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Music Supervisor: Tracy McKnight

Music Supervisor: Tracy McKnight (photo)

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Tracy McKnight was not aware of the job of music supervisor when she set out to find her way in the world. She thought she’d eventually work in fashion or cosmetics, perhaps something she dreamed of at 30,000 feet while working as flight attendant. Instead, she landed a job at a NY recording studio as the night manager during college and it set her on a career path in the music industry. The thrill is still evident in her voice when she talks about it.

(Left: Lisa P. first struts on screen to the Rolling Stones in “Adventureland,” Miramax films)

Then in ’91 she saw “The Commitments,” and realized there was a person responsible for selecting and licensing music for films; the music supervisor. It all clicked. So with determination, a move to LA, and some friendly mentors along the way, she became one. Now 11 years in she has a roster of over 80 films and is responsible for the impeccable “Adventureland” soundtrack.

Some directors call the shots with a soundtrack and “Adventureland” writer/director Greg Mottola is certainly one of them. But regardless of who drives the creative choices, putting it all together is a colossal job. What astounded me most upon seeing the film was, given what must have been a very modest budget, how Mottola and McKnight pulled off all those musical gems. I found out they created a special category, internally speaking, for the songs that were integral to Mottola’s script called “Tracy walks on glass.” Songs like “Tops” by the Stones, the VU songs “Satellite of Love” and “Pale Blue Eyes” were on the list. Yeah, Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” too. So by any means necessary, McKnight got them. They weren’t all easy sells and some were at first declined. I won’t attempt to detail the means with which she ultimately obtained them, but I’m so happy she did. No animals were hurt in the process.

Clearing songs, convincing bands, making big things happen on small budgets along with all the different pieces brought to the table by composers, directors, producers – McKnight adorably describes it all “like a puzzle,” that she has to put together.

Some of her favorite work, or at least what she could rattle off on the spot, includes, The Ramones documentary “End of the Century” and the Wilco doc “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” An early turning point for her was the 1998 film “High Art,” the first time she had a band (“Shudder To Think”) compose the score and write original songs for a film. It wouldn’t be the last time. 2007’s “Dedication” featured a soundtrack by indefinable indie favorites Deerhoof, merged with a score by composer Ed Shearmur (“Charlie’s Angel’s”), a strange pairing to say the least. She said it exemplified that “road of discovery, creating something that is truly unique” experience, something that clearly spins her records.

McKnight now works for Lionsgate, as their VP of film music. She isn’t just very passionate about being at the crossroads of music and film; it’s like a revelation for her. She’s an adviser to the Sundance Composers Lab and the producers conference helping filmmakers “think about and budget for music” in films. She also programs a night at Sundance, called Music Meets Film, going on 8 years now. It highlights and celebrates the music in the films that are playing that year with live bands. “Mos Def covering Fats Waller songs with Michel Gondry” on drums, included. So she knows how to throw a party too.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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