Archive | February, 2018

Ariel Marx: Music to filmmakers’ ears

15 Feb

For as long as she can remember, Ariel Marx has been surrounded by musicians. From her family to her friends as a youth, and then to her college roommates, her world has been filled with music and with those making it.

Ariel Marx and Jason Ritter SundanceAriel with actor Jason Ritter at the Sundance premiere of “The Tale”

Ariel Marx has been making it as well for a long time, including for two films that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In Park City, her scores included the highly-regarded Jennifer Fox film “The Tale,” which stars Laura Dern, Jason Ritter and Common, and has been acquired by HBO; and a short film called “Hair Wolf” that takes place in Brooklyn. That film hit close to home, as she lives in New York City and is a member of the Adjunct Faculty at New York University.

She has also scored for dramas “West of Her” and “By Jingo,” as well as comedy TV series “UnChartered” and “The Prisoners.” You may have enjoyed her contributions to “Blind” starring Demi Moore and Alex Baldwin, Showtime’s “The Affair” with Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, and “Wonder” with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

An accomplished musician on keyboards and many string instruments, she found her way to composition when she realized that “my biggest inspiration for music was through visual images. I love the multi-media experience, and the idea of not just writing for writing’s sake. I love being part of a team. It’s what drew me to filmmaking.”

Ariel Marx and Melanie Lynskey

With actress Melanie Lynskey at Sundance

While studying for her Master’s Degree at NYU, she was chosen to participate in the Columbia/ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop. She wrote music for a film called “Dear Mother,” and one of the filmmakers was also involved in the early development of “The Tale,” which led to Ariel’s meeting director Jennifer Fox.

“She had a vision for ‘The Tale,’ which is really a portrayal of a woman’s relationship with a memory,” Ariel says of Fox’s powerful and touching film. “With ‘The Tale,’ the cut was locked (finally edited) when I started working on. So, I was able to take the sentiment of the film and started playing around with a melody.”

She dug into the film’s pivotal moments first, “writing four or five minutes of a suite. It’s different with every film I’ve done, but I think it’s most valuable to start with those moments with the largest emotion. I knew the score for ‘The Tale’ had to honor the juxtapositions of the story—it had to mold to Jennifer’s view of the story she was telling. It’s been a very gratifying experience working on this film.”

For composers, every film differs as much as its director. Ariel said deciding where to start is always the biggest challenge, because not all films are locked cuts. Sometimes, she has to compose based on a filmmaker’s concept, before some scenes are shot.

“I love experimenting with different sounds,” she said. “My ideal project is just a bit of a playground, breaking a few rules and then getting back to the convention. I’m very interested in modifying sound, and I love collaborating with other composers because we often need to depend on each other—we can’t play everything.”

Sundance audiences loved “The Tale.” Though the story is a bit dark and certainly disturbing, its message resonated with those who gave Fox and the cast a standing ovation. Ariel was proud to be part of the creative team.

She is busy finishing the score for a film nearing completion and has plans to work on another feature after that. Still, she says that “I’m somewhat new to this world, and I’m looking forward to getting a lot more involved. It feels like this is a great and amazing time to be in the business. A lot of creative voices are being heard. Technology has afforded people from all different backgrounds a chance to come into this industry. You don’t need a huge orchestration background. It’s a very explorative time.”

Photos by Impact24 PR (Jason Ritter) and Tom Haraldsen (Melanie Lynskey)

John O’Hurley is singing the standards in Utah

2 Feb

For many of us, we know John O’Hurley from his years playing J. Peterman on Seinfeld, or for famously winning the first season of Dancing with the Stars. But that’s only the beginning of the amazing talents that O’Hurley possesses, one reason he’s considered by many to be the most versatile entertainer of our time.

Now he’s bringing his hit show, A Man with Standards, to one of Utah’s newest venues—the DeJoria Center in Kamas. He will perform on Saturday, February 10, starting at 8 p.m. The program has been nominated for Best Show by BroadwayWorld, just the latest accolade for this Screen Actors Guild winning singer, actor, composer and pianist.

o'hurley   The genesis for Standards came shortly after O’Hurley had finished a three-week engagement at the famed Café Carlyle in New York City.

“A friend of a friend of a friend and I started talking, and we came up with the thought that music from the Great American Songbook could tell the story of my life,” O’Hurley told me. “Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, those songs are a great retrospective on our country. I was lucky enough to be raised around men with standards, the idea of being a gentleman. My parents use to go out with friends for dinner and dancing, and everywhere you went, there seemed to be a five-piece combo and a supper club. I had that feeling after playing in the Carlyle.”

So singing the tunes of artists like Sinatra and Mancini, O’Hurley set out touring the country about two years ago. This will be the first time he’s told the story of his life and performed his show in Utah.


As he tells in Standards, “I remember that even at the age of 3, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I’d point to our black and white TV in the corner. I’d say, ‘Well l am an actor, so that’s what I’m going to be.’ I knew I was an actor. I’d see other kids on TV and knew that’s where I was headed. So my life was something where I connected the dots from there to there.”

At age 27, he took the giant leap of faith by moving to New York City, working in public relations for five years until “I realized I was living a lie. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.” He auditioned for his first show and was cast in 48 hours, a show called Eternal Love.

“It was a three-hour musical without a single laugh,” he recalled. “It was terrible, and it died a merciful death about six weeks after it opened. But I got my Equity card and an agent. Every time a see a fellow actor who was in that show, I stop and ask them ‘How are you?’ We all shared that experience together, and we have empathy for each other.”

His career continued to blossom, and he recalls singing to Frank Sinatra himself at 2:30 a.m. before an audience full of celebrities, all who had stayed around for that late hour to see him perform.

O’Hurley has done so many things that he says he sometimes feels “like the guy who’s trying to keep five plates spinning. Each thing I do satisfies a part of my brain.” He’s in a film called Swing Away that was shot in Greece and will soon be released, and he’s going back to Crete to film Red Door and Lemon Tree, another independent film about a young actress who goes back to her homeland to reconnect with her youth.

So what can audiences expect when they see A Man with Standards?

“I can promise three things,” he says, “music, laughter, and one tear. We’ve lost our sense of melody and lyric writing—all of that is gone. Nothing is memorable anymore. I’m a big fan of performances that lean towards the large, dramatic style of the standards. For me, it’s melody and lyrics. That’s what I bring to audiences with each performance.”

–Tom Haraldsen