Updated December 2008
Film Score Monthly was a hardcopy publication (first a newsletter, then a magazine) I founded and largely edited from 1990 through 2005—when I was age 16 through 31. There were several stages of evolution of the journal, and all issues are archived on this website as pdf files.
The magazine began thanks to a letter I had published in Starlog magazine #153 about movie soundtracks, stating at the bottom, “Anybody want to start a club? Write me!” This was well before the Internet—data about film composers and scores was virtually impossible to get, and fans had to mail order LPs and CDs from specialty shops and correspond with other collectors to find out what existed. There were a few publications out of Europe (most notably Soundtrack!) but next to nothing in the U.S. Magazines like Starlog published columns and classifieds about fanzines published about Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who and related genre subjects, and I remember participating in such journals and wishing there was an equivalent one about movie music.
Taking matters into my own hands one cold New England winter, I fired off my letter to Starlog, and when it was published, around a dozen interested fans wrote me...the very first “issue” was simply a way to respond all at once to the inquiries. I remember being a little gunshy about the responsibility of publishing a journal, so the early editions of FSM were called “SCL—Soundtrack Correspondence List,” which I hoped to be like a primitive “message board” in facilitating communication between film music fans. I was a sophomore in high school on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (yes, people grow up there) when I xeroxed the first one-page newsletter in June 1990. These early “SCL” newsletters are archived on the site as “Volume 0.” (Much later I learned there was a professional organization called the Society for Composers and Lyricists so I am glad I dropped that acronym.)
I continued to publish xeroxed issues through my last two years of high school (1990-1992), expanding in size up to eight pages. One of the earliest contributors, Andy Dursin, who lived in Rhode Island, volunteered to start editing a “SCORE” section publishing soundtrack CD reviews. The collective publicatation was renamed for issues #15-21 “STC—the SoundTrack Club” for which I began collecting meager subscription fees, thus commencing my lifelong tradition of losing money. I came up with the name “Film Score Monthly” (which was nearly “Film Music Monthly” but I wanted one fewer syllable) for the June 1992 issue (#22), which was the first issue to be saddle-stitched (rather than stapled in the corner). The first issue printed by an offset press (rather than photocopied) was that for July 1992 (#23).
From 1992 to 1996 I attended Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts as an undergrad and published FSM as my primary extracurricular activity (thus relegating “meeting girls” to the last-possible extracurricular activity). I lugged my backissues and “office” to and from home every summer. Of my time at Amherst I will say this: when I met anybody who worked in the campus post office, they would say, “YOU’RE Lukas Kendall? You get so much mail!” I graduated as a music major, despite having virtually no aptitude in music performance or composition, because I thought it responsible, if I was writing music criticism, to learn about the subject matter. I think that was honorable and even my dad agrees, although he had to pay for it. “Volume 1” on this site archives the FSMs published through the end of 1996 which are by no means the best in terms of content, but they have a certain renegade spirit of adventure that sets them apart—sophomoric, perhaps, but full of life and fun...these were the issues that I laid out myself and generally oversaw every aspect as the “author” (with thanks to the many wonderful contributors). I remember being absolutely committed to the publication (at the time, it was more than a newsletter, but not quite a magazine), poring over every last detail and working hard to “break stories” and publish interesting interviews and commentary.
I graduated from Amherst in May 1996 and spent the summer at home on Martha’s Vineyard. I distinctly remember my mother saying, “You’re leaving soon, aren’t you?” So on October 3, 1996 I set out for Los Angeles where music editor and soundtrack reviewer Daniel Schweiger let me stay with him for a week while I found a studio apartment behind the Mayfair Market on Franklin Avenue, near Beachwood Canyon. I lived there from October 1996 until August 1998 and it was a test of character to be in the big city by myself and to live and work in one tiny room, with my bed on one side and my computer on the other. With the move to L.A. FSM expanded to the format it would have until 2005: usually 48 pages with a color cover. These are Volumes 2 through 10 on the site. It was around this time that art director Joe Sikoryak came into my life and fixed the amateurish look of the publication (which threatened to strain eyeballs everywhere; Joe’s first issue doing the layout was Vol. 2, No. 9, November/December 1997).
With growth comes change, and if it was challenging at Amherst to perform personally all aspects of producing FSM, it was also challenging to delegate responsibility and take on more of an executive role during the years 1997-2005. These years were filled with many exciting events, and I have consulted my check book and the backissues to chronicle the following: In August 1997, I convinced Jeff Bond and his lovely wife Brooke to join me in L.A. from their native Ohio and found them an apartment across the street from me (they eventually relocated to Burbank). Jeff became my first employee and one of the greatest people anyone has ever known anywhere. In August 1998 I moved to a larger apartment in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles (where I still live of this writing, January 2008). From October 1997 to June 1999 FSM had its first office, sharing space with the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival at 5555 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1500; from July 1999 to November 2005 we expanded to a two-story office (editorial upstairs, warehouse downstairs) at 8503 Washington Blvd, Culver City. Most significantly, I started a record company in 1998—FSM’s “Silver Age” and “Golden Age Classics”—after having done a couple of albums on the Retrograde Records label in 1996 and 1997. Because of the demands of producing the CDs, I reduced my involvement in FSM, and after hiring managing editor Tim Curran in January 2000 delegated responsibility of editing and publishing the magazine to Tim, Jeff, the indefatigable Jon and Al Kaplan (who joined us after finishing the film scoring program at USC), and Joe Sikoryak. They formed a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude.
By 2005 it was a major strain to finance the hardcopy FSM—and with the prevalence of the Internet, it was a completely different world than when I had begun 15 years earlier. In 1990, a monthly newsletter could beat quarterly publications to the punch when it came to announcing new CDs or scoring news—nowadays, such things are reported instantaneously. After a year of trying a new format—larger issues on a bimonthly basis—our last physical issue was in November/December 2005. I thought it would be the end of FSM, but I was thrilled and delighted when Tim and Jon found a way to continue the magazine online—hence the birth of FSM Online. I am grateful they chose to keep the brand alive, rather than set off with their own venture.
In FSM #30/31 (Feb./Mar. 1993), we published an interview with composer Christopher Young that has stuck with me. This was not about his own work per se, but about film music criticism and the future of film music. Chris said: “Two hundred years from now, musicologists researching one of Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for a thesis or book will want to see how that particular score was received at the time of the film’s release. They’ll go back to the trade papers and they’ll find a couple sentences, which won’t do any good. They’ll turn to Film Score Monthly, Soundtrack! and whatever handful of others exist throughout the world, and that might be their only sources of criticism.”
I took those words to heart. I wish we could have published more content, and better content, but for what we did, it was a documentation of film music for a period of a time and how it was being appreciated and understood. And I, personally, worked like a madman to check facts and make the presentation everything that was within my resources for it to be. It is a snapshot of my life as well as a snapshot of the film music that was created and released. Like any snapshot, it is warts and all, and there are probably more than a few embarrassing things documented in these pages. But for better and worse I am trying today equally hard to make it all available to the public—for now, behind a pay shield, but ultimately as inexpensively as possible. It’s 15 years of my life’s work (and that of many other people), and you can peruse it for five bucks...isn’t that a good deal?