Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Nancy Allen (B’86), Music Editor for feature films

Nancy Allen is a music editor for feature films. She works with directors and composers to help develop and create the original score. That involves creating a temporary score from existing material, working with any and all source music that goes into a film, facilitating the recording process for the final score and delivering the score to the final dub where it is mixed with sound effects and dialog to achieve a complete mix.

Her 50+ film projects include “Black Swan” (Golden Reel Nomination), “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (Golden Reel win), and most recently “Tower Heist”.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?
Without a doubt it is the opportunity to work with Suzana Peric, one of the finest, most creative music editors ever. I worked with her for 10 years. It was literally the chance to sit at the feet of a master and experience how she approached a storyline musically and how she handled different situations. She brought me into each film so I was not only watching, but doing. During that whole time, whenever there was an opportunity to do a small project on my own, she would encourage me to take it on, offer me guidance throughout, and always welcomed me back to work with her until I was good and ready to step out on my own. The number of things I am still learning from her, not only about music editing, but about being a better person, is a marvel to me.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?
The most challenging part is also the most rewarding. Each film is different. Different stories, different schedules, different personalities; and each team has a different way of working based on the way the director works. It takes a little while to find the rhythm and language of each film. Until that happens, one can feel a little lost, but it always shakes out. Once it does, the real collaboration can start, and then things get exciting.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?
I just finished a comedy called “Tower Heist” with Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller that was really fun to work on. I’ve just started a drama called “Great Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones about which I’m incredibly excited.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?
Georgetown prepared me for life in the big world. It was a great challenge for me. I learned a lot about my own determination and my ability to commit to something.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?
It’s the same advice I got: always look around and ask yourself “what’s going on here that I don’t know about or understand”. It trains you to study each situation and understand how things are working — or not. That in turn gives you the opportunity to better anticipate what will be needed next time around. Also, never assume you know what’s going on. Ask the question when something isn’t clear — and write that answer down!

How is the digital world affecting your industry? How are you approaching this transformational change?
The change from mag and video tape to digital audio workstations was huge for film post production. The implications of digital technology are constantly changing as the technology continues to evolve; but in short, it means that work can happen more quickly, and there’s greater opportunity for experimentation.

Best Business Advice Received:
Don’t talk about what you’re going to do, do it. And never let perfection get in the way of excellence.

Trait(s) You Most Admire in People:
The ability to truly hear people – with the heart, not just the ears; the ability to engage people in dialog; Fairminded-ness; Humor; Trusting one’s own instincts.

Favorite iPhone/iPad/Blackberry/Android App:
I LOVE my iPad! I have an app for recipes that’s like a Vegas slot-machine (don’t ask)

Favorite Georgetown Professor:
Father Walter J Burghardt. He wasn’t a professor – he was Theologian in Residence when I was at Georgetown. He became a dear, dear friend to me and my family, and touched my heart in the sweetest way.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:
The Tombs (I worked there for 3 of my undergrad years!)

Favorite Georgetown Memory:
Any time I spent with the 3 fellow Hoyas who are still my dearest, best-est friends!