‘American Fiction’ Composer Laura Karpman Jazzed Up Score For TIFF’s People’s Choice Award Winner – Sound & Screen Film

‘American Fiction’ Composer Laura Karpman Jazzed Up Score For TIFF’s People’s Choice Award Winner – Sound & Screen Film

When you’re composing music for a character named Thelonious “Monk” Ellison in the movie American Fiction, it should be pretty obvious where a composer like Laura Karpman might find her inspiration.

“They wanted the music to sound like Beethoven, but I thought I’d take a different tack,” Karpman joked at Deadline’s Sound & Screen: Film live music event before getting serious about how the jazz great himself was part of the process for the movie, which won the Toronto Film Festival’s Oscar bellwether People’s Choice Award in September and hits theaters next month.

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“It had to be Monk-influenced,” Karpman said of the score for the first feature from writer-director Cord Jefferson. “There were a couple iterations. I considered arranging a Monk tune, but they loved the original theme I wrote for the protagonist, and that became Monk’s theme.”

In the film from Orion, MRC, T-Street, Almost Infinite and 3 Arts, Jeffrey Wright plays Monk, a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own, which becomes a bestseller and spawns a film adaptation.

Karpman was raised to create the movie’s jazzy score. Back in the day when she attended boarding school outside of Boston, she used to take the bus into the city where “everybody was on tour. I heard all the greats” in jazz, she told the crowd at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

“There is a rich history of merging jazz with film scoring and concert music — it’s something that is not so uncommon,” said Karpman. “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to bring them together.”

American Fiction also stars Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Keith David, Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown.

Check out the panel video above.

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