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Attendees of the 38th Ghent Film Festival gathered at the Belgian city’s historic STAM museum Friday night to remember the late publicist Ronni Chasen.
Chasen was murdered last November, just two weeks after attending the 2010 edition of the festival. Over the last decade Chasen, who had longstanding relationships with many film composer clients and was a passionate champion of film music, became a fixture at the Ghent fest, which focuses primarily on the craft of music in film.
Composers on hand included Hans Zimmer (Inception), Elliot Goldenthal (The Tempest), David Arnold (The Chronicles of Narnia), Giorgio Moroder (Scarface), Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man) and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.
The event also saw the presentation of the Joseph Plateau Honorary Award to veteran director Norman Jewison. After receiving a lengthy standing ovation, Jewison immediately invoked Chasen. “She always said to me ‘you have to go to Ghent,” he said.
Midway through the event, Dirk Brossé, conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic and Ghent Fest music director, announced that festival organizers were in the planning stages on a special award named after Chasen, which the fest would begin handing out next year.
Speaking after the event, Brossé told The Hollywood Reporter: “The idea is to officially launch the award in May, and then present the award at the World Soundtrack Awards next year. Ronni did so many good things. She was always searching for new talents. With this award her spirit and name will continue to live with the people who know her, and also for the next generation.”
Zimmer, perhaps Chasen’s biggest client over the years and a close friend, was pleased to hear about the award.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “Really the only thing that makes sense is giving out an award in her name.”
Emotions ran high during the event, with a number of Chasen’s former clients and friends becoming visibly moved as festival director Jacques Dubrulle and Ghent mayor Daniel Termont took the stage to pay tribute to her.
“Ronni helped us get composers to come to Ghent and play their music,” Dubrulle said. “But she also helped us to organize receptions and dinners and gave us contacts. She helped to put us on the map among the various festivals around the world.”
Dubrulle recalled fondly that when Chasen first started working with the festival over a decade ago, her aggressive style and quick pace initially stunned fest organizers.
“In the beginning we didn’t really understand the American way of press relations,” he said. “The way she worked was totally different than the way we work in Europe. She explained to us that if we wanted to be known in Hollywood we needed another approach. So for us it was very special in the beginning because in Europe we do things a bit different, more slowly perhaps. She helped us a lot.”
Goldenthal, clearly still distraught over Chasen’s death, spoke after the event about how her honesty set her apart in today’s Hollywood.
“I might have been one of her first clients,” he said. “She was in love with music and the art of film music. It wasn’t phony. In Hollywood right now it’s so cutthroat, very competitive. She told it like it was and she was very human and very honest.”
Throughout the evening, a number of longtime festivalgoers recalled how Chasen played a pivotal role in raising Ghent’s profile in 2000 when she brought Zimmer to the event to perform his work live for the first time. Since then, live performances of film music have become one of the most popular elements of the Ghent festival.
Asked after the event about Chasen’s passionate support of film composers and the role she played in the film music world, Zimmer offered a poignant remembrance.
“Ronni Chasen put composers on the map,” he said. “All we did was play for her to dance.”
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