Nicholas Britell

Nicholas Britell (born October 17, 1980) is an American composer, pianist, and film producer based in New York City. He has scored both of Barry Jenkins' studio films, Moonlight (2016) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), both of which received nominations for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards. He has also worked with Adam McKay, scoring his two most recent films, The Big Short (2015) and Vice (2018). The HBO original series Succession (2018–present) marked Britell's entry into television, scoring every episode of the first and second season and earning him the Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music[1] and the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Score - TV Show/Limited Series. His score for the second season of Succession was nominated in 2020 for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score). At the World Soundtrack Awards, Britell was awarded Film Composer of the Year in 2019 for his scores for Vice and If Beale Street Could Talk and Television Composer of the Year[2] in 2020 for Succession.

Nicholas Britell
Britell at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
Background information
Born (1980-10-17) October 17, 1980 (age 40)
New York City, United States
GenresFilm score, classical music
Occupation(s)Composer, musician, songwriter, film producer
Associated actsAdam McKay, Barry Jenkins, Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied, Adam Leon, Damien Chazelle, Steve McQueen

Early life and educationEdit

Britell was raised in a Jewish family,[3] in New York City.[4] He graduated from the college preparatory school, Hopkins School, in 1999.[5] Britell is a graduate of the Juilliard School's Pre-College Division and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University[6][7] in 2003.[8] At school, he was a member of the instrumental hip-hop group, The Witness Protection Program, where he played keyboards and synthesizers.[4] Britell is part of an emerging generation of composers and artists who draw from an eclectic range of influences. His work is inspired by Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Philip Glass, and Zbigniew Preisner as well as by producers Quincy Jones and Dr. Dre.[9]


In 2008, Britell gained wide notice performing his own work "Forgotten Waltz No. 2" in Natalie Portman's directorial debut Eve.[9] He collaborated again with Portman, writing music for the film New York, I Love You.[10][11] In 2011, Britell performed on piano with violin virtuoso Tim Fain in "Portals."[12] The multimedia project also featured performances by Craig Black, Julia Eichten and Haylee Nichele and featured music by Philip Glass and Nico Muhly, poetry by Leonard Cohen and choreography by Benjamin Millepied.[13][14] Vogue Magazine called Britell among "...the most talented young artists at work..."[15]

As a film composer, Britell created the music for the movie Gimme the Loot directed by Adam Leon.[16] The film would go on to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.[17][18] It won the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival in 2012.[19] The music for the film garnered special praise from New York Magazine[20] and Variety.[21] Britell's film composing career continued in 2012 with the scoring of Michele Mitchell's PBS documentary Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?[22] The film, which aired over 1,000 times in the United States on PBS stations and was screened at the Oakland Film Festival and the Bolder Life Film Festival in 2012, is the winner of the 2013 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Documentary[23] and winner of a 2012 CINE Golden Eagle Award[24] and a CINE Special Jury Award for Best Investigative Documentary.[25]

Britell's music featured prominently in director Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, for which he composed and arranged the on-camera music including the spiritual songs, work songs, featured violin performances, and dances.[26] Billboard Magazine called Britell "...the secret weapon in the music of 12 Years a Slave".[26] "My Lord Sunshine", composed by Britell for 12 Years a Slave, was eligible for the 2014 Oscar's best song list.[27] The Los Angeles Times said of "My Lord Sunshine", "A work song, a spiritual, a blues lament, a communal statement – 'My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)’ is all of the above and more…[w]hat Britell accomplished is no easy feat, and it’s a spiritual that feels and sounds of the era and deftly weaves in religious imagery with the daily horror of the slaves’ lives."[28] Britell also notably reinterpreted "Roll Jordan Roll" for the film.[29][30] Britell’s work received wide critical acclaim and he was profiled in the Wall Street Journal.[26]

As a film producer, Britell produced the short film Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, which won the Jury Award for Best US Fiction Short at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[31] He subsequently helped produce the feature-film Whiplash, also directed by Chazelle and starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons.[32][33] The Whiplash feature won Sundance's 2014 Jury Prize and Audience Award, and went on to get 5 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) and won 3 Oscar awards.[34][35] Britell also wrote and produced the track "Reaction," produced the track "When I Wake," and performed and produced "No Two Words" for the film's soundtrack.[36]

In 2015, Britell scored The Seventh Fire, a documentary directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono and presented by Terrence Malick, which debuted to critical acclaim at the Berlin International Film Festival.[37]

Britell scored Natalie Portman's directorial debut feature film A Tale of Love and Darkness, which screened at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[38] Deadline called Britell's score for the film "riveting".[39]

Britell also scored the Golden Globe-nominated The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay, starring Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell, based on the book The Big Short by Michael Lewis, and released by Paramount in December 2015.[40] In addition, Britell produced the soundtrack album for the film.[41]

In 2016, Britell scored Director Gary Ross' civil-war era historical drama Free State of Jones, starring among others Matthew McConaughey and Mahershala Ali.[42] The soundtrack album, produced by Britell, was released June 24, 2016 on Sony Masterworks.[43]

Also in 2016, Britell wrote the original score for the critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning film Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins and starring Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, and Naomie Harris, among others.[44][45] Britell's score received a 2017 Academy Award for Best Original Score nomination and it was nominated for a 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score in the Motion Picture category.[46] The New York Times' A.O. Scott, who called the film "...about as beautiful a movie as you are ever likely to see",[47] praised Britell's score as "...both surprising and perfect."[47] Britell's original score was described as "... an enthralling collection of music that will linger in your mind and in your heart in much the same way as the film.",[48] and named one of the Ten Best Music Moments of 2016 by Brooklyn Magazine.[49] The film's soundtrack album, named one of the top 25 Soundtrack Albums of 2016 on iTunes,[50] was produced by Britell and released by Lakeshore Records, including a special vinyl collectors' edition.[51] Britell's "Middle of the World", from the soundtrack album, was named one of the top 25 Soundtrack Songs of 2016 on iTunes.[50]

Britell scored director Adam Leon's film Tramps in 2016,[52] with Netflix acquiring worldwide distribution rights to the film at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.[53]

He composed the title song from Christina Aguilera's eighth studio album Liberation (2018).[54][55]

Britell scored Fox Searchlight's tennis biopic Battle of the Sexes, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and released in 2017.[56]

His score for If Beale Street Could Talk has received wide critical acclaim and awards including a 2019 Academy Award nomination, a BAFTA nomination,[1] a Critics’ Choice nomination,[1] and Best Original Score awards from each of the Los Angeles,[1] Boston,[1] Chicago,[1] Central Ohio,[1] Iowa,[1] Washington DC,[1] Phoenix,[1] LA Online,[1] NY Online,[1] and Online Film Critics Associations.[1]

Britell has produced numerous other projects with The Amoveo Company, a multimedia production company and artists' collective that he co-founded with Benjamin Millepied.[57] Amoveo is a multimedia production company and artists' collective active in digital media, television, and film.[58] Notable Amoveo projects include Naran Ja, a short film directed by Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu,[59] Passage To Dawn, a short film created for Maiyet's Spring/Summer 2015 collection,[60] and Hearts and Arrows, a short film of Benjamin Millepied’s ballet of the same name which debuted at the L.A. Film Festival in June 2015.[61][62][63] Working with Amoveo, Britell created the "Baileys Nutcracker (Britell Remix)", which was used by Baileys for its successful "Baileys Nutcracker" campaign.[64] The full-length version of the Baileys Nutcracker spot has over 2.8 million views on YouTube as of June 2015.[65]

Personal lifeEdit

He is married to cellist Caitlin Sullivan.[66]


As performerEdit

Year Title Director
2008 Eve Directed by Natalie Portman

As composerEdit

Year Title Director
2008 New York, I Love You Natalie Portman
2012 Haiti: Where Did the Money Go Michele Mitchell
Gimme the Loot Adam Leon
2013 12 Years a Slave (additional music by) Steve McQueen
2015 The Seventh Fire Jack Pettibone Riccobono
A Tale of Love and Darkness Natalie Portman
The Big Short Adam McKay
2016 Free State of Jones Gary Ross
Moonlight Barry Jenkins
Tramps Adam Leon
2017 Battle of the Sexes Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
2018–present Succession Various
2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Barry Jenkins
Vice Adam McKay
2019 The King David Michôd

As producerEdit

Year Title Director
2013 Whiplash (short) (producer) Damien Chazelle
2014 Whiplash (feature) (co-producer) Damien Chazelle



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  2. ^ Awards, World Soundtrack. "Television Composer of the Year - Awards". World Soundtrack Awards. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  3. ^ Jewish Weekly: "The tribe goes to the Oscars" by Nate Bloom. February 13, 2017
  4. ^ a b Thompson, A. Haven (February 26, 2004). "Nicholas J. Britell '03–'04". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  5. ^ "Distinguished Alumni/ae and Fellows | Hopkins School". Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  6. ^ "Nicholas Britell". ASCAP ASCAP. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
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  8. ^ "'Moonlight' reflection - Oscar-nominated composer Britell '03 found inspiration in film's poetic depth". Harvard University Gazette. February 22, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Review: "New York, I Love You"". The Dodgy. July 1, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  10. ^ "Review: "New York, I Love You"". Variety. September 30, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  11. ^ Young, Michelle (January 14, 2011). "In the Studio with Nicholas Britell, Film Composer from New York, I Love You". Untapped Cities. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  12. ^ Kozinn, Allan (September 26, 2011). "Framing Works With Dance, Words, Screens and Web Browsers". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Swed, Mark (October 10, 2011). "Music review: Tim Fain's 'Portals' at the Broad Stage". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  14. ^ Creeden, Molly (September 20, 2011). "Classical Music Gets a Modern Update in the Hands of Violinist Tim Fain". Vogue. Archived from the original on September 29, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  15. ^ "Classical Music Gets a Modern Update in the Hands of Violinist Tim Fain". Vogue. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
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  18. ^ Pulver, Andrew (April 30, 2012). "Cannes 2012: seven films join the lineup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
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  27. ^ Jon Burlingame. "'12 Years' Co-composer Nicholas Britell Re-Creates Antebellum South". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  28. ^ "The best Oscar-worthy songs thwarted by 'Alone Yet Not Alone'". LA Times. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  29. ^ "'12 Years a Slave' Composer Reveals the Challenges of Re-Creating Authentic Slave Songs". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  30. ^ "'12 Years A Slave' Is This Year's Best Film About Music : The Record : NPR". Retrieved December 12, 2017.
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  32. ^ "In 'Whiplash,' a Young Jazz Drummer vs. His Teacher". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
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  51. ^ "'Moonlight' Vinyl: Release Announced, Score by Nicholas Britell: Pre-Order Now!". Film Music Daily. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
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  53. ^ Brent Lang. "Netflix Buys Adam Leon's 'Tramps' at TIFF 2016". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
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  55. ^ "Liberation by Christina Aguilera". iTunes Store. United Kingdom. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
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External linksEdit