Film composition has historically been one of the least diverse crafts in the industry, but the Academy is launching a new program to address the deficit.
The organization has partnered with Mercury Studios, which has offices in London and Los Angeles, to launch the Jonas Gwangwa Music Composition Initiative, a yearlong development program for U.K.-based Black musicians who are interested in a film scoring career.
“This initiative seeks to correct an imbalance. In contrast to the major contributions Black musicians are making to the music industry in the U.K., their presence in the U.K. film industry is significantly lacking,” said U.K.-based Academy members Gary Yershon (music branch), Misan Sagay (writers branch) and Nainita Desai (music branch), who led the creation of the initiative, in a statement. “Through this program, we seek to build community amongst Black artists in the U.K. by highlighting opportunities to bridge film and music careers.”
During their year in the program, the participants will receive one-on-one mentorship from an Academy music branch member, receive access to Academy screenings and other events in London, and meet Academy members from various branches as well as practitioners from across the film music industry (e.g., agents, music supervisors, orchestral managers, recording studio personnel, music editors, publicists) to gain a fuller understanding of filmmaking and the business. In addition, each participant will be matched with a filmmaker to score the short film he or she is in the process of making, through grants from Mercury Studios and Decca Records. Abbey Road Studios will provide additional programming and support.
Artists and composers who have worked as musicians for at least three years are welcome to apply at the Academy’s website before the July 29 deadline. In mid-August, a panel of music industry professionals will choose a shortlist of 10 finalists, who will have about a month to score a short film clip. The two inaugural participants will be chosen in late September and must be available to attend an in-person event in London in early October to kick off the program.
The initiative is part of the Academy’s Aperture 2025, the continuation of its A2020 efforts to diversify the organization as well as the motion picture industry it honors. Its namesake, Jonas Gwangwa, was the late South African jazz musician and composer who shared Oscar nominations for original score and original song for their work on 1987’s Cry Freedom. He died in 2021.