Interview with Jennifer Smith: Behind the Music of Netflix’s ‘Deadly Illusions’ and More!

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the wonderful Jennifer Smith, who was the music supervisor behind the Netflix thriller, Deadly Illusions (read our review – HERE). We had a chance to talk about her career, her production company Rat Dance Party, how she got involved with Deadly Illusions, and much more.

Jennifer Smith

PopHorror – Hi Jennifer. How is 2021 treating you so far?

Jennifer Smith – I know I echo everyone else’s sentiments of 2021 being a ray of light from the past year. I am lucky to have just wrapped Paramount +’s Why Women Kill Season 2, in post for a new YA scripted podcast called “Free To Fall” with Scripty and Genius Entertainment, and I am working on the iconic “Behind The Music” franchise. And, of course, some other amazing projects that will be announced in the press soon not just for music supervision, but also for producing.

PopHorror – Sounds like you’re a busy lady! You’re both a music supervisor and multimedia producer. How did you get involved in this line of work?

Jennifer Smith – A few years ago (pre-pandemic), I got hired as a music supervisor on a few Viacom tv shows and I caught the attention of a female network executive, Dawn DeVoe. She saw this skill set in me that I did not know I had and gave me the opportunity to learn and grow into it. She hired me as an associate producer on a project and took me under her wing. I got to see how a project works not only on a micro-level of production and post (which I have a lot of experience in), but also from the macro-level from the network point of view. I am forever grateful for her seeing this talent and giving me an opportunity that has morphed into another layer of my career.

PopHorror – That’s awesome. I love it! Do you have a preference over working on TV shows or films?

Jennifer Smith – I love storytelling and all the vehicles that come with it, so I do not have a preference for tv or film. What I love about both mediums are how they are similar and different at the same time. Some stories are better as films and would not connect with audiences in the same way as a tv show and vice versa. Both have different creative challenges that are fun and collaborative puzzle with production teams.

PopHorror – Completely agree! Can you tell us about Rat Dance Party, the music supervision company that you launched a few years ago?

Jennifer Smith – Rat Dance Party started as a music supervision company that assists new, rising, or established production companies, filmmakers, and creatives bring their creative sonic vision to life in their project. The landscape of content and distribution has changed since I first started in the industry so I wanted to create a music supervision company that worked with storytellers and production companies that would help them achieve their vision (regardless of budget of the production) but also make sure their deliverables are correct. I saw a lot of new filmmakers not understanding this and I saw a lot of established companies get into situations with distribution platforms. Not hiring the right music supervisor is the difference between your project being sold, distributed, and the production company not being sued. Music supervisors are creatives, business savvy, and essential department heads that require experience.

I also believe in education. Working at Kobalt Music gave me a well-rounded experience that makes me a stronger music supervisor since I understand how to communicate with labels, publishers, artists, managers, songwriters, etc that we partner with to get the job done on any project. Let’s say I have a nice contact base. When I started my company, I realized there was a lot of misinformation for musicians, songwriters, producers, and artists about licensing your music. I also experienced firsthand how they were being taken advantage of, so I made it my mission to educate. I always donate my time to speak at panels, with students, and organizations of all kinds to make sure that musicians understand the business of industry so they can feel more prepared in their career.

PopHorror – You’re so badass! I love how much talent you have in so many different areas. What is the goal for your business?

Jennifer Smith – I want to open a production branch of Rat Dance Party where we would partner with other production companies as well as develop new voices for film and tv. I believe in mentorship and education, so I want to open a mentor program that gives real-life experience to people of all levels, ages, and backgrounds so they have the tools and the experience to put on their resumes that will launch their career in entertainment. This would be for music supervision as well as producing content. To create change in Hollywood, you need to lead by example, and I believe that to my core.

Jennifer Smith

PopHorror – That would be amazing. More companies need to do this! How did you get involved with Netflix’s new thriller Deadly Illusions?

Jennifer Smith – This is a funny story. I was on vacation in Joshua Tree, visiting The Integraton when I walked out of my sound bath (such a LA thing to say), and I had a ton of text messages from my friend Rosser Goodman who was the 1st AD on the film. So, I called her, and she told me she threw my name out to the director/writer of the film Deadly Illusions and the line producer and director will be calling me. I had no idea what this project was about or anything. All I knew at that moment is that this felt strong in my gut. My husband and I went to get some lunch while I waited for the call. Right before we sat down, my phone rang. I got the perfect reception sitting in the restaurant’s dirt parking lot. So, I sat on the curb in the parking lot talking to the director. We clicked with each other instantly. By the time I got back to LA, I had read the script, broke it down, and this started the beginning of me working with Kiss & Tale Productions. Netflix became a partner with Kiss & Tale Productions and Voltage on this project for distribution.

PopHorror – The music is very intense and dramatic throughout the film’s runtime. Do you think that was important to keep the suspense and mystery that this film delivers?

Jennifer Smith – I always find that each film or project I do are extremely different and requires different musical needs of all levels. Some projects want the music to be a bigger character than others.  In the case of Deadly Illusions, Anna Elizabeth James had a strong sonic vision for her characters and story. We had talked about the story and characters a lot including what her vision was. We used music to add layers to characters, the story, and to give the audience subtle clues about characters’ point of view or perception of the world as they see it. For example, there is a scene where Grace is watching the kids in the pool and Mary is cleaning the windows. We see her look over and see this very American fun moment of kids laughing and her “perfect” life. The music we used conveyed this 1950’s perfect moment that had a slight fantasy vibe with a slightly dark undertone. I call it the “David Fincher” moment of the film. We played with the idea of the character’s point of view as well as leaving musical easter egg clues of the character’s view of other characters or a dark secret. It was a fun challenge to use music in this way and it meant a lot to me that Anna trusted me to execute her vision the way she wanted.

PopHorror – Yes that’s a great scene, love it! Since this film is a thriller, I was wondering if you enjoy the horror genre and if so, what is your favorite horror film?

Jennifer Smith – I love the horror/thriller genre a lot. I think it is extremely underrated and I have been a fan since I was a kid. I was that strange kid that wanted to watch all the horror films from all eras and countries. Horror films aren’t just about gore or scares, they can start a conversation or tackle complex social issues. I love how these films can start a conversation on top or open the audience’s eyes to something we take as “that is just how society is”. This is one reason why I was drawn to them as well as the cool makeup. I am excited how this genre is starting to receive more clout in the industry not only for storytelling but also as creatives in our careers.

PopHorror – Yes!!! Any other films/projects you’d like to talk about?


Jennifer Smith – I am really excited about developing and producing scripted tv, especially young adult content. Growing up, content like “Buffy” spoke to me and I have always wanted to create YA content that can inspire other pre-teens and teenagers. I have a scripted tv show that I am producing called The Fallen where I am working with two new talented young female writers. Just like horror, young adult content has a way to start conversations and to give voices to this audience worldwide that may not see themselves on the screen and think something is wrong with them.

I am also working on a new holiday musical special where I partnered with a producer who comes from the theatre and live space. Theatre is for everyone, not just the rich. I was inspired to create this holiday special when I worked on American Idol. I worked with kids from around the US and I realized that a lot of them haven’t experienced theatre before since their families could not afford this luxury. I was heartbroken and wanted to create this gift for everyone.

PopHorror – I love YA so the Fallen seems right up my alley, so I’ll have to check it out. Jennifer, you seem like a truly exquisite human being and I’m so honored that I had the chance to talk with you. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and I look forward to all your upcoming endeavors. 

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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