July 12, 2010
Northwest alumnus setting music to movie trailers
MARYVILLE, Mo. - James Cameron's epic "Avatar" and the colorful "Sex and the City" sequel had Hollywood buzzing this year, but few people may have realized a Northwest Missouri State grad played a role in promoting them.
Growing up in Maryville, Bobby Gumm always dreamed of working in the film industry. He enrolled at Northwest as an art major, but eventually changed his tune and graduated in 2003 with a broadcasting degree and an art minor.
A year later, he moved to Los Angeles where he connected with a friend and landed a job at an advertising agency. These days, Gumm is music supervisor at Trailer Park, a 300-person company responsible for creating movie trailers and other advertising.
"We do everything from movie trailers to video game trailers," Gumm said during a recent return to Maryville. "It varies day to day. I got hired as the movie guy, but I've sort of ended up in these other roles too. I work with the editors and the clients and the producers to try to get music that helps sell their campaigns."
Earlier this summer, Gumm's work on the "Sex and the City 2" trailer was featured in Variety. As head of music, Gumm acquired the then-unreleased Jay-Z/Alicia Keys hit, "Empire State of Mind," for the dazzling trailer.
"That was a fun one," he said of the project. "A lot of times you get in on projects at different phases. You'll cut a teaser for a project and then you'll never do anything after that. Or somebody else will do the teaser and the trailer, and then you'll do the TV spot. ("Sex and the City 2") was unique because we did the entire campaign."
Gumm also worked on spots for "Prince of Persia," "Alice in Wonderland," "Terminator Salvation," "Jarhead" and "Up."
Often, Gumm and his team begin work on a trailer while the film is still in production. There are no special effects and no music. Animated films may be delivered to Gumm as simple line drawings.
"It's hard to tell early on how a movie's going to be, but you just try to find the things that do work and try to sell that," Gumm said. "The client will always give you direction, too. Every time a movie comes in, there's about a million ways you could try to sell it. The client usually narrows it down a little bit, and then I give them music options within that realm."
Gumm has had to become sort of an expert on not only popular music, but also scores and production music. He's developed a long list of contacts at companies that produce music especially for advertising, as well as record labels and publishers.
"With 'Sex and the City 2,' we were using 'Empire State of Mind' before it came out, so that's always a big coup if you're working for a client and you can give them a song that's not out yet," he said.
Gumm said he's always been a big music fan, but his tastes have expanded as he's settled into his career. Gumm said he's more picky about music now than he used to be, but he's gained a wider appreciation for finely-crafted pop songs and "stuff that's just really, really super weird."
"I thought I knew a lot about music, until I moved out there," he said. "The first couple months on the job, I was a nervous wreck. I didn't know what I was doing, and it was awful. But you learn quickly."
To Northwest students wanting to follow in his footsteps, Gumm says it's important to take risks and be persistent. He also gives cred to the adage that it's about who you know. Eric Mickelson, another Northwest alumnus who grew up in Maryville, is now vice president of creative marketing at CBS Films and recommended Gumm for his first job in Los Angeles.
"Who you know is extraordinarily important to at least get you in the door," Gumm said. "In Hollywood there's 1,000 people applying for every job, so they're going to hire the person that comes recommended by somebody that they like, as opposed to just trying to weed through a thousand applicants."
At Northwest, Gumm and Mickelson produced "The Quadrilateral Half-Hour Power Show," a quirky stunt television show for campus station KNWT. Gumm credits Northwest's mass communication department and the faculty's openness to letting students experiment.
"We learned editing and just the elements that go into the production," Gumm said. "Just putting together a TV show and all of that teaches you a lot about time management. Matt (Rouch, mass communications instructor) and everybody just sort of let us do our own thing, and I always thought that was cool. A lot of other places are very structured - you have to do this and you have to do that. I loved that you got out of it whatever you put into it."
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