Writer/producer/director Jenji Kohan’s kids’ love for the Los Angeles children’s group, Gwendolyn and the Goodtime Gang, was what led composer Gwendolyn Sanford to collaborate with Kohan, who created Orange is the New Black and Weeds.
Because Kohan’s kids were fans of the Goodtime Gang, Sanford and husband/bandmate Brandon Jay landed an audition to score Weeds, which they continued to do for seven seasons. Now Sanford, Jay and their collaborator Scott Doherty are working on a new season of Orange, composing the score in their L.A. garage.
“The first children’s song I wrote was for the film Chuck and Buck, which is an adult film and has very childlike undertones to it. It opened the world of interpreting pictures with music,” Sanford says.
“Goodtime Gang got around with preschools, and we put together a band and it was just fun. When Jenji asked me to score an episode of Weeds, it was a re-visiting of that.”
Sanford says artists should do their best work regardless of the project, but passes on projects she doesn’t connect to. “If you’re not connecting to a piece, you won’t bring it what it needs. Instinctively, people know if they’re right for a project or not.”
Her biggest challenge with Orange, she says, is supporting all the different characters through the score, but that keeps the gig from getting boring. A background in other art forms has also proven helpful.
“You approach it emotionally, just like an actor would do. The music is its own role, and that’s where it really helps to be a dramatist as well as composer. If you can do that, you have a leg up. If you can approach music that way, it’s almost like you’re acting, but acting with music. That’s when it connects to the characters and viewers. Music is magic, so there has to be a sense of that in your work. It’s an emotive art form, and if you’re feeling it, then everyone else will.”
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