‘My main inspiration? To be authentic…’ | Emily Rice on scoring Miss Juneteenth

From Texas to Sundance: composer Emily Rice shares her journey into the Miss Juneteenth score

'Yes, I'm ready!'. Emily Rice is ready for the Hot Corn interview.

LONDON – ‘You might think it’s about a pageant, but it’s about something much deeper than that…’- Emily Rice, a brilliant British composer based in Los Angeles, is talking about Miss Juneteenth, Channing Godfrey Peoples’s movie which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The film – released in the US on 19th June and in UK and Ireland on 25th September – has received great reviews and the score of Rice is really something to listen. We talked to the musician about the soundtrack and about the new era for female composers after the success of Hildur Guðnadóttir, the first woman to win Oscar for best original score for Joker.

Nicole Beharie and Alexis Chikaeze in Miss Juneteenth.

THE PROJECT – ‘Last year I became a Fellow at the Sundance Institute Film Music & Sound Design Lab. As part of that Lab I worked on a documentary feature called For the Love of Rutland, and following the success of that collaboration Courtney Rodriguez (who was the Manager of the Film Music Program) recommended me to Channing Godfrey Peoples to score Miss Juneteenth. Channing listened to some of my music and we had several discussions about what she was looking for in a score. Both Channing and I were also excited that we could speak the same film language, having both received training at USC, and as soon as I saw the film I was all-in. And we took it from there!’.

The director Channing Godfrey Peoples on the set of Miss Juneteenth.

THE INSPIRATION – ‘My main inspiration for the score was Channing’s desire for the story to be authentic, specifically in terms of the location of the film which takes place in Fort Worth, Texas. Channing had a strong vision that the score should balance some classical cello elements with the specific country blues that she grew up with. These elements would ultimately reflect the lead character’s inner world and the region itself respectively. We were lucky to feature some wonderful local artists through the use of their songs which brought out the joyful aspects of the story too. I was also drawn to the film because it’s not what it initially appears to be about; that is to say you might think it’s about a pageant, but it’s about something much deeper than that’.

A still from Miss Juneteenth.

THE EVOLUTION – ‘The evolution of my music and the projects I’ve worked on has been interesting. I’m very happy and grateful to be on my current path, helping to tell interesting and important stories and collaborate with very talented filmmakers to help bring their visions to life. I feel I’ve been lucky so far in that my work has been varied; I’ve worked on TV, both narrative and documentary features, an anime and a podcast. I very much hope that my path will continue to be this varied as I think it helps keep my creativity alive’.

‘Two names? Beethoven and Stravinsky!’. Emily Rice and her favourite composers

FEMALE COMPOSERS – ‘I think it’s difficult to forge a successful career as a composer full stop, and that is something I always want to acknowledge. There are more obstacles for some of us, though. I hope that things are changing. I think that real, true change happens over time, so we’ll see how the future pans out. The great thing about the Oscar to Hildur Gudnadottir for me personally is that we have a new, visible example of a woman successfully working at the highest level writing music for TV and films. I find this very encouraging and I’m excited to see what Hildur does next’.

Hildur Guðnadóttir with the Oscar for Joker.

MY FAVOURITE ONE – ‘I have trouble choosing favourites composers but some of the composers that became very meaningful to me early on in my musical life include Beethoven and Stravinsky, for their emotional force and inventiveness respectively. For any music nerds out there, I highly recommend the Beethoven biography written by Maynard Solomon!’

  • Watch the trailer for Miss Juneteenth:
  • Discover more on Emily website here
  • Soundtrack fan? Discover more on Hot Corn Soundtrack

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