‘This Is Properly The Dream Come True’ – This Year’s BAFTA Host Edith Bowman Talks Music In Film

The broadcaster talks Grazia through the secret power of a good film score.

Edith Bowman

by Guy Pewsey |
Updated on

A truly great film requires several components. You need a smart script, artful direction, masterful performances. Authentic costumes help. Stellar cinematography works wonders. But the simplest thing that can make or break the impact of a scene - and the film as a whole - is the music.

Think about it. Make the wrong choice in your score, and all tension is shattered. Select the wrong song for a crucial moment, and the impact disappears. Consider the screeching violin in Psycho, two terrifying notes in Jaws or the heart-pumping anarchy of the Trainspotting soundtrack. Hear the refrain of the flute throughout Titanic, now most familiar via the opening chords of My Heart Will Go On. Listen to Joni Mitchell's Love Actually moment. Love or hate these films, there is no denying that they would be far inferior without their clever use of sound.

Few people know this more than Edith Bowman. Having proven herself as an expert in both film and music through her long career in broadcasting, in recent years she has explored the way in which they merge, through her podcast, Soundtracking with Edith Bowman. In it, she meets major names in the world of film - recent guests include Steve McQueen, Jamie Dornan and Riz Ahmed - and interrogates the music that so effectively complements their latest projects. Her latest gig - co-host of Sunday night's EE BAFTAs - is a well-earned opportunity.

'To be honest, it is properly, properly the dream come true,' she tells Grazia over the phone. 'I feel like everything I've been doing over the last five years in particular have just kind of been building blocks towards this, and I never imagined that I would actually get the opportunity to do this. It's a proper daily pinch me moment, really.'

This year, the ceremony will be split across two nights. Clara Amfo will host a panel event dedicated to the film industry, and handing out some prizes, on Saturday evening. Then Edith takes charge for Sunday, joining Dermot O'Leary for the big night held at the Royal Albert Hall. Dermot, Edith says, is the dream screen ally.

Edith Bowman
©Edith Bowman

'We've done the red carpet for the last couple of years, and we genuinely love doing it,' she says. 'It's one of our favourite things to do as individuals, but also for the chance work together. I think it's really important, now that we have the opportunity, to bring that energy and enthusiasm that we have on the red carpet to the main show. It's going to be awesome.'

Edith will, naturally, be paying attention to all the winners, but her area of expertise means that the award for Best Original Score is of particular interest. This year's nominees - Soul, Minari, Promising Young Woman, News of the World and Mank - is an eclectic bunch. 'It really is,' she agrees. 'And I think it shows the importance of music across so many different types of genres or styles. Music is integral. Just think about going back to the silent movies, and how music was brought in as a way of enhancing the characters and telling you a story through the music. And then how brilliant people use music to manipulate the audience, I just find it fascinating. Every film has its own unique relationship with the music within it, be it music composed specifically to the story, like Saint Maud from this year, or Soul, and how they take you on a journey. It's so clever. Or also the way you choose to use existing music, be that a Guardians of the Galaxy or a Call Me By Your Name.'

It is this fascination that led Edith down the podcast route. 'I was interviewing JJ Abrams, for Radio One I think, and he talked about how he was recording at Skywalker ranch when one of the sound engineers took him in to a booth and showed him the opening crawl of Star Wars, but without the music.' For those who've never seen the Star Wars films - do watch them, are you living under a rock on Naboo or something? - each film begins with a text narration of the events so far, accompanied by a hugely rousing orchestral arrangement.

'He said that you just didn't have the same physical and emotional connection that you do with the music,' she says. 'That's a clever thing to do to people without them even realising. That's the sign of a successful relationship with music and film, when you don't really realise that the music is there. I took the kids to see Empire Strikes Back at the Royal Albert Hall a few years back. You could see the musicians play, and how much they were playing, they never stopped. There was so much music, and you don't even realise that sitting at home.' Composer John Williams' work on those films sticks out as a favourite for her. She also cites Hans Zimmer's Interstellar score, as well as Taxi Driver and Joker, as seminal, personal favourites.

Edith will soon be taking centre stage in the film world, as global fans tune in to see who will be victorious on BAFTA night. But as she chooses her dress and prepares for the big night, another vital thing to consider: what will her entrance music be? We'll see on Sunday...

Edith Bowman will present the EE British Academy Film Awards 2021 on Sunday 11 April on BBC One.

Soundtracking with Edith Bowman is available on all podcast providers.

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