Film Courage: Harvey is every day a work day for you?
Harvey Mason, Jr.: Simple answer, yes. Every day is a work day and there is a lot to do. If I’m not always in the studio, I’m on the phone, I’m emailing, I’m doing a ton of meetings. There’s a lot of discussion, talking about what’s coming up next, talking about the song that we’re working on, talking about a scene, so it’s always work.
Film Courage: What time do you normally start your day and do you put in eight hours?
Harvey Mason, Jr: …I put in more like 18 hours. I start anywhere from 9 or 10 in the morning until 10, 11, 12 at night. Sometimes into the early morning, if I’m working on a project. It just really depends on where I am in the phase of the project.
Film Courage: You always hear about entrepreneurs that they can’t really ‘turn it off.’ They are always working. Whether they are at a restaurant and they are on “vacation.” How do you deal with this, as part of your life?
Harvey Mason, Jr: Yeah, I do suffer from that a little bit. As I said I have kids. So that pulls me out of it, for sure. When I’m around my kids I’m not really thinking about work. But it’s tough, if you love what you do, you want to continue to get better. You want to continue to grow. You want to build. At least I do. And I love making music. I love working with the people that I work with. I’m excited. It’s not work to me, it’s fun.
Film Courage: How satisfied are you with your work at the end of the day? Or are there times where you’re not satisfied and that’s almost a good thing because it keeps pushing you?
Harvey Mason, Jr: No…I think there are times when I’m satisfied and I try not to stop a project until I am satisfied. I don’t do things that I don’t like and I don’t turn in things that I’m not proud of. When I’m finished with a project, I’m usually pretty satisfied. I think production is a series of compromises sometimes because you can’t always get everything exactly the way you want. Maybe that is the perfectionist in me? But I’m always tinkering. I’m always trying to do something else. Let me try this tempo. Let me try to add this instrument or take this background vocal out or build this bigger. But that’s the fun of it. It’s like building a skyscraper and doing anything you want. Just adding another floor and adding some more windows. And just continuing to build this amazing kind of (hopefully) masterpiece. And at the end of it, if you’re not happy and you’re not proud, you did something wrong. You probably better go back and rework it. So, I get a lot of satisfaction from my finished projects.
Film Courage: Was [a strong] work ethic something you were born with or something over time you picked up, whether it’s the sportsman in you…
Harvey Mason, Jr: I think it’s a combination. I definitely was into working hard but I learned a lot from my Dad who was really, really a hard worker. He preached that at home a lot. Dedicating yourself and sacrificing and making the most of your talents. My Mom and my Dad were both musicians so they were all about practicing and getting better. And then I had some great coaches. I had an amazing high school coach, Coach John Giuffrida and a college Coach Lute Olson who is in the basketball hall of fame and those guys both showed me the meaning of setting a high bar, setting goals, accomplishing things you don’t think you can accomplish, expecting more from yourself than you thought you could do. And that definitely translated to music. And I think that is something a lot of musicians don’t have because they didn’t play sports like I did. I played sports my whole life. Since I was 7 years old I was playing sports, all the way through college. And playing at college at that high, high level you have to be hyper-competitive and you have to be sacrificing and intense and goal-oriented and all the things you have to do to play high-level college basketball or professional basketball. Those aren’t things that most musicians do, so I brought that to this end to what I do. I don’t know. I think it’s worked for me. Hopefully I haven’t made too many people angry how competitive I am. But I think it usually works.
Film Courage: I heard a quote one time that said ‘If people in Hollywood aren’t mad at you, you aren’t doing anything right [laughs].’
Harvey Mason, Jr: Yeah…I guess so. I don’t know. I’ve tried to be easy to work with. I’ve tried to be the person that people enjoy being around. I think at a certain level, a lot of the CEOs of these huge companies, that’s when it gets to the point where people are going to be mad at you one way or another. Right now I feel like I’m in a good place. I feel like my company is in a good place, people respect what we do. They find it easy to work with us. I think it’s still a service business at some point. You are providing someone with a service so I think it’s important that you treat people the right way and I don’t know…hopefully people like me.
Film Courage: I actually meant it in a way that sometimes people in this town resent people for getting a project they didn’t get or something like that.
Harvey Mason, Jr: Yeah, I think that’s true. There is definitely some of that. I don’t do that. I think there is so much great work that anytime somebody else gets something, I think it’s great for them. And it’s not like I’m dying to have all those other peoples’ projects. I try to stay positive and be thankful for what I have and I try and support other people and encourage them as well. So we need more of that in Los Angeles.
Film Courage: We do. We do. I saw an infographic that talked about entrepreneurs and it said that (some of the traits were) that they were 1) obsessive 2) that they kind of had ideas which others couldn’t understand. That’s what set them apart from other people. Do you think the people that come here [to Los Angeles] maybe aren’t obsessive enough or competitive enough and then they leave and go back home because they have friends and family waiting for them? Whereas if you have that sportsman’s mentality, where you almost have to win, that is going to set you apart?
Harvey Mason, Jr: Yeah…I think that is something that sets people apart. I think that anyone who has accomplished anything really, really amazing…I mean there are a few that are lucky, but most are not lucky. It’s just really hard work and it’s competitive or being intense and sacrificing and that’s really in any craft or trait. I think if you look at any of the biggest actors, they’re not the biggest actors for no reason. I worked with a couple of them on this film [SING Movie]. Reese Witherspoon is a powerhouse. She produces, directs, she acts, she sings, she does everything. And she’s that successful because 1). She’s smart and really talented but there are thousands of smart, talented people. She is driven and maybe I’m overstepping my bounds because I’m not that close with her. But from what I have observed, she’s super hard-working, super smart, super focused and I’m sure, somewhat competitive. She wants to win. So I think that is something that sets you apart.
Question for the Viewers: Do you like to work more than 8 hours a day?
Watch the trailer to SING here on Youtube
About Harvey Mason, Jr.:
For the past twenty years, Harvey Mason Jr. has not only penned and produced songs for both industry legends and today’s superstars including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown, but he has been instrumental in producing music for many of the biggest musical films and television shows of the past decade. Everyone from Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, Whitney Houston in Sparkle, to the eclectic cast in Pitch Perfect, and Mary J. Blige and Neyo in The Wiz Live! have called on Harvey to deliver music of the highest standards for blockbuster musical productions.
Harvey was born in Boston, Massachusetts where his parents attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Harvey’s father, Harvey Mason, Sr., is a noted jazz drummer and founding member of the group, Fourplay. Mason Jr. grew up in Los Angeles where he tagged along to his father’s recording sessions with the likes of Quincy Jones, Carole King, The Brothers Johnson and Herbie Hancock. Harvey wrote his first song, “Love Makes It Better” for Grover Washington, Jr. at the age of eight. Besides being a gifted musician, Harvey was also a gifted athlete and attended the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship and played in the 1988 Final Four with teammates Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr.
Harvey’s first success came when he wrote the song “Truthfully” for Brandy’s 1998 release Never Say Never. He then joined forces with Rodney Jerkins’, Darkchild Entertainment, and continued to write and produce hits for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. In 2000, Mason Jr. formed the production company, The Underdogs, whose first hit was Tyrese’s “I Like Them Girls”. They continued to top the R&B charts with hits for B2K, Marques Houston, Ruben Studdard, Joe, Avant, and Omarion. Harvey topped the charts in 2009 with the number one hit, “No Air” with Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown and again in 2012 with Chris Brown’s “Turn Up The Music”.
In 2006, Harvey produced the soundtrack for the movie musical Dreamgirls. His work on Dreamgirls was the first to produce three Oscar-nominated songs from the same film in the same year. In 2008, Harvey Mason Media produced the major motion picture More Than A Game documenting the incredible journey of LeBron James’ high school basketball team. The movie garnered a second place People’s Choice Award at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival behind the film Slumdog Millionaire. Harvey also composed the score to the film and served as executive producer on the soundtrack Music Inspired By More Than A Game released on his label Mason Music through Interscope Records. In 2012, Harvey was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the song “The Living Proof” with Mary J. Blige featured in the movie The Help. Sadly, he was the last producer to work with Whitney Houston when he produced the songs “His Eye On The Sparrow” and “Celebrate” for the movie Sparkle. Later in 2012, Harvey produced all of the a cappella vocal performances for the hit film Pitch Perfect featuring Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick. In 2014, he produced the music for Get On Up, the film about the life and music of the legendary James Brown. Harvey again joined with the cast of Pitch Perfect with the addition of Hailey Steinfeld to produce new a cappella hits for the movie’s 2015 sequel. In the summer of 2015, Harvey arranged and produced all the legendary NWA music for the theatrical release of Straight Outta Compton. Most recently, he wrote and produced music for the top rated NBC broadcast of The Wiz Live!. Currently, Harvey is in production on music for the animated film Sing from the creators of Despicable Me and Minions to be released later in 2016.
Harvey proudly serves on the National Board of Trustees for the Recording Academy and serves as co-chair of the Producers and Engineers Wing and the Advocacy Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for his Alma mater, the University of Arizona. Harvey donates his time and resources to several charitable organizations including GRAMMY in the Schools, MusicCares Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society, and Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. Harvey received the Spirit of Excellence Award in 2012 by the T.J. Martell Foundation for his philanthropic efforts.
COLD LOVE – Cold Love highlights three expeditions spanning many years of Lonnie Dupre’s career — the first non-motorized circumnavigation of Greenland, the first summer expedition to the North Pole, and the first attempt of a solo January ascent of Denali. The film’s powerful footage reveals up-close the beauty and life-giving forces of these icy realms. And in seeing, we can’t help but be inspired to love and protect our earth’s frozen places. Not only are they beautiful and fragile, but they are the global engine that regulates the climate and provides a stable environment for all life on the planet.
IT’S NOT MY FAULT AND I DON’T CARE ANYWAY – A rich and famous self-help guru’s controversial philosophy of extreme selfishness is put to the ultimate test when his only daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom (featuring the late Alan Thicke)
VALLEY OF THE DITCHES – A young woman bound in the front seat of a parked car watches helpless as her captor methodically digs a grave in the desert ground. The bloody lifeless body of her boyfriend lies framed in the rear-view mirror, a fate she will fight at all costs to avoid for herself. But this is only the beginning of a brutal struggle where survival could be worse than death.
From The Film Fund – Get up to $10,000 to make your short film by writing one sentence.
The Film Fund is providing funding up to $10,000 for a short film in a way that’s a lot simpler than screenwriting contests, crowdfunding, or applying to grants – read more about Founder and CEO Thomas Verdi’s The Film Fund here via his website.
LEFT ON PURPOSE – Midway through the filming of a documentary about his life as an anti war activist, Mayer Vishner declares that his time has passed and that his last political act will be to commit suicide— and he wants it all on camera. Now the director must decide whether to turn off his camera or use it to keep his friend alive. Left on Purpose is an award winning feature length documentary that confronts the growing issues of aging, isolation and end of life choices through an intense character driven story of the relationship between filmmaker and subject. With humor and heart it provides a rare cinematic look at what it means to be a friend to someone in pain.