by Robert Barry
Mike Beck is a big bearded, shaggy-haired bear of a man. A full-time musician since 2001, as frontman to Chicago Mike’s InterGalactic Brother and Sisterhood of Big Eyed Beanshe spends four or five months of the year touring in Europe, playing some 250 gigs a year. Meanwhile, “between gigs, or while I’m travelling and when I’m not otherwise performing”, Mike runs Access Film Music, an organisation dedicated to bringing film people and music people together which has been providing the live music for the after-parties and film-makers’ marquee at ÉCU festival this year and for the last three years. Somehow, in amongst all this, Mike found time to meet up with me for a quick chat over a plate of shawarma at a kebab shop in Paris, just a stone’s throw from the festival’s main cinema, the Sept Parnassiens.
“There’s a creative renaissance going on right now in film and music,” Mike insists, and it’s his job to make these two parallel fields of talent come together and work harmoniously together. “We want to help film-makers find music for their films, which can be a very difficult or sometimes expensive process.” At the same time, Access Film Music’s mission is educational, teaching young directors “to recognise that it’s important to licence the music properly, that a film-maker who goes ahead and uses songs from the radio or from their CD collection can run into big problems” because if your film does start to get recognised and starts to go places, a soundtrack that isn’t properly licensed can lead to big problems, forcing you to re-cut the whole film before the distributors start running a mile. “That can either slow down a production – or end it all together.”
Access Film Music’s relationship with ÉCU started four years ago, at the International Film Festival Summit, a two-day event in Paris, where Mike met some of the heads of the biggest film festivals in the world. Then, “on the second day, about fifteen minutes before it was over, this guy comes up to me and says, hi, everybody tells me I need to talk to you – and it turned out to be Scott Hillier.” Scott said, “We’re film people, we’re not music people. We want some help creating a larger feature of music for the film festival. Let’s start working together” and Access Film Music and ÉCU Film Festival have been working together ever since.
“It’s always just an amazing awakening whenever I come to ÉCU for the film festival, ” Mike says. “I arrive very stressed and anxious and worried and then magical things unfold and I realise how amazingly blessed I am.” Here at ÉCU, we’re all looking forward to many more years enjoying the music of Mike Beck’s global network of collaborators – the perfect soundtrack to the festival.