Scoring Documentaries


February 15, 2018 –

Composing for documentaries/non-fiction shares many of the aspects of scoring for fiction film – creating drama, setting the tone, punctuating/calibrating emotion – but it also has some unique challenges. This seminar explores the particulars of writing music for documentaries with a panel of experienced composers.

Moderator: Fletcher Beasley

Panelists: Jeff Beal, Joel Goodman, Catherine Grealish, Gary Lionelli, Miriam Cutler

It’s no coincidence that Jeff Beal’s film music career began to take off with his work on the acclaimed film POLLOCK (2000). A five-time Emmy® winner, Beal’s approach is a favorite for more sophisticated works. His TV credits include HBO’s ROME, CARNIVÀLE and the Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS. His documentary work includes BLACKFISH, WEINER, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER, & BOSTON a documentary about the history of the Boston Marathon. Jeff’s upcoming film projects include SHOCK AND AWE (directed by Rob Reiner) and BIGGER (directed by George Gallo).

Recently, Jeff’s performing, conducting, and composing worlds have begun converging. Jeff conducted The National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in the premiere of HOUSE OF CARDS in CONCERT (represented by Columbia Artists Management), with further performances in Miami, The Netherlands, and Denmark. He also led the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra for the premiere of BLACKFISH live-to-picture. In May, several of his pieces were performed including “The Salvage Men” by The Apollo Chorus (Chicago), the Brooklyn Youth Chorus premiering his piece “The Fire Brand” at BAM, and Oregon Ballet Theatre premiering the ballet “Terra”, choreographed by Helen Pickett. Current feature documentary projects include GENERATION WEALTH and THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING, both of which premiered at Sundance.

Emmy Award®-winning composer Joel Goodman creates music for narrative feature films, documentaries, television, album releases and other forms of collaborative media. Joel has scored over 125 films and television programs that have received 5 Oscar nominations, 20 Emmy awards and over 30 Emmy nominations. He has scored over 40 films for HBO and composed the Main Theme for the long-running and critically acclaimed PBS series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. His scores can regularly be heard in movie theaters and on television around the world.

Joel recently completed scores to: VOYEUR (Netflix), the story of iconic journalist Gay Talese’s relationship with a motel owner that spied on guests; HELL ON EARTH (National Geographic), directed by Sebastian Junger, which explores Syria’s descent and the rise of the Islamic State; OBIT (Amazon), an endearing and uplifting look into the secret world of New York Times obituary writers; and EVERYTHING IS COPY (HBO), a candid portrait of beloved author and screenwriter Nora Ephron. Joel is also the owner and founder of the music publishing company Oovra Music.

With a passion for music and collaboration, Catherine Grealish is a composer and orchestrator for film and media. She recently won best documentary score for the uplifting award-winning feature documentary GOLD BALLS, and in 2014 won the Independent Music Vox Pop Award for her soundtrack for the film ALL THINGS HIDDEN. She also contributed music for the Joseph Fiennes theatrical release ON WINGS OF EAGLES and was the orchestrator for Brie Larson’s directorial debut UNICORN STORE starring Larson and Samuel L Jackson.

Catherine was part of the music teams for four documentaries premiered @ Sundance 2018. She arranged and orchestrated on the Netflix doc series WILD WILD COUNTRY, music edited the feature documentary JOAN JETT: BAND REPUTATION and was both orchestrator and score supervisor on the documentaries RBG and DARK MONEY.

Catherine is the Executive Director for the Alliance for Women Film Composers.

Three-time Emmy®-winning composer Gary Lionelli received a 2017 Primetime Emmy® Nomination for his epic score for the 2017 Academy Award®-winning film O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, directed by Ezra Edelman.

Lionelli also captured the attention of the film and television industry with his unforgettable compositions for director Rory Kennedy’s 2015 Academy Award®-nominated film LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM. He has also just completed the score for HBO’s THE NEWSPAPERMAN, which focuses on Ben Bradlee and The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal. Gary Lionelli resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Miriam Cutler is an Emmy®-nominated composer for award-winning films THE HUNTING GROUND, A PLASTIC OCEAN, FINDING KUKAN, ETHEL, LOST IN LA MANCHA, THIN, POSTER GIRL, GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB, AMERICAN PROMISE, VITO, DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART, LICENSE TO KILL, SCOUTS HONOR, ONE LAST HUG, KINGSPOINT and more. She co-produced and scored ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT and DARK MONEY, and scored RBG (about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg), all of which premiered @ Sundance 2018.

Miriam is Lab Advisor for the Sundance Documentary Composer Labs, documentary juror for Sundance, AFI, Spirit and IDA Awards; was Composer-in-Residence @ Columbia College of the Arts (Chicago – spring 2017) and has presented workshops in Vienna, Tbilisi, Cologne and various universities. She co-produced the Grammy®-nominated Joe Williams and Nina Simone live jazz albums for PolyGram/Verve. Miriam is a Motion Picture Academy Documentary Branch member, served on the Boards for The Society of Composers & Lyricists, Alliance for Women Film Composers; the Executive Committee of the TV Academy Music Branch, and as Film Expert for USC School of Cinema/US State Department’s American Film Showcase.


Fletcher Beasley is a composer with a wide range of experience creating music for different media. His credits include Cartoon Networks’ SCOOBY DOO, MYSTERY, INC., Terry Gilliam’s THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS, the Emmy Award®-winning miniseries WORLD WITHOUT END and Amazon’s THE LAST TYCOON.

Fletcher teaches at UCLA Extension’s Film Scoring Program, Cal State Long Beach, Santa Monica College and LA Film School. He serves on the SCL Board as Seminar Chair.