HOUSTON, Texas -- Germaine Franco has made history with her nomination for Best Original Score in the Disney film 'Encanto.' She spoke to ABC13 from her home in Los Angeles where she works as a film composer. Franco, who graduated from Rice University in 1984, spoke proudly about her alma mater.
Win or lose, Franco has already made Academy Awards history by becoming the first Latina and only 6th woman in Oscar history to have been nominated for Best Original Score. Her work on Disney's 'Encanto' earned her the nod.
Franco said, "Being the first Latina, the first woman of color...to be nominated, I feel that we are, you know, I'm proud to represent our Latinos and Latinas."
She went on to explain how much this moment means, not just to her, but to women all over.
"We are here and we have a vision, we have a voice and being part of the Academy is very important," Franco said.
Franco grew up in El Paso before moving to Houston for school. Her time at Rice University helped her on this journey, as she immersed herself in music 12 hours a day, practicing to perfect her talent. It's also where she learned how to play in an orchestra.
Franco said, "I was arranging, orchestrating and I started writing for my own group. While I was at Rice I performed in so many orchestral ensembles and I was in the Marching Owl Band."
She tells us she started playing music at a very young age and loved to play percussion. Eventually, she'd graduate from Rice and continue on her musical path that's landed her in Los Angeles. She's working on a number of projects as a film composer, or a "storyteller" as she describes her role.
"So we have to interpret the script, the scene and what is the intention of the director, the characters, the emotion and then somehow emote that into music," she explained. "Basically, putting yourself in the story and imagining what the character feels."
Franco did just that for 'Encanto.' It's a film that celebrates Latin culture but like everything else, COVID created big challenges during the making of the film. Instead of travelling to Colombia where the movie takes place, Franco says she had to read several books and conduct research for inspiration to create the sights and sounds of the Latin American country. She says she even had a particular instrument flown into the United States, called a marimba de chonta.
"Marimba is played throughout the world and originated in Africa but the ones in Guatemala and Mexico are very different than the Colombian marimba. Basically, I wanted that sound," Franco explained. "There's a Colombian harp called the arpa llanera and it's the music from the plains area that at one point was Colombia and Venezuela. They were one country so it's called joropo music."
Franco adds that aside from her work on the film, it's been music to her ears to see so many people around the world seeing themselves in the characters on the big screen. Franco herself has found common ground with the character Mirabel.
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"She's kind of goofy and nerdy in a way, and I was the band nerd myself," she said. "She doesn't give up. She's very tenacious and that's something that is important in life. Whatever field you're in you have you have to learn how to fail and get back up and then get back up and try again."
That's her secret to success, she says, as a ground-breaking film composer who has had quite the golden night.