For our next installment of our Women in Film series, we sat down with Score Editor / Audio Engineer (and good friend of HY) Colleen M. Lutz. Colleen has spent the last several years establishing herself as a premier Music Score Editor in our industry, amassing a wide-spanning credit list of feature films in the meantime (just check out that IMDB page!). She spoke with us about her “day in the life,” creating musical comps, and the progress she sees women making in film music:
Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you get started in music?
I started playing the flute through my elementary school music program in the 3rd grade. I played in chamber ensembles, bands, and orchestras from childhood through my undergrad at Florida State University. Music was (and is) a large part of my identity, so it was important that my career provided the opportunity to work in music. During college, I discovered audio engineering and how it could combine my love of music with an interesting, technical, and creative career path. In my junior year, I began to pursue a career in audio through FSU’s commercial music program and several internships.
What was the path or the turning point that landed your first major scoring gig?
After moving to Los Angeles, it took a while to find the right job. I had some freelance work and worked at a scoring stage for a while, but I hadn’t found the right long term opportunity yet. It finally came to me in the form of a phone call from a friend that knew my career goals. He had recently gone freelance and needed a mix assistant. This was the beginning of my work with Score Mixer, Satoshi Mark Noguchi. I learned an incredible amount over the four years that I worked as his mix assistant. This position allowed me to learn the ins and outs of the business, in addition to all of the technical, organizational, and creative responsibilities of a score mix assistant. As I continued to develop my skills through this role, I discovered how much I enjoyed score/orchestral editing and I was able to develop that skill further, under Satoshi’s direction.
Your IMDB page lists some huge credits. What does a typical day look like for you when you’re in the middle of working on a major project?
My role varies widely depending on the demands of the project and needs of the team. Typically I am responsible for some combination of record session prep, mix session prep, score editing, noise reduction, and printing/delivering the final assets. My day usually begins with sorting through any information or files that came in over night, following up on any outstanding requests, and perusing the master google sheet for the project. After the organizational tasks are out of the way, I dig in to my next Pro Tools session. Part of my role is organizing Pro Tools sessions into the ideal format for the next person down the line; that could mean prepping them for a recording session or routing them into the score mixer’s custom mix template. After the session is prepped, I typically comp and edit several passes of live orchestra, overdubs, and the composer’s prelays with the goal of creating a performance that is musical and cohesive.
Do you have any favorite projects that you’ve worked on? Why?
Earth to Echo, Lion, Loving, Midnight Special, and Disney’s Mickey Mouse shorts are all at the top of my list. Projects usually stand out to me for several reasons: the quality of the score, the quality of the story, and most importantly, the experience working with the team. I am grateful every day that I get to work in music.
What’s your studio setup like? (DAW/Hardware systems); do you have a favorite piece of gear (or plugin)?
My studio is clean and simple. I work on an iMac in Pro Tools HD. I love my Neve Headphone Amp and Sennheiser HD 800S headphones for detailed score editing, sample editing, and de-noising tasks. I use iZotope RX6 Advanced as my go to program for noise reduction.
What are your thoughts on the progress of women in film music?
We have come a long way. It is important to acknowledge that there is progress and that there are more and more opportunities for women. There are many individuals in this business that are excited to include women on their teams. I really enjoy seeing so many organizations with the purpose of creating a place for women to; network with each other, work together, and support one another. There is still room for improvement though.
What would you like to see change for women working in film and film music in the future?
In my experience, one of the challenges that remains for women is that there are still some men that are hesitant or unwilling to hire women to work alongside them. This limits our opportunities. I would like to see more men in prominent roles in the industry allying with women and working to change this mindset. Additionally, I would like to see women working on more of the high profile projects in key roles and women as the norm rather than the exception over all.
Check out Colleen’s full list of credits and upcoming projects at: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4364432