Dan Romer is an American music producer, singer-songwriter, and film composer based in Los Angeles.
As a film composer, Romer's scores include four-time Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild, Beasts of No Nation, Chasing Coral, Gleason, Good Doctor and the Emmy-winning Jim: The James Foley Story. Romer scored the Ubisoft video game Far Cry 5 released on March 27, 2018.
He has produced music for numerous artists including A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, whose single "Say Something," topped charts around the world, hit 6x Platinum, sold over 7 million copies, and won a 2015 Grammy. Dan co-produced "Treat You Better" by Shawn Mendes which reached #1 on the iTunes chart and #3 on the US Top 40 pop radio charts in September 2016. He was set to compose the James Bond film No Time to Die, but was reportedly replaced by Hans Zimmer due to "creative differences".
Benjamin Harold "Benh" Zeitlin (/ˈbɛn ˈzaɪtlɪn/; born October 14, 1982) is an American filmmaker, composer, and animator best known for directing the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Zeitlin was born in Manhattan and raised in Sunnyside, Queens, and in suburban Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. He is a graduate of Hastings High School and Wesleyan University. He was born to writers and folklorists Mary Amanda Dargan and Steven Joel Zeitlin, who founded the NYC non-profit cultural organization City Lore. His father, who is Jewish, spent most of his childhood in Brazil, and his mother comes from a rural, Protestant background in Darlington, South Carolina.
In 2004, Zeitlin co-founded the Court 13 independent collection of filmmakers, named after a neglected Wesleyan University squash court that he and his friends had once commandeered as a filming location. Zeitlin and his younger sister Eliza moved to New Orleans while he was making his first short film, Glory at Sea, in 2008.
In 2012, Zeitlin's first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild, adapted from a play entitled Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar, won the Caméra d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Deauville American Film Festival. The film went on to earn the Los Angeles Film Festival's Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and the Seattle International Film Festival's Golden Space Needle Award for Best Director. Zeitlin was also given a Humanitarian Award for his work on the film at the Satellite Awards 2012. Notably, Zeitlin both directed Beasts of the Southern Wild and co-composed the score.
Zeitlin at the Fantasy Film Festival in Berlin, August 26, 2012.
For his directorial work and screenplay in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin collected several additional awards and nominations. At the Gotham Independent Film Awards in 2012, he won the Breakthrough Director Award. At the same awards ceremony, Zeitlin received the inaugural Bingham Ray Award, which honors the independent filmmaker who died in 2012. Zeitlin also won a Humanitas Prize (as co-writer/director; shared with Alibar as co-writer), amongst other awards. He has also received nominations for two Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin), and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture.
In 2019, it was revealed that Zeitlin was directing his next feature Wendy in Montserrat, an island south of Antigua. Inspired by Peter Pan, Zeitlin described the film as 'a friendship-love story-adventure of her and a joyous, reckless, pleasure-mongering young boy as they swirl in and out of youth and as the ecosystem around them spirals toward destruction.'
Q&A with director Benh Zeitlin & composer Dan Romer
Milan Records today announces the February 28 release of WENDY (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by award-winning composer, songwriter and producer DAN ROMER and the film's award-winning director BENH ZEITLIN. Available for preorder now, the album features music co-written by the duo for Zeitlin's vivid reimagining of Peter Pan, which made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival and debuts in theaters on February 28 from Searchlight Pictures. The album is the latest in a series of scoring collaborations for the duo that includes both Zeitlin's own critically-acclaimed, breakout film Beasts of the Southern Wild as well as additional titles Brimstone & Glory and Mediterranea.
A reimagining of Peter Pan that transplants it to the American Deep South, Wendy is the second movie from director Benh Zeitlin; as on the first (Beasts of the Southern Wild) he has co-composed the score with Dan Romer. It's a playful score with more than a dash of magic – and if I say that it's got a reasonable sized orchestra, plenty of pizzicato strings, all sorts of percussion, a large number of colourful instruments adding distinctive flavours including dulcimer, glass harmonica, guitars and marimba then you'll probably think it sounds a bit like Thomas Newman. In fact it doesn't sound anything like Thomas Newman and while it's quite impressive that Romer and Zeitlin could write a score which could be described as such and not sound like Newman, it's even more impressive that they've managed to create something so incredibly distinctive that is so full of life and joy and magic and feeling – and it really is.
There's a really nice main theme heard early on in the energetic "Straight on Till Morning" which is later fully unleashed in "Never Grow Up" and the fantastic "Battle for Mañana"; and a secondary theme representing the gaia-like guardian of the magical island where children stay children, introduced in "The Mother", which is full of awe and wonder. "The Old Hand" is an extraordinary cue which symbolises the composers' great creativity – the atmosphere from the steel drums, plucked strings, chimes and eventually wordless soprano is something to behold. This is immediately followed by "Where Lost Boys Go", which is every bit as magical as a cue with that title should be, wistful strings covering the listener like a warm blanket. It's not all sweetness and light – the early "The Haunted Train" is more like a traditional piece of fantasy scoring with slight horror elements; the lengthy "Want to Fly?" is exciting and energetic. Wendy is a really well-rounded listening experience, with so many positives to its name – it's genuinely different and creative and very enjoyable indeed.
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At this point, there must be as many "reimaginings" of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories as there have been relatively faithful retellings of the source materials themselves. In part, this is because Barrie's characters, like Grimms' Fairy Tales, have been so memetically portrayed by Disney that many people forget how dark their original tales actually were.
But I suspect it also owes to how many facets there are to the Peter Pan mythos, to the extent that everyone sees something different in them. Asking someone what they like best about Peter Pan is a sort of Rorschach test that tells you more about who they are than who the character of Peter Pan might be.
It makes sense, then, that director and co-screenwriter Benh Zeitlin would deliver such a revisionary take on Peter Pan with "Wendy," which gives us a black Peter Pan and a Wendy Darling who's the true driving protagonist of the narrative, in a well-intentioned effort to open up Barrie's Edwardian-era tales of adventure for English school boys, so boys and girls around the world can see themselves taking part in those adventures.
That being said, this is an incredibly American take on Peter Pan, with the Darling family updated from a middle-class London household to an American Southern single mother raising her rambunctiously grubby kids in the bedrooms above the whistle-stop greasy spoon diner she runs during the day.
Speaking as a lifelong Peter Pan fan, this is a distinctive retelling worth watching.
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The timeless story of Peter Pan is reimagined in the wildly inventive and engrossing Wendy from director Benh Zeitlin. But the real treasure of the film is young star Devin France who bedazzles and electrifies the screen as the titular character.
While Zeitlin's film is beautiful as well as epic in its scope, it is France who binds everything together with her performance. Cowritten with his sister Eliza, Zeitlin's script is simple, yet complex. There are deep issues of childhood and innocence lost at work here and occasionally explored perhaps a little too blatantly. But the film is a joy to watch. There isn't a frame where there isn't some sort of visual delight to partake in. Dan Romer's score too keeps the sense of freedom the Lost Boys feel swelling throughout. Even the loss of innocence, embodied in the arrival of a certain Captain, is handled not as a traditional tale of pirate adventure and plundering, but as one lamenting the aforementioned loss of innocence and childhood.
There is a lot going on in Wendy, and while it may not connect for all, those it does connect with will feel a profound love of it and will more than likely become very protective of it, much as the way the Lost Boys feel about their freedom from growing up.
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