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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Diane Warren brings smash-hit feel to open Film Fest 919 in Chapel Hill, NC

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent


Smoke machines opened last night’s 2021 Spotlight Award for Diane Warren in advance of the 12-time Best Song Oscar nominee’s arrival at the Caraway Village Drive In. Then, against the eerie artificial atmosphere, a sky-wide laser show tore open Warren’s lyrics sung by Celine Dion, Cher, Lady Gaga, Steven Tyler, and Rita Ora in a weave of colors above the marquee at the fourth annual Film Fest 919 in Chapel Hill.


Vanity Fair’s “Little Gold Men” podcaster Katey Rich sat down for a quick delve into the inner reaches of Songwritingdom, where Warren is undisputed Queen.(Image: Vanity Fair’s Katey Rich & Songwriter Diane Warren – Film Fest 919 Spotlight Award, 2021.)


For context before a recap of their chat, if her name doesn’t ring a chord, even search engine Google has been asked about Diane Warren so many times, it return its own ready response as “What famous songs did Diane Warren write? Warren has written nine number-one songs and 32 top-10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 including, “If I Could Turn Back Time” (Cher, 1989), “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion, 1996), “How Do I Live” (LeeAnn Rimes, 1997), and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith, 1998).” 


But Google leaves out the dynamic stuff, like being on the roof with Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards, and Rich pulled some surprising high notes from Diane Warren in the tribute sit-down. Most remarkably about how the legendary songwriter will “reach out” to young talent that moves her, but also “these people find me – the (talent) people meant to find me. Sometimes I reach out to them.” 


The How Do I Live songwriter cut to brass tacks with Rich on advice to people breaking into songwriting, saying you can’t follow anyone, because the biggest takeaway about creativity in music is you have to become yourself, so to speak. “My path is my path,” Diane Warren explains. “Being in (a profession) this competitive? You can’t just be good, you have to be great. If you really know, you don’t need advice, you’re just fuckin’ doing it.”


In her latest video for new collaboration “Seaside,” you can really get a sense of the message in her words for young songwriters about just holding fast to your own style. “All the worries, worries/I’m gonna leave them behind/Leave ’em in the city, city, uh/Leave ’em on somebody else’s mind./Gonna get up, get out (yeah)/I’m gonna jump on a plane/Leave my troubles all a million miles away./Well you can live your life./Stuck at a traffic light/Walking down crowded streets I’ll be, I’ll be seaside.”


Watch for the Songwriter in this clip with Rita Ora, Sofía Reyes, Reik



Chris Bergoch of “Florida Project” and TANGERINE film fame was on hand with Festival founders Randi Emerman and Carol Marshall to usher in a reverential look-back, and look ahead, at the remarkable career for a Songwriter’s Hall of Famer with a star on the actual Hollywood Walk of Fame, who began listening to The Drifters as a kid and shot her own words to music into the sky.


Highlight from the laser show is captured here by Rachel, who had to jet back to LA in the morning.

Fest guest Jasme Kelly, a singer/songwriter reminds all that it’s not just the Grammy nominations, or wins, or 12 nominations from the Academy. Jasme swings around under the corrugated prismatic night canopy and enthuses, “‘Rhythm of the Night,’ DeBarge? That’s it.” 


Warren’s career spans The DeBarge Family to Rita Ora, and climbing. Her work means so much for so many in “moments of their lives,” a photographer named Sarah sums up at the show before heading to the afterparty.


Stay Tuned for more highlights from the 2021 Film Fest 919 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 


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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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