Share & Connect
The filmmakers of the oscar-nominated ‘A Better Life’ began planning the soundtrack before they’d begun pre-production, engaging top music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (Summit’s The Twilight Saga series, Mad Men, The O.C.), who collaborated with director Chris Weitz on New Moon.
“Chris called me about a script about the immigrant experience in L.A., which he said had moved him beyond words,” Patsavas recalls. “He said, ‘We’re looking for the real deal, realistic tracks that the characters would listen to on the radio and in record stores.’”
Patsavas and her team at Chop Shop Music dug into Mexican musical history, as well as Latin hip hop and rap, current rock and hipster tracks. The resulting soundtrack is a mix of musical styles including everything from ranchera (Alejandro Fernández), East L.A. hip hop (Delinquent Habits), Son Huasteco (Los Camperos de Valles) and reggaeton (Proyecto TQ) to Norteño (Intocable), Mariachi (Antonio Aguilar), Mexican-influenced hip-hop (Awkid) and rap (Guilty Simpson). The popular band, Voz de Mando, a narcocorrido act, not only contributed a track, but also performed it in a scene shot in an East L.A. nightclub.
Adds producer Christian McLaughlin, “We wanted an original song at the end of the film, something that would amplify the resolution of the story and suggest the synthesized musical tastes of both Carlos and Luis.” The first choice was LA indie-rock favorite Ozomatli, who committed as soon as Weitz showed them a cut of the film.
Weitz also wanted a score that hinted at the simplicity of the neo-realist films that served as early inspiration in the film’s design. He turned to a former collaborator and friend, composer and four-time Academy Award-nominee Alexandre Desplat. “Alexandre is marvelous at moving from very intimate themes — like the mandolin piece that opens the movie — to more sweeping, romantic colors, like the powerful, big-orchestral theme that brings the film home.”
“When it was time to work on the score, Alexandre was coming off the rigors of scoring Harry Potter. We had about a month to go from concept to recording with the London Symphony Orchestra,” recalls Weitz. “I knew that our communication would be vastly improved if I moved my family to Paris for a month. So I took that bold step. Alexandre and I sat in his studio practically every day and Alexandre heroically produced what I think is one of his most beautiful scores.”
Weitz goes on to say, “We would sit in Alexandre’s study in Montparnasse and talk through the cues, Alexandre drinking green tea and I espresso in great quantities. Gradually, themes took form and were shipped off to the orchestrators. The final cue was hashed out in a late night session two days before we hit Abbey Road.”
The contribution of Piolín
Another vital, authentic component to the film are the contributions of Mexican radio personality, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, whose top-rated morning radio program, “Piolín por la Mañana,” is broadcast throughout Northern, Central & Southern California and is syndicated nationally in over 59 stations across the United States.
The show is wildly popular with Southern California’s Spanish-speaking population, and the filmmakers knew that they had to have Piolín to lend veracity to the early scenes of Carlos in his truck.
What they weren’t expecting, after showing an early cut of film to Piolín, was his devastated, private reaction. He also shared his own personal life experience with us that he had been through the deportation process early in his career, when a rival station reported his illegal status to American immigration, and offered to record original tracks for A Better Life, which are featured in its opening sequences.
Image Courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/ABetterLifeMovie