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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Harvey Cummings feels right at home with movie soundtrack debut
Composed romantic comedy short film 'First'
 
Published Friday, March 5, 2021 5:30 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

COURTESY HARVEY CUMMINGS
Musician-composer Harvey Cummings, at Grindhaus Studios in Charlotte, scored the romantic comedy “First,” a short film about a couple’s first romantic encounter. The movie is Cummings’ first cinema credit.

Harvey Cummings always wanted to score a movie soundtrack.


The Charlotte native, Northwest School of the Arts and North Carolina Central University alumnus is a well-known jazz musician but had his eyes on expanding into film. The opportunity presented itself when music producer Richard Bartell reached out about scoring “First”—a short film about a couple’s first romantic encounter told through a comedic lens.


“I always wanted to get in that lane,” Cummings said. “It was fulfilling, and honestly, it was difficult for me at first because it is a whole other style. I am used to a certain production where you’ve got four counts and everything repeats, but when you are scoring movies, you are going off the emotion. You are going free.”


Keema Mingo of Charlotte wrote, directed and produced the film. She wanted the comedic feel to translate to the score, creating a feel for the story through the music.


“Because it is a Black love story, but has nothing to do with being Black, I wanted the music to really have a soulful feeling but also have remnants of the comedic music we hear in films and on TV shows,” Mingo said.  


Bartell, Mingo’s husband and the film’s music supervisor, met Cummings through Thomas Jones, known as rapper Big Pooh, who attended NCCU with Cummings. Bartell, a 20-year music industry veteran and owner of PowerOut Studios, previously employed Cummings as a studio musician. He knew Cummings would be able to deliver for “First” based on his skillset as a musician.


“[Bartell] is a music producer himself, so he helped guide Harvey, guide the rode that we took to actually create the music, where it should go, the feeling and he is the one whose original songs are in the film as well,” Mingo said.


Cummings’ previous experience included TV with Cartoon Network’s “The Boondocks,” but scoring a film is different from providing a soundtrack for a show.


“Film scoring is very different than actual musicianship as far as straight ahead,” Bartell said. “Whether we are doing jazz or R&B or covers, it is really led by the emotion. At first there were a few hiccups as far as understanding what the scene needs as opposed to being an incredible player, which he is.


“Once we collaborated quite a bit, talked about the scenes and what was needed, and pulled together some research to look at specific scoring in other films, Harvey delivered masterfully after that.”


Said Cummings: “I had to keep watching and play while I am watching, because Keema would always say, ‘the purpose of the music is you are giving permission for the audience to feel how they need to feel.’”


Cummings was the third person hired to for the role, with the first two falling through, but he turned out to be the perfect fit.”


“Even though he was the third person, he ended up being the right person for this,” Mingo said.


The film was shown virtually during Valentine’s Day weekend in Charlotte. The Atlanta Black Chambers will host a screening March 9 at 7 p.m.


As for Cummings, he intends to continue exploring film scoring. He is also preparing to release “Chicken Day II” this spring, the sequel to 2017’s “Chicken Day,” an EP homage to Wednesdays at NCCU when the school cafeteria served fried chicken and the campus community from DJs to the Greek-letter organizations to the marching band turned it into an event.


Cummings plans on releasing music in time for April, which is Jazz Appreciation Month and June, Black Music Month.
For more information about the March 9 screening:


www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-film-talks-first-tickets-142755811475

 

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