Interview: Composer Ronit Kirchman gives us the scoop on ‘The Sinner’

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NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: Director Antonio Campos, producer Derek Simonds, Executive producer and cast member Jessica Biel, cast member Christopher Abbott and actor Bill Pullman attends’The Sinner’ Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on April 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Born to Play

Hidden Remote:  Where did you grow up?

Kirchman: I grew up in Manhattan in New York City, born and raised. When you grow up in New York City, initially, you don’t realize how unusual it is, but now I have a little perspective on that. It’s kind of a unique thing. Not quite enough exposure to nature and a ton of cultural exposure. All the arts are right at your fingertips, and I definitely benefited from that.

Hidden Remote: I am sure New York is quite different from Los Angeles?

Kirchman: They are both big cities. When I moved out here for graduate school, I really appreciated having access to the beautiful western landscape. It’s so wonderful to get into contact with the mountains, beach, and desert. So I enjoy living on the West Coast.

Hidden Remote: Do you find that growing up in New York has had an influence on your music?

Kirchman:  In terms of my education, for sure. I’ve had amazing, amazing experiences studying classical music growing up. Playing in Carnegie Hall with my orchestra, studying the top teachers and having the levels be really high. That was definitely an influence for me. The precision that I learned and the technical proficiency in understanding the nuts and bolts of music is there for me every day. I don’t think it’s limited to New York, but the resources that the city (New York) had to offer fed into my musical vocabulary and identity on some level.

More from Drama

Hidden Remote: Do you think you have grown or changed since moving to Los Angeles?

Kirchman:  I am always looking to grow and change as an artist. Even as a kid, I was into improvisation and coming up with new things that didn’t exist yet. The move out was great not just geographically. My graduate studies at Cal Arts allowed me to experience and study different kinds of music more formally: Indian music, West African music, and a lot of improvisation, in addition to writing for orchestras and composing with computers and programming. I like the conceptual space to be wide open and always learn more. I don’t think it’s just the West Coast, I think it’s the specific school and the attitudes you bring to your studies and what you are doing– all those things feed into it.

Hidden Remote: Could you talk about your role in Alliance for Women Film Composers?

Kirchman: I am a member! The more of us that are scoring larger projects and TV series and things that people really get to see, the more we will be able to serve as role models for both girls and boys. Just being visible as a woman as a film composer will create change, just like it has in other fields, like medicine, or the law. Part of it is putting your heart and soul into your work and letting people know about it.

There are organizations devoted to having the facts on what the actual numbers are. That can be helpful. Sundance and Women In Film came out with a really rigorous study about the representation of women in Hollywood, and when those numbers came out people were shocked.

They hadn’t necessarily stopped to think, “Oh, every person I work with is a guy,” but people were not necessarily extrapolating from their personal experience and wondering “What are the percentages?” I see a big shift happening right now in terms of people coming out of film scoring programs, the numbers there, and the awareness in the industry. But it’s also really important to be aware of female composers who are already here and working.

Hopefully, studios will trust women with large budgets. I think it is happening. The more we get out there, the better. Always checking in on how we are doing is a good thing. There is also the important issue of having cultural diversity represented. It’s not an identical issue, but I think what is definitely the same is an unconscious bias. We need to shine a light on the fact that we are a very– and particularly the United States is– a very diverse and wonderful culture, and we should see that represented.

On the artistic side, there is great music we should be hearing from new voices. Everybody is going to benefit when we get to hear more music, and it will come from all sorts of directions.