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An Interview with Annie Beth Brown Donahue, Abandoned Allies Music Supervisor

by Abandoned Allies on November 19th, 2012

Annie Beth Brown Donahue at the premiere of Abandoned Allies at the Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles on Sunday, August 26, 2012. Photo by Bobbi Whittemore.

Annie Beth Brown Donahue served as music supervisor on Abandoned Allies, collecting music and advising Camden Watts on the placement of each piece. Here, in her own words, is Annie Beth’s experience working on Abandoned Allies.

Describe your role on Abandoned Allies.

Hmmm… I shamelessly solicited free music from any talented independent artist I knew. The film didn’t have a budget, so purchasing music or rights to pieces for the soundtrack was out of the question. I wanted the music to be unique and interesting, and I didn’t want it to put people to sleep.

Besides actually finding artists and reviewing their music for use in the film, I assisted Camden in deciding where to place the individual pieces in the film. I made use of my experience as a music therapist to decide what feelings we wanted to evoke during certain parts of the film. The music was being placed as the film was being edited, so there was this give and take where Camden and I both influenced each other–footage driving the music in one place and music determining the footage in others.


Why did you agree to work on Abandoned Allies?

About four years ago my sister was working for Surry Roberts. One day we had a conversation, the gist of which was, “Surry’s working with Camden to make a film about the Montagnards. Maybe you could help them out with the music.” At the time we were about to adopt our fourth child and I had cut back significantly on work outside the home. It sounded like a fun project to me.

As a child I used to sit and listen to movie soundtracks and do geeky things like analyze what instruments or musical themes were used during different parts of the movie and why they might have been placed there. After calling Camden and learning more about the project and the Montagnards, I felt it was an important story to tell and a noble plight to support.


What was it like working on the film?

Fun. Just plain fun. Using knowledge of your own special interest to assist someone else is very rewarding. It was the kind of work that you were just excited to get a chance to do. I never cared that I wasn’t getting paid monetarily. I actually felt bad that I didn’t have some kind of media degree and real credentials.


What would you do differently next time?

Not much. I think that we have an established base of contacts now, so a massive search for new artists would be unnecessary next time. One thing I would do differently would be to wait until after most of the editing was done to place any music. I think viewing the film and talking with Camden through the entire process was critical and I think having certain pieces in mind while choosing footage was probably helpful to her. I just wouldn’t do the actual sit-down-and-line-up-music-to-film until most of it was finished, though, because whenever segments were edited again, we had to re-do some of the placements.


What was it like to work with Camden Watts (be honest)?

Hahaha! We had some great times working together. It was a blast. We had several “working weekends” where we just buckled down and worked for hours at a time, but every minute of it was fun. Camden can make anything entertaining.


Anything else you’d like to share?

I think we were incredibly blessed to have some of our best pieces fall in our lap. I don’t think the film would have the same impact without them.

Annie Beth Brown Donahue studied music therapy at Queens University. She started the nonprofit Signposts Ministries, which serves children who face challenges to their health (either mentally or physically) and their families. She lives near Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and four children.


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