The upcoming November/December issue of realscreen will be running profiles on composers who work in the realm of factual programming and documentary films. Here we speak with Anne Nikitin, composer of original music for non-fiction programs such as Raw TV’s The Fugitive Chronicles for A&E and Windfall Films’ Race and Intelligence: Science’s Last Taboo for Channel 4, about working in a male-dominated field and what she looks to for inspiration.
Looking for composers to speak to for the next issue of realscreen magazine it quickly became clear that roughly 90% of the names that came up in any search were male. Then we came upon Anne Nikitin, a UK composer who has been working almost exclusively on factual programming since she broke into the industry in 2006. Nikitin’s big break came when she won the BBC New Talent, New TV Composers Scheme, with the prize being a commission to score a BBC Natural World film, White Falcon, White Wolf. She won a Merit Award for Music for the film at the Missoula Wildlife Film Festival in 2008 and her work on the project spiraled into work on more non-fiction programs through the many composers and producers she met in the process.
‘I’ve spent my whole life trying to get there,’ Nikitin says, referring to the many years she spent working towards breaking into film and television composition. ‘I studied and I tried to break in but it was really hard. It’s extremely competitive. Especially with computers now. So many people can write music quite easily.’
When she did eventually get her break, Nikitin noticed that there were a lot more men in her industry than there are women. ‘I joined the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers and I went to a meeting where there was about 50 people. [Of the group] there was myself and one other woman. It was incredible.’
This imbalance hasn’t deterred her. Nikitin has worked on non-fiction projects for both the U.S. and the UK, composing for series such as Banged Up Abroad, Journey to the Edge of the Universe, and recently assisting George Fenton in composing themes for BBC’s Life. When looking for inspiration for these projects, Nikitin says she goes to a variety of places. ‘In most cases, the directors and editors put guide tracks onto their film so they’ll either say, ‘We love the guide music, can you do something similar,’ or they’ll say ‘It’s not quite working, maybe can you do something better,” she explains. ‘If you’re copying the guide track you can’t really inject too much of your own personality into that, but when you get a bit more freedom it’s really great. You draw on all sorts of influences from your past and you make sure you stick to their briefs as well.’