'd probably give you the same answer if somebody asked me again, because I just love it. And I love all of it. I'm in L.A. working with Harmony [Korine] this week. I'm a New Yorker and I don't drive very much, and so I have a car out here, and I'm just glued to the country music station. And so the highlight of my day yesterday was cruising around and listening to George Strait's Here for a Good Time, which I'm going to play right now and keep in the background of this interview.
Is there any contemporary country that you pay much attention to?
Yeah. I mean, I would say probably my favorite record last year was Eric Church's record.
You're working on Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers right now. Skrillex is doing the original music for that, right?
Right, Skrillex along with Cliff Martinez.
How did that come about, and is there anything you can tell me about that collaboration?
Well, you know, Harmony ... Harmony kind of clocked it and pushed me in Skrillex's direction, and Sonny — once you work with him, you can call him Sonny — Sonny was a big fan of Harmony's, and he saw a rough cut of the movie and just really responded to it. The movie is just going to be a total knockout.
You've worked with a really broad stable of directors, but who would you love to work with that you just haven't yet?
Oh, that I haven't worked with yet? You know what, it's probably an emerging filmmaker, really. I would say probably I'm excited to hopefully work with these guys Sean Durkin and Antonio Campos who made Martha Marcy May Marlene. I thought that was really my favorite movie last year. So those would be the guys that I would be excited to work with. You know, there are obviously certain film legends I would be thrilled to work with. But, you know, my guys are — if you look at the people that I've collaborated with regularly — Wes, Todd Haynes and I went to college together, Harmony I've known since he was a teenager. Todd Phillips and I met when he was like 20 years old, and we're going to do our seventh movie together. Sam Mendes and I really struck up a great working relationship, and Richard Linklater has become one of my — we're the same age and really have a great time collaborating. And then the honor of honors has been that I've gotten the chance to work with Scorsese.
Are you working with him a lot with Boardwalk Empire?
Yeah. We're in the third season of Boardwalk Empire. And that's been a real treat. In local news, we just recorded a track with Karen Elson, and you know this guy, Pokey LaFarge? Have you heard of him?
Yeah, totally, kind of old-time string band stuff.
Yeah, we had Pokey LaFarge come in and sing with us, and that's been really fun. And the other thing, just to say, to give it a plug, I've got this Fleetwood Mac tribute record that's coming out in August. You can check that out online, and so that's all. It's really just been great to be able to be screening a lot of music and still learning about music and working with just really some incredibly committed and visionary filmmakers.
At the screening Thursday night, will you just be doing a Q&A?
I guess so. I guess the movie — the people are loving it down in Nashville. And I love The Belcourt. When I was down there I would go, and hopefully they're going to invite me sometime in the fall. I'd love to curate a film program at The Belcourt, so anything you could to do to push that along would be great. We can go to Grimey's together.