August 4, 2014

Movie, TV worlds music to Fresno's Natalie Cervelli's ears

Fresno's Natalie Cervelli is in the business of matchmaking. Specifically, making music matches.

Fresno's Natalie Cervelli is in the business of matchmaking.

Specifically, making music matches.

If you enjoyed Angus & Julia Stone's "'Love Will Take You" in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1" or "No One Ever Loved" by Lykke Li in "The Fault in Our Stars," then you have Cervelli to thank.

As the senior director of film & TV music at Sony/TV, Cervelli brings together artists with TV and film projects. She has helped make connections for TV shows like "The O.C." to trailers like 'The Lego Movie."

"I didn't even know this job existed when I was in high school," Cervelli says.

Some producers and directors have original music written for their films, TV shows or trailers. When that's not an option, they turn to people like Cervelli to find the right music. The options range from classic hits to original songs.

Cervelli didn't start out wanting to work as a music matchmaker.

When she was growing up in Fresno she had an interest in movies and TV. Her senior class at San Joaquin Memorial High School voted her "Most Likely to Be the Next Roger Ebert." Her passion grew more intense when she studied film at San Diego State University.

Cervelli had several jobs connected to the film industry after college, ranging from location scout to test screener. The only job she really enjoyed was working for an actor/manager where she spent a lot of time making mix tapes.

Now she is working on the ultimate mix tape. Film and TV projects often need multiple songs covering a wide array of genres, so she goes through Sony's massive library of music — that ranges from the Beatles to Lady Gaga — to find the right match.

Cervelli credits her parents with giving her the broad knowledge of music that helps her select the right tunes. The only area where she is a little sketchy is jazz.

The number of tunes Cervelli will suggest for a project can vary from a few to more than a dozen at a time. If the first ideas don't click, she will scout multiple lists until the right tune is found.

And, while she always is providing suggestions from the massive music library Sony owns, the music can come from any artist.

"And it's not just doing what the artist wants," she says. "They may be wanting to push a certain single but it may be the ninth cut that is right for the project."

One of the biggest headaches is getting the rights. Cervelli recalls how she had to find replacement music for episodes of "Roswell" because the cost for the rights to Coldplay had increased so much since the TV series originally aired they no longer were affordable.

She jokes that if you watch "Felicity" and remember a different song in a scene, that was her work. She had to swap out a lot of songs when the series was released on DVD.

That's less of a problem these days since music rights for the DVD release are negotiated when the original deal is made. And artists like the exposure they get when their work is used in a TV show or film.

"TV is the new radio. A lot of people will first hear a song on 'Grey's Anatomy' or 'The Vampire Diaries.' This is great exposure with the state album sales are in," Cervelli says.

Sony has the rights to music, but that doesn't mean an automatic connection between tune and project. In the case of any songs by the Beatles, a committee must decide whether they want the music associated with the project.

"I know Matthew Weiner wanted to use a Beatles song two seasons ago on 'Mad Men' but they denied him. He really wanted to use the song so he sent them the scene and how the music would be used and finally got the agreement," Cervelli says.

It's tough for Cervelli to watch a TV show or movie without thinking about which music she would have picked for a certain scene.

If a film was made on her life, she would select Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)," U2's "With or Without You" and Sylvan Esso's "Coffee" as the primary pieces of music. There was no mention of the theme song from "Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies."


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