Hitting all the right notes in Hollywood
He aspired to be a musician, but studied film at Queen's. Now that he's a rising player in the movie industry, he makes his living in music. What gives with Lindsay Fellows?
Alumni Spotlight 1980s
When Lindsay Fellows, Artsci’86, arrived on campus in the fall of 1982, he was 19 and dreamed of being a musician. “I played sax and trumpet, and I sang all the way through school,” he recalls – choirs, musicals, festivals, and such.
But his plans changed in a wink. “I realized that the students who were entering the School of Music at Queen’s were world-class, and I wasn’t,” he says. “To be honest, I wasn’t a very dedicated student.”
Instead of majoring in music, Lindsay enrolled in Film and Media studies and contented himself by writing songs and playing in bands in his spare time – most notably a group called The Filters, which showcased the talents of Fintan McConnell and Mauro Sepe, both of whom have found success as members of Celtic punk band The Mahones. (Other former members include Kingstonian’s Matt Woodward, Gord Downie, and Rob Baker.)
So much for Lindsay’s dream of being a musician, right? Nope. “It’s funny how things have worked out,” he says.
These days the 47-year-old native of Dearborn, MI, is fast becoming one of the Hollywood movie industry’s busiest and most successful music supervisors and producers. In the last six years Lindsay has worked on a string of big-budget movies that includes Holes, Sahara, Chronicles of Narnia, Amazing Grace, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
This spring, he’s at work on three projects: Bandslam, “a music-driven film in the vein of School Of Rock” that’s due in theatres in August; Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, the third film in the Narnia series; and a summer camp film called Last Summer. He has also branched out into TV writing and developing a pilot drama titled Breakers.
Having such a hectic career in the movie industry wasn’t something Lindsay could have predicted in his student years. After graduating from Queen’s, it was his songwriting talents, not his cinematic expertise, that landed him a publishing deal with Sony/Blackwood in Toronto.
After writing success with Canadian rockers Loverboy and others he moved to Los Angeles in 1990. One thing led to another, and Lindsay ended up at RCA Records.
Then he and some friends started the Squint Entertainment record label. That venture enjoyed some success launching the careers of multi-platinum artists Sixpence None The Richer and Chevelle, but, more importantly, it afforded Lindsay the opportunity to network and learn the ins and outs of the music business.
He placed his bands in multiple productions such as She’s All That, Dawson’s Creek, and Bounce, and produced those soundtracks.
Lindsay’s big break came in 2001, when he was recruited to start a new record label and soundtrack division with the Walden Media Group. One of his first jobs with the company was as music executive for Holes, a 2002 Disney Studios movie that starred Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight. That film featured the #1 Radio Disney hit "Dig It". It’s been onward and upward for Lindsay ever since.
What exactly does a music supervisor do? The bottom line is that he or she pulls together all of the music for a movie. That may sound simple, but it’s not.
It's the music supervisor's job to get composers, lyricists, and directors to work together creatively. In Hollywood, this often involves big budgets, big names, and big egos. Personality clashes are as inevitable as the Pacific sunsets. “When you start making a movie, everybody loves everybody else. As things move along, money gets spent, creative differences surface, and before long, things get pretty intense. Communication and surrounding yourself with talented people is the key,” Lindsay explains with a knowing laugh.
There are a couple of secrets to success and to survival in this high-pressure world. One is knowing the business inside and out, something Lindsay does because of his film studies background and his varied experience as a musician and songwriter. His other ace in the hole is his coolness under fire. He keeps his feet firmly on the ground. Although he, wife Lorraine Smith, and their two daughters, Claudia, 12, and Chloe, 15, now make their home in the LA suburb of Manhattan Beach, he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
Both of Lindsay’s parents and his sister are Queen’s alumni. His mother, Carol Harden, Arts’55, is a native Kingstonian, while his dad, William Fellows, Meds’55, hails from Windsor, Ontario. Lindsay’s older sister, Susan (Fellows) Oliver, graduated as a member of Artsci’78. In addition, Lindsay’s paternal grandfather, George C. Lindsay, MD’23, practised medicine in Kingston for many years and taught at the Queen’s medical school.
At this year’s Banff International Film Festival, Carl McMullin, Artsci’82, the Trade Commissioner (Cultural Industries) at the Canadian Consulate in LA, introduced Lindsay to noted Canadian filmmaker Peter Raymont, Arts’72, creator of the award-winning documentary Shake Hands With the Devil (2007) and the hit CBC television drama series The Border (which Peter has sold to the U.S. cable network FX). Lindsay and Peter are now talking about collaborating on a Friday Night Lights-type television series that Lindsay is developing.
“I’d love to work with Peter on the show,” says Lindsay. “And it would be a lot of fun to come back to Queen’s some time to give a few lectures or teach some workshops. I still have many memories of my time in the Department.”