These Australian songwriters have created outstanding film scores and screen songs that make us feel all the feels.
With the 2023 Screen Music Awards just around the corner, we highlight some well-known musicians who have turned their hand to the genre of screen composing, applying their considerable talents to creating music magic for the small and large screen.
From Sarah Blasko, Archie Roach, Roger Mason, Shane Howard, Dan Luscombe, Richard Pleasance, Josh Pyke, Josh Abrahams, and Kit Warhurst to Iva Davies, Michael Lira, Jono Ma and Lior, just to name some, these Australian songwriters have created outstanding film scores and screen songs that make us feel all the feels.
Here are just a few of your favourite songwriters who have achieved success in writing music for the screen, some of whom might surprise you.
2023 dual nominee Amanda Brown has been composing music for stage and screen since 2000 and, before that, enjoyed a career as a multi-instrumentalist in several bands. She was a member of the cherished Australian independent band The Go-Betweens, with whom she recorded two albums (Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane) and toured the world.
Amanda’s screen music credits include feature films Babyteeth, Kairos, Kings of Mykonos (with Nick West), Son of a Lion and Look Both Ways. Amanda is the recipient of several screen awards and multiple nominations. In 2021, Amanda became a new member (music branch) of The Academy Of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. This year, she has scored two Screen Music nominations for her work on Deadloch. Amanda has just released her debut solo album, Eight Guitars, 20 years in the making.
Deadloch – Official Trailer
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Singer, songwriter, composer, and artist Jodi Phillis first made her mark on the Australian cultural landscape with alt-rock band The Clouds. Jodi’s striking commitment to broadening her own practice makes her a formidable music chameleon, as evidenced by her current album, We Need To Be Free. For the last 20 years, Jodi has been composing for the screen and stage and has a Graduate Certificate in Screen Music from The Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. Jodi has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist and fellow graduate, Damien Lane (who produced We Need To Be Free) for their nominated song Rollercoaster from Soundtrack to Our Teenage Zombie Apocalypse. Damien is an AACTA-nominated film composer known for distinctive scores spanning documentaries, feature films, animation, art installations, concert hall commissions and more.
In between touring, performing, and writing music as frontman of legendary indie band Custard, Dave also works scoring beautiful music across television and film.
He also has one of the most iconic and recognisable voices in the world currently as the voice artist behind the world’s favourite dog-dad, ‘Bandit’, in the global smash-hit series Bluey. His screen compositions feature across highly awarded projects, including Rake (2014 Winner for Best Original Song Composed for Screen with Don’t Let Go), BUMP, Troppo, Five Bedrooms, Jack Irish (2021 Best Music for a Television Series or Serial), Doctor Doctor, Seachange, Black Comedy, House Husbands, and Redfern Now. David is nominated with Antony Partos this year in Best Music for a Television Series or Serial for Last King of the Cross.
Bluey's Dave McCormack on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
Last King of the Cross – Official Trailer
In 2017, Briggs took home the award for Best Television Theme with Here (featuring Caiti Baker), composed with Charlton Hill and Justin Shave for Fox League Super Saturday, with Briggs noting the importance of the track to Indigenous NRL players. “The song reflects the journey of the Indigenous players who give so much excitement and leadership to the sport and community week in and week out, not just the specific Indigenous round,” he said.
Composer and producer duo Justin and Charlton (Uncanny Valley) are nominated in 2023 (with Graham Donald and Reigan Derry) in Best Music for an Advertisement for The Voice: Power to the People.
Paul Kelly has continued the tradition of songwriters writing music for the screen. In 2019, Paul Kelly’s Every Day My Mother’s Voice (with Dan Sultan) won Best Original Song Composed for the Screen. The song was written for The Final Quarter, about the twilight of the AFL playing career of First Nation identity and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes and his relationship with his mother, Lisa-May Sansbury. Paul Kelly has been nominated for screen composing for feature films Lantana and Jindabyne and won Best Soundtrack Album for One Night The Moon.
Lantana – Official Trailer
Before shifting his focus to composing, Jed was best known as the frontman and songwriter for the Australian duo The Mess Hall. Their 2006 album, Devil’s Elbow, was awarded the prestigious 2007 Australian Music Prize. Jed’s feature film debut for the critically acclaimed Australian movie Snowtown was named Feature Film Score of the Year at Australia’s 2011 Screen Music Awards, and he has since gone on to score feature films, including The Babadook, which William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, described as the most “terrifying film” he had ever seen. Jed took out his second Feature Film Score of the win for Slow West and is an active screen composer.
Snowtown – Official Trailer
In 2017, Missy took out Best Original Song Composed for the Screen for her song, Torchlight. The song was written for the Australian film Don't Tell, based on the true story of a young woman battling to expose a church's cover-up of sexual abuse. At the awards, Higgins performed the emotive track alongside her brother David. Missy has since gone on to be nominated for Bloody Game from Total Control and Edge of Something (with Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales). She also performs the song Carry You (written by Tim Minchin) for the television series Upright.
Lisa’s career began as part of the group Dead Can Dance, but over the years, she has become equally well-known in the screen world, her voice appearing in The West Wing, Black Hawk Down and I, Frankenstein, among others. As a screen composer, in 2001, she won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score - Motion Picture for the Ridley Scott epic Gladiator. Her impeccable work has graced the screens across films like Layer Cake, Whale Rider, Balibo and The Insider.
Gladiator – Official Trailer
Over a 35-year career, David Bridie has made a name for himself as a songwriter, composer, and producer. From the global impact of his seminal 1980s and 1990s alt-pop groups Not Drowning Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake to his ongoing work as a solo artist and soundtrack composer, the scope of David’s output and influence are matched by few Australian artists. A multiple winner, his most recent Screen Award was received in 2020 when David took out the Best Original Song Composed for the Screen for The Skin of Others: Ballad of the Bridge-Builders (with Tom Murray).
Ballad of the Bridge-Builders – performed by Ursula Yovich
The 2023 Screen Music Awards will take place on Thursday, 9 November, in Naarm/Melbourne at the Forum. The Awards will be hosted by Susie Youssef with co-presenters David Wenham and Remy Hii. The event will feature musical direction from nominee Erkki Veltheim.
Head here for the complete list of nominees.