May 24, 2012
Guests: James Steyer â Randall Poster
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. If you're a parent, you may have wondered what your kids are texting to each other or posting on Facebook pages. Or maybe you've thought about it and decided you don't want to know. Well, our guest, James Steyer, says you should pay attention to the digital media your kids are using, and you should think carefully about what devices and networks they're allowed to plug into and what rules you should set for them.
Steyer has spent much of his career thinking about the effects of media on children. He's the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that focuses on the media use of kids and families. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and later became a public interest lawyer. He teaches at Stanford University.
He's written a new book, which explores some of the effects of digital media on kids and offers practical advice for parents on how to handle a child's media issues from infancy through adolescence. It's called "Talking Back to Facebook." He spoke to FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST: Well, James Steyer, welcome to FRESH AIR. I was stunned to read a statistic you quote, that kids, if I have this right, between the ages of 13 and seven will typically text each other more than 3,300 times a month, more than 100 times a day. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: between the ages of 13 and 17, not seven.] You know, this amounts to sort of, I guess, a quantitative phenomenon that could make a qualitative difference in relationships. How does this alter kids' relationships with each other?
JAMES STEYER: Well, I think it's very different when you actually text somebody as opposed to have a face-to-face conversation or even one over the phone. When you text people, or you Facebook them, it's the plunk of a keystroke on your computer or on your phone. And texting is a very different form of communication, much more impersonal, much more impulsive, often times, and it actually allows you to do things that you might not do if you had to look at the person in the eye and say that thing, see the nuances of their face or their expressions.
And I think it's an incredibly important part of the new landscape that kids and all of us are living in.
DAVIES: Now, then there's the social networks that kids use, like Facebook in particular, and I'm wondering how - you know, kids have long been self-conscious and subject to peer pressure and worried about judgments from their friends. How does trying to present themselves on Facebook, where they can actually craft a profile, affect those relationships?
STEYER: Well, I think the big term for me is the term presentation anxiety. My colleague at MIT, Sherry Turkle, wrote a beautiful book called "Alone Together," in which she talked a lot about the concept of presentation anxiety, where boys and girls, particularly teen girls, spend hours a day curating their images: the photos, the messages, the order of photos, all sorts of ways in which they present themselves to the world and then change that over and over again.
In an odd way, even though you're doing it for hours on end, it leaves many kids feeling very alone and also very insecure about how people will react. I also have colleagues at Stanford now who have been doing research on Facebook and self-image, and they've seen that a significant proportion of the girls who they've been studying Photoshop their images on a regular basis because they're concerned about their body images, worried that they look too fat in this picture or too unattractive in that picture.
And they also comment to each other all the time about you look so fabulous and other things that you might not say on the air. And so this concept of presentation anxiety goes to the core of the social and emotional development of kids and teens today.
DAVIES: You know, it's kind of ironic that this - these networks, which connect people in, you know, really amazing ways can make - actually make kids more self-absorbed.
STEYER: Well, there's no question that they connect, but the question is are you really having a conversation, are you really communicating with people, or, as you mentioned, are you - do we live in a culture of the - of e-personality, and quite frankly where we see increasing amounts of narcissism diagnosed in young people because the constant need to curate your own image and to change it is very different than when you're in person with somebody.
You know, for better or for worse, when you're out there with your friends, that's who you are. And they see you, and you see them. This is true for adults, obviously, as it is for kids. But in a world where you can constantly change your image, A) you just do become more self-absorbed; but B) I actually think you become more lonely.
DAVIES: You talked to a lot of kids, you know, in writing this book and in doing your work at Common Sense Media. Are they aware of this?
STEYER: You know, they're increasingly aware of this. It's a big change. I actually started writing the book last summer, and the change that I've seen between last summer and now that the book is being released, is quite remarkable, and I think actually very positive.
I always ask my students at Stanford - I've been teaching there for a number of years - if you could turn back the clock, and of course we can't, but if you could, would you like to have a world with Facebook or a world without Facebook? And I will tell you that they're basically evenly split between people who say we would like - we'd like to get rid of it and those who see that at the end of the day it's a benefit.
But kids today are starting to become aware of the artificial nature of some of their interaction, the pressure they feel to constantly be on, to constantly respond via text, and also to present their images on Facebook. So I think that young people are increasingly aware of some of both the positives as well as the downsides of this extraordinary new form of communication. And that's a good thing.
DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is James Steyer. He's the founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with children and media issues. He has a new book called "Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide To Raising Kids in the Digital Age."
You write that privacy is a big concern and the extent to which, you know, social media companies don't protect it. How common is it for kids to share information on social networks that they later regret?
STEYER: Boy, I think it's extremely common for young people, and some adults, to share information on social networks that they later regret. It's pretty amazing when you think about privacy. I tried in the book to define it into two separate basic categories. The first is, to your question, the concept that young people in particular oftentimes today self-reveal before they self-reflect.
You know, there is no eraser button today for youthful indiscretion. And nearly 40 percent of all American teens 13 to 17 admit to posting something online that they later regretted, and 80 percent of teens that were polled recently admitted that they think their friends share too much personal information online. So you're basically talking about the great majority of teenagers.
And I think that the issue of young people, but I think this happens for adults to a lesser extent, putting stuff up that they subsequently wish they'd never done, whether it's for a personal relationship standpoint or, quite frankly, getting into college or getting a job interview, it's just an extraordinary phenomenon.
There was a big controversy in the past few weeks about laws in states where people are saying that employers cannot have job applicants' Facebook passwords. That's because people have stuff up there that they really don't want other people to see sometimes.
But in a world where everything's photographed, where kids are constantly snapping photos with their cell phones and quite frankly where youthful indiscretion is exactly the same as it's always been, the consequences can be much greater where there is no eraser button.
In Europe, they call this the right to be forgotten, and there's been an extraordinary public dialogue over the past six months or so about the importance of honoring the right to be forgotten. Here in the United States, we're just starting to have that in the context of the broader privacy debate. But everybody out there understands that this is an issue.
And privacy, as I remind my students at Stanford, is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution.
DAVIES: Do kids have special privacy protection under the law?
STEYER: Well, kids under the age of 13 have special privacy protection under a law called COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Now, that was written in 1998, which is the stone ages of digital media. In 1998, Mark Zuckerberg was in grade school. YouTube, Facebook, Google, Twitter - none of those services exist. But that was the last time privacy laws were written in the United States. So we have an antiquated structure to deal with these extraordinary new privacy issues.
And quite frankly, as everything changed in Silicon Valley and on the large technology platforms over the past four or five years, there's been no oversight by society, no government involvement, and until very recently there weren't even significant new privacy laws proposed, so that we're still operating under the 1998 COPPA law, which does restrict the certain forms of information, how kids' personal identifying information have been used.
So for example, Facebook is under COPPA. That's why Facebook officially claims that no one under the age of 13 is on Facebook. But the truth is, as Consumer Reports reported last year, that there are at least 7.5 million kids under the age of 13 on Facebook in the United States.
So the COPPA laws are there to design - designed to protect the personally identifiable information of kids 12 and under. They are riddled, like Swiss cheese, if you will, with some holes that are easily gone through. But also millions of kids now just fake their age and go on Facebook and Google Plus and other platforms.
So dealing with the broad structure and the need for sort of common-sense privacy laws is clearly on the agenda in the next year or two. Whether the large tech companies in the country are happy about that or not, I think that the public will be increasingly demanding new, clear, common-sense laws around privacy.
DAVIES: I'm sure this is a much bigger subject, but give us one example of a privacy provision that ought to be in law?
STEYER: Well, at Common Sense - I'll give you three, because Common Sense proposed I think a pretty simple regimen around it(ph) . One, we believe that the standard should be opt-in, not opt-out. Today as it stands on all of the major social networking platforms, and quite frankly with much of your information online, it's shared unless you opt out of the service.
At Common Sense, we believe for kids under the age of 18 that it should be a strictly opt-in provision, where their parents have to give permission for that information to be used or tracked, or they simply can't do it. So opt-in versus opt-out would change everything.
The second thing we've called for is what we simply call the eraser button. The technology wizards of this country, who are so extraordinarily talented and have led to so much innovation over the past five or 10 years, have the resources and the ability to create an eraser button so that you or I or anyone out there could just say, hey, take that down, not just on one platform but on as many places where that information and data can be traced.
And I think the third thing that we've called for at Common Sense is do not track kids. And simply under the age of 18, don't track kids unless you have explicit parental permission to track their information with cookies and other things which you have on websites.
Today, kids' sites - last year the Wall Street Journal found that 30 percent more tracking cookies on kids' computers were being used than on general audience sites. So these are very basic things, but they will have an extraordinarily positive impact on preserving privacy if we would just enact them.
DAVIES: James Steyer's new book is called "Talking Back to Facebook." We'll talk more after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with James Steyer. He's the founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with kids and media issues. He has a new book called "Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide To Raising Kids in the Digital Age."
Well, about half of this book is very practical advice for parents, and it's organized by age group, and you start with birth to age two, and I read that and thought: Are you kidding? Do we really need to worry about what our infants are doing?
STEYER: Well, the world is actually a digital stage when it comes to babies. And you know, online babies - online audiences are now seeing sonograms even before babies are born. And people are so infatuated with their little infants and posting pictures of them, and you're creating what we call a digital footprint almost from the time that kids are born.
So zero to two is actually a real time. Also, you now see parents who are taking their little one-and-a-half-year-old child and plunking them in front of an iPad or other tablet and having them check out the incredibly cool images and games that can be created on those platforms.
So in fact it may sound odd to have a chapter in a book about birth to age two when it comes to kids and technology and media, but in fact it's a reality today because it's easy to be dazzled by this new technology, and they can make it irresistible to post that picture of your new baby for everyone to see in the world.
DAVIES: OK, well, let's talk about - one issue is whether it's in any way helpful or harmful to show your kid digital media stuff on screens. What's your view?
STEYER: Well, I think that zero to two, you know, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the pediatricians, children's doctors of the world, have recommended and re-recommended earlier this year that there be zero screen time for children under the age of two, that there is no educational benefit to that, and in fact that there can be brain development issues and other kinds of physical harms, if you will.
So the American Academy of Pediatrics says zero screen time between zero to two. I think that that is pretty basic advice, but one that as a parent of four children myself, it's a little hard to follow the zero screen time, but it's certainly a good overall recommendation because that's the time when all those things we do with infants - nurturing them in our arms, cooing to them, playing little games on the floor if they're able to sit up - those are the kind of things that are much better than some kind of screen experience.
DAVIES: Now, should you worry about posting online photos or videos of your baby or toddler?
STEYER: I think you can be concerned about that because you never know where they're being used. And again, you're creating a digital footprint. And some of the leading technology executives that I know never put up any pictures of their own children. So maybe there's something to be learned from that.
DAVIES: Yeah, what's the concern?
STEYER: Well, social networks are obviously a natural place for sharing cute pictures of your little ones with friends and family. But keep in mind that once a photo or a video is up on the Web, it's up there permanently. And even if you delete it, someone else may have already downloaded it and shared it online.
And so it's a record that's trackable and public and permanent. And your child will have to live with that, and sometimes they don't want to. So I would say if you do opt to share baby pictures online, then make sure your that privacy settings are very carefully restricted and kept up-to-date so that they're in the most restrictive format.
The other thing is that you can actually extract data and information about where a photo was taken and when, and that is another part of your child's personal history being made accessible to the world in a way that you might not want it to be.
DAVIES: OK, now, when kids reach the age of three to four, if I read you correctly, there is some potential benefit from kids learning from digital media with the right kind of content. But you say a key element, and this is really true from this age on, is limiting screen time. I guess this sort of sounds obvious, but how much screen time, and what do we mean by screen time?
STEYER: The rule of thumb that I tend to use is, well, if a kid is three or four, maybe an hour a day of screen time, and that could include great videos, that could include maybe if you go onto pbskids.org online and play a cool game or let your kid watch a new "Sesame Street" video or something like that, but around an hour a day.
As kids get older, my recommendation is up to two hours per day of screen time is realistic, but quite frankly, the numbers are very different than that. At Common Sense we did a big zero to eight study late last fall, and we found that the average kid under the age of eight is spending enormous amounts of time in front of a screen. And that can impact brain development.
It can have positive effects, but it's all about moderation and balance.
DAVIES: Now, you write that at age five to six, kids are actually beginning to do their own Web browsing. And this is something I didn't know. You write that companies have made children's Web browsers. Explain what they are and whether you think they're a good idea.
STEYER: Well, most five to six-year-olds have already used a computer by themselves, and some of them are just interested in jumping on the Internet and exploring because they see their older siblings do that, they see other parents do that. And obviously the Internet is no place for a child of age five or six to explore alone or unsupervised.
So what's happened is there are these Web browsers which can, if you will, filter out options so that age-appropriate content is all that your kid is exposed to. But I worry that encouraging Internet use and too much independent browsing at this age can also set the stage for digital addiction when your kid becomes a bit older and is spending way too much time on the Internet.
So there are browsers, and they either charge membership or do it via subscription fees. The ones that are free oftentimes have advertising banners that can be very attractive to your five or six-year-old. But if you're looking for sort of Web surfing with training wheels experiences, you can check out the browsers yourself and see if they're good.
DAVIES: And I think you write that, you know, apart from getting, you know, an external tool like a children's Web browser, it's just as important for you to spend time browsing with your kid yourself, talking to him about it.
STEYER: Well, I think if there were two things that I would keep in mind as a parent, two basic rules, one is you have to do your homework. So you have to understand what platforms your kids are on, whether - whatever age they are. So whether it's how they're using a Facebook platform or whether they're going to nick.com or disney.com or how they use YouTube, the number one site for kids under the age of 11, if you can believe it, you need to do your homework and do it with them and go on with them and experience with them, quite frankly teach them limits and rules.
But I think the second thing you have to do is you have to be a role model for your children. If you're constantly glued to your Crackberry, if you're constantly tethered to your phone or your computer or your tablet, you're not paying as much attention to your child, you're not giving them the emotional and social support and attention that they need, and quite frankly you're setting them a very bad digital role model.
And I think that's an incredibly important thing for parents to remember today, because my kids sure give me a hard time when I come home and I'm stills ending emails on my BlackBerry, and they're saying, Dad, pay attention to me, you're home, watch my game. You can go to - you know, it's very interesting to go to soccer games or baseball games today with parents and to see them on the sidelines, and instead of cheering their kids on, they're lost in their phone, or they're staring at a screen.
And I think being a good role model is critically important, just as doing your homework about where your kids are exploring in the digital media world is an essential element of parenting 2.0.
DAVIES: Well, James Steyer, it's been really interesting. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
STEYER: Great to be here.
GROSS: James Steyer is the author of "Talking Back to Facebook." He spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Lots of movies and TV shows use pre-existing recordings on their soundtracks. My guest, Randall Poster, is a music supervisor, which means he helps choose the recordings that will be used and then has to negotiate the licensing rights to use them. He's been the music supervisor on Wes Anderson's films, including "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the new one, "Moonrise Kingdom," which opens in select cities Friday.
One of the pleasures of Anderson's films is the way in which the music connects to the characters, plot, and mood. Randall Poster has also worked on the soundtracks of "School of Rock," "Boardwalk Empire" and Martin Scorsese's films "Hugo" and "The Aviator."
The new film, "Moonrise Kingdom," is set in 1965 and is about two 12-year-olds who fall in love and make a pact to run off together. The boy sneaks out of Khaki Scout Camp. The girl leaves home. The film contrasts the children with the adult who have tried to guide them and are now trying to find them.
Here's one of the key recordings used in the film, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. Lots of children have learned about symphonic music through this now classic recording from the 1960s.
(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING, "THE "YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA")
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: In order to show you how a big symphony orchestra is put together, Benjamin Britten has written a big piece of music which is made up of smaller pieces that show you all the separate parts of the orchestra. These smaller pieces are called variations, which means different ways of playing the same tune.
First of all, he lets us hear the tune or the theme, which is a beautiful melody by the much older British composer, Henry Purcell. Here is Purcell's theme played by the whole orchestra together.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Now Mr. Britten lets you hear the four different families of the orchestra playing the same Purcell theme in different ways. First we hear the woodwind family: the flutes, the oboes, the clarinets and the bassoons.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Here comes the brass family: the trumpets, the horns, the trombones and tuba.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: That's Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," conducted by Leonard Bernstein. It's on the soundtrack of the new Wes Anderson film, "Moonrise Kingdom."
Randall Poster, welcome to FRESH AIR. One of the things I love about the use of this music in the movie is that the movie is about young people, like two young - a young boy and girl who like fall in love and have this like secret relationship and run away together. And then there's the adults and the adults' lives are just like falling apart, they're messes, but nevertheless they're trying to guide the young people and not doing a very good job of it.
And so "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," it's kind of like, OK, children, here's the woodwind section. Here's how the brass works. Here's how the strings work. And here's what it's like when your mother has an affair.
RANDALL POSTER: Right.
GROSS: That's kind of like what the movie is, you know what I mean?
POSTER: Yeah. I think the movie, you know, I think the movie in a sense is kind of a young person's guide to life.
GROSS: Exactly. Yeah.
POSTER: And I think that the Leonard Bernstein and "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is maybe an initiation to that part of a, say, a sentimental education. So you know, I think you're very right to say that "The Young Person's Guide" is - looms larger over our story than simply being some musical interludes.
GROSS: Another main character musically in the soundtrack is Hank Williams. There's several Hank Williams songs that are used, the great country singer.
GROSS: And it's such a great contrast. I think it's perfect in its own way. And here's what it did for me watching the movie. You know, the Benjamin Britten music, there's something so just kind of like majestic. And then Hank Williams, they're all songs about being broken.
GROSS: You know, like you're drunk, you're cheating, you're rambling, you know, somebody's cheating on you, you can't sleep, and things are never going well. And so "The Young People's Guide" and stuff, it's like the young people just like learning life and still being excited by it. And the Hank Williams, that strikes me as like the adult songs, like after they're broken and things have gone really wrong for them.
POSTER: Well, in a way sort of Hank Williams and kind of the emotional intensity of the Hank Williams songs, I think they kind of provide adults with a bit of a context and a framework in which to kind of hang their own feelings too. You know, I think all these great - some of the great popular songs, they endure because emotionally we connect to them and they speak to us and they help guide us through the troubles in our own lives. So maybe Hank Williams is providing that kind of adult education, say, that maybe mirrors some of the more naive instructional music that we hear in the film.
You know, it really is so kind of refreshing and surprising, I think, when people first hear the Hank Williams in the film. And really, that came from, I went on a set visit, as Wes was beginning to shoot the movie, and basically it was like, well, I'm thinking maybe about we should use some Hank Williams. And then as we do, we kind of gathered all of Hank Williams and then we said, well, let's listen to a little bit of Lefty Frizzell or let's listen to a little bit of Ferlin Husky and it just, it was basically - it's like Hank was our man and it just seemed, it stuck, and married it really to Bruce Willis's character and it gets plotted throughout the film.
And it was interesting. When I - I had done some work a year or so ago in Nashville and got to know some of the people down there who we had to deal with to get the rights to all the Hank Williams, and when I went to them at first and said I think we're going to use seven Hank Williams' songs, they were kind of - they just turned around, sort of like, really? Seven Hank Williams songs? So I don't know that there's a movie that's used more Hank Williams songs than maybe "The Hank Williams Story"...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
POSTER: ...which is kind of fun and a treat.
GROSS: Some of the Hank Williams songs are used in the scenes with Bruce Willis, who is the sheriff and he's a lonely guy but he's having an affair with somebody he probably shouldn't be having an affair with. I don't want to give too much away here. And so one of the songs that you use is "Ramblin' Man." You want to listen to it?
GROSS: OK. So this is Hank Williams, "Ramblin' Man," and it's on the soundtrack of the new Wes Anderson movie, "Moonrise Kingdom."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAMBLIN' MAN")
HANK WILLIAMS: (Singing) I can settle down and be doin' just fine. Til I hear an old freight rollin' down the line. Then I hurry straight home and pack and if I didn't go, I believe I' blow my stack. I love you baby, but you gotta understand. When the lord made me, he made a ramblin' man. Some folks might say...
GROSS: That's Hank Williams as used on the soundtrack of the new Wes Anderson film "Moonrise Kingdom." And my guest, Randall Poster is the music supervisor for that film, and he's had the same job for all of Wes Anderson's movies.
So let's talk about another Wes Anderson film you worked on, "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which is a wonderful animated film about a family of foxes, and when - who are endangered both on the dysfunctional family level and on the enemy animals out to get them and enemy humans out to get them level. And at the end of the film, you use a great recording called "Let Her Dance" by The Bobby Fuller Four. It's from the mid '60s, and that group was most famous for the iconic song "I Fought the Law and the Law Won."
How did you decide to use this record at the end of the movie?
POSTER: Well, this is one of those sort of special scenarios. That song that I played for Wes probably 10 years ago, and when we played it, we basically, we were listening to it, he said, you know, let's put this one away, let's lock it up in the safe. And so we had it and we'd been carrying it all these years and then finally there was the opportunity at the end of the movie to use Bobby Fuller. So Wes and I, we're always working, and so - and we're always sharing music and we find something and we sort of tag it and say, OK, this is something that we know we want to use somewhere, some day, and good fortune smiles upon us and we find what we think is the perfect moment. And so that's how Bobby Fuller's "Let Her Dance" ended up in "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
GROSS: So I want to play it. And I'll just like describe the scene. This is the end of the movie. Mr. Fox, played by George Clooney, in a voice by George Clooney, is in the supermarket and all the rest of the family foxes are there too. And so, you know, Mr. Fox is toasting about how they've survived and they're going to survive, and even all the supermarket food that they have to eat now is fake food...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: ...they can make it work. And then they just all break out into this dance in the supermarket. And, of course, it's all animated. It's all beautifully animated. And so here is the song they dance to. This is The Bobby Fuller Four.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET HER DANCE")
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: (Singing) Well, there she goes with a brand new love affair. Dancing with him like she don't even care. Well, let her dance, just let her dance all night long. Dance. Let her dance. Let her dance, dance, dance. Let her dance. Let her dance. Let her dance, dance, dance. Well, who would've known that just yesterday, hey, she danced with me the very same way. Well, let her dance with him. Let her dance all night long. Dance. Let her dance. Let her dance, dance, dance. Let her dance. Let her dance. Let her dance, dance, dance. Well, let her dance...
GROSS: So that's "Let Her Dance," The Bobby Fuller Four, which was used on the soundtrack of the Wes Anderson animated film "Fantastic Mr. Fox." My guest, Randall Poster, was the music supervisor on that film. He's the music supervisor on Anderson's new movie, "Moonrise Kingdom," which is about to open.
So does it bother you that the lyric in "Let Her Dance" is really about jealousy? You know, let her dance with him all night long. Let her dance to our favorite song. You know, just yesterday she danced with me the same way. How literally do you take the lyrics when you're fitting them into a movie?
POSTER: You know, it just feels, it just felt so right. I mean when you put it to picture...
GROSS: I mean all the foxes are dancing to this.
GROSS: But the lyrics themselves are about, you know, jealousy and a guy whose girl is with another guy.
POSTER: You know, I think maybe in that circumstance, I think that we felt a connection because it just, again, is humanizing these animals. And so like I think it kind of imbues them with a human complexity. And so I guess the answer to that is that to a certain degree there is an emotional correctness that sort of trumps lyric literalness.
GROSS: My guest is Randall Poster. We'll talk more about choosing music for movies after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: My guest is Randall Poster, a music supervisor for movies and TV shows. He's collaborated with Wes Anderson on all of his films, including the new one, "Moonrise Kingdom."
One of the Wes Anderson films that you worked on was "The Royal Tenenbaums," a wonderful film about a very dysfunctional family with a brother and sister who are in love. And you've said that the idea originated with two lines that the Wes Anderson had written out on a slip of paper - a slip of paper you still have.
POSTER: I still have it. Yeah.
GROSS: What do those two lines say?
POSTER: Richie Tenenbaum steps out holding his tennis bag, wearing a Bjorn Borg head band.
GROSS: Wow. Would I never have thought this is going to be a great movie based on...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: ...on those two lines. And Richie Tenenbaum was played by Luke Wilson...
GROSS: ...very effectively. And so when he gave you those two lines...
GROSS: ...he told you that he was going to build a film around it. What did he tell you that he was looking for musically?
POSTER: Well, in terms of that scene where Richie Tenenbaum - where we see Richie Tenenbaum when he arrives back from his travels abroad trying to erase Margot Tenenbaum from his mind, we use "These Days" by Nico, which I think is really probably one of the most iconic moments in Wes' movies musically.
GROSS: So let's hear it. This is Nico doing "These Days," the Jackson Brown song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THESE DAYS")
NEKO: (Singing) I've been out walking. I don't do too much talking these days. Hmm, these days. These days I seem to think a lot about the things that I forgot to do, and all the times I had a chance to.
GROSS: That's Nico singing the Jackson Brown song "These Days." It's on the soundtrack of the Wes Anderson film, "The Royal Tenenbaums." My guest, Randall Poster, was the music supervisor for that film and all of Wes Anderson's films with the exception of Anderson's first "Bottle Rocket." But Randall Poster co-produced the soundtrack for the album of that film. Tell us how you first met Wes Anderson.
POSTER: Wes was living in Los Angeles and I'm a native New Yorker and was living in New York. And I was out in L.A. working on something and there was a person who was working at a record company, I guess, who had met Wes and just felt like we should meet, and introduced us. And basically we met one day at the farmers' market in Los Angeles and we started to talk about movies and music.
And I think Wes said something to the effect that there was a piece of music maybe that he wanted to use in "Bottle Rocket" and he wasn't able to. They weren't able to afford it or they weren't able to get the rights. And I was so smitten with the film that I basically promised that I would do everything I could to get any piece of music he ever wanted to use in a movie.
GROSS: So, part of your job is to get the licensing rights...
GROSS: ...for the music that you use.
GROSS: How hard is that? I mean, you've used music by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It probably doesn't get much harder than that.
POSTER: It can be difficult. I mean, you know, you have to - for those people who don't understand the process, each piece of music is - there isn't like a bluebook where you can just go in and order these things up. You have to deal with the creators or the publishers on each song. And each song, there's both the song, the composition and the recording that have to be negotiated for. So it can be complicated.
Sometimes you're dealing with bands where guys in the band haven't talked to each other or there's history and animosity that they don't want the music used as sort of one member of the band punishing another or - humanity answers into each situation. So, it can get complicated and it can be messy, but we've been able to do pretty well.
GROSS: Give me a sense of what you said to the Rolling Stones' people the first time when it was a very small budget and you wanted one of their songs. Because you've used their songs in most of the Wes Anderson films.
POSTER: Right. Well, we put our records out actually now on Abco Records. The last three records have come out on Abco which is, you know, which holds a good portion of the Rolling Stones' catalog. And so, I've sometimes said that the Rolling Stones have sort of become our house band a little bit.
I think that they've really been pleased with the way that Wes has used their music. And I would say, just to answer the question, the first question about what do you say, is that on the first movie we paid. We paid. We paid the piper.
GROSS: What was the song? Why did you want it so badly? And how is it used in the movie? And then we'll hear it.
POSTER: The first Rolling Stones song that I cleared for Wes - in "Rushmore," the Rolling Stones' "I Am Waiting" plays and it's a point where Max Fischer is in transition and is sort of at his lowest moment. It's just so...
GROSS: Max Fischer is the high school kid.
POSTER: Right. Played by Jason Schwartzman who's also...
GROSS: In his first role.
POSTER: ...cousin Ben in "Moonrise Kingdom." And it's just this really sad and beautiful moment and really helps Max shed some of his fantasies and sort of take on life in a more straightforward way. And I guess it's his moment where he - it's one of those moments in the film where Max grows up.
GROSS: So this is the Rolling Stones song that was used in the Wes Anderson film "Rushmore." And my guest, Randall Poster, is a music supervisor who has worked on all of Wes Anderson's movies.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "I AM WAITING")
ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I am waiting. I am waiting all year, all year. I am waiting. I am waiting all year, all year. Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere. Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere. You can't hold out. You can't hold out. All year, all year. You can't hold out. You can't hold out. All year, all year. Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere. Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere. See it come along, and don't know where it's from. Oh, yes, you will find out. Well, it happens all the time. It's censored from our minds. You'll find out. Slow or fast. Slow...
GROSS: That's "I Am Waiting" by the Rolling Stones, which was used in the film "Rushmore." My guest Randall Poster was music supervisor for that film. He's also music supervisor for Wes Anderson's new movie "Moonrise Kingdom." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: My guest is Randall Poster, a music supervisor for movies and TV shows. He's collaborated with Wes Anderson on all his films, including the new one "Moonrise Kingdom."
So how did you first fall in love with music? And what's that music that's in your genetic makeup, the music that you first heard that made an impression on you and that's like the deepest grooves in your brain?
POSTER: You know, I think I would probably say - this may be surprising but it may be Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells A Story" with "Maggie May" on that record. It was maybe the record that - it was the first thing that I ever thought was really mine.
GROSS: And how old were you and why was it yours?
POSTER: I think I must have been around nine years old and I think I - nine or 10 years old and "Maggie May" I guess was on the radio. That was, I guess, the year of "Maggie May" and Don McLean's "American Pie." And I went and I, you know, discovered that you could buy LPs. And I went and I gathered some allowance money and I think that was really the first record that I bought.
Actually the first record, the first single I bought was "Laughing" by the Guess Who. And then the first LP I bought was "Every Picture Tells A Story" by Rod Stewart.
GROSS: When FRESH AIR was a local show, I used to open it every day with an early jazz recording, something from the '20s, '30s, or '40s, something that was like really lively, a great curtain opener like Fletcher Henderson.
GROSS: Or early Louis Armstrong. And so my filing system was years was pre-World War II and post-World War II.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: Because I knew I needed a lot of that really early that I'd want to play for the opening of the show. What's your filing system like? Is it just like alphabetical on your computer or however you store it? Or do you have like different categories, knowing that there's different emotions you'll want to refer to them for?
POSTER: It's a bit of a mess, I have to say. You know, I try my best to put things in terms of era or genre, but it's a bit overwhelming. But, you know, again, it's like, for instance, the work that I do on "Boardwalk Empire," I mean, there's where I just sort of get it together by period and by, say, group or artist or, you know, actually year by year is kind of critical in that scenario.
GROSS: You lost a lot of your records and I assume this is like vinyl albums.
GROSS: In a flood.
GROSS: Which I should, not to dwell on this, but a flood is at the center of the new movie that you did, "Moonrise Kingdom."
GROSS: So you could relate to a flood.
GROSS: So how much did you lose and what was the flood?
POSTER: Well, you know, I'd been carting crates of records, you know, to school and across the country and back and forth over the years. And then I moved into a house and had these things in a garage and there was a flood and I probably lost about 80 percent of my records. I really tried not to let it devastate me. And I put it back together for the most part, but it was a bit sad.
GROSS: Is there still a record that you're looking for that you lost, then?
POSTER: Well, you know what, I'm still looking - if I can get a mint copy of Neil Young's "On the Beach" that has the floral inner sleeve, that would be good. I still haven't found the perfect one.
GROSS: OK. Thank you so much for talking with us.
POSTER: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
GROSS: Randall Poster is the music supervisor for Wes Anderson's films, including the new one, "Moonrise Kingdom," which opens in select cities Friday.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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