In a career spanning more than forty years, four-time EMMY nominated composer David Michael Frank has written the music for over ninety feature, cable, and television films, as well as over five hundred episodes of national primetime series.
He has scored films for such renowned directors as Andrew Davis, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Wes Craven, Abel Ferrara, and William Shatner. These films include the action film Above The Law, the urban comedy I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, the erotic thriller Poison Ivy, the Oscar-nominated Imax film Cosmic Voyage, as well as David Mamet’s A Life In The Theatre, starring Jack Lemmon and Matthew Broderick. Additionally, Frank has contributed music to Forrest Gump and The Mask.
His score for the 2018 feature film, Snapshots, starring Piper Laurie and Brooke Adams, received many accolades and awards including Best Score at the 2019 Chandler International Film Festival, and was specifically singled out at the 2019 Creation International Film Festival in Ottawa for its contribution to the film, which won Best in Show. Frank also received Honorable Mention for this score from the Queen Palm International Film Festival, as well as Best Score nominations from the 2018 Paris Art and Movie Awards and the Auckland International Film Festival. The film was directed by Melanie Mayron, whom Frank has worked with on five films including Slap Her She’s French!, starring Piper Perabo and Michael McKean, and Toothless, starring Kirstie Alley and Lynn Redgrave, which was nominated for a DGA (Directors Guild of America) award.
A classical collaboration with Michael Jackson
Two months before his tragic death, Michael Jackson personally chose Frank to orchestrate and conduct a new album of Jackson’s original, classical compositions. They began collaborating on the first two instrumental pieces, which were going to be recorded by an 80-piece orchestra in Los Angeles or London. Jackson and Frank first met 20 years earlier on a television special honoring Sammy Davis Jr., for which Frank received his first EMMY nomination.
Frank's second EMMY nomination came for his score to the ABC film, Annie: A Royal Adventure, soon followed by another EMMY nomination for his song “Togetherness,” from the Disney film, You Lucky Dog. Frank was nominated for his fourth EMMY, this time for his theme from the relaunch of the ABC series, The Mole. This music was performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded his scores with orchestras in Prague, Lisbon, Vancouver, San Francisco, Miami, and Salt Lake City. Among his many television series credits are Columbo, Bad News Bears, the sci-fi cult series TekWar, and Jack & Jill, which featured future stars Sarah Paulson, Amanda Peet, and Jaime Pressly. Frank scored the pivotal last episode of Season 3 where Mork & Mindy finally express their true feelings towards each other. He also scored the very last completed episode of Diff’rent Strokes..
Bringing silent film back to life
Recently, Frank wrote an original score for the 1927 Mary Pickford silent film, My Best Girl, which was recorded by the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic and premiered live to picture by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with Frank conducting. The score was also performed live to picture, again with Frank conducting, by the Heliopolis Symphony at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival to honor Martin Scorsese, whose Film Foundation helped restore the print. The concert was held outdoors at Ibirapuera Park, attended by over 10,000 people.
Frank also scored the Pickford documentary, Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies, which premiered at Telluride and won Best Film at the 2014 Universal Film Festival. Another documentary Frank recently scored is Celebrating Laughter: The Life and Films of Colin Higgins. He also wrote a dark, moody score for the noir short film, The Last Hurrah, which was nominated for Best Score at the 2016 Genre Celebration Festival. In 1994, Frank scored the live Boeing 777 Rollout for an audience of 105,000. It won the Grand Prize for Best Corporate Event at the New York International Film Festival.
Big names and a few surprises
One of the great joys of working in films is the chance to write for some of the world’s finest singers, actors, and musicians. Frank got Gregg Allman to perform the closing credit song he co-wrote for Out For Justice, and Dionne Warwick sang the main title song Frank co-wrote for The Prince, starring Billy Dee Williams. He arranged and co-produced the end credit song for Marked For Death, performed by Jimmy Cliff and Steven Seagal. For Tank Girl, he arranged and orchestrated an elaborate, over-the-top version of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” performed by Lori Petty, Naomi Watts, Ann Magnuson, and company. Vicki Lawrence sang on-camera a song Frank co-wrote for Laverne & Shirley. But the most surprising performer was Hulk Hogan, who quasi-rapped the end credit song Frank co-wrote for Suburban Commando, entitled “It’s A Nice Place to Live, (But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit).” For Above The Law, Frank featured guitarist Hiram Bullock, who came from New York to record the score. For the Fox mini-series, Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story, Frank featured saxophonist Joshua Redman, who also came from New York for the recording. Speaking of saxophonists, Frank arranged a special version of “Blue Suede Shoes” for Clarence Clemons that he performed on-camera for Diff’rent Strokes.
The youngest conductor on Broadway
Frank was born and raised in Baltimore, where he studied piano and composition at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and was a soloist with the Peabody Orchestra at age 16. After further studies in Paris and a degree from Northwestern University, Frank moved to New York where he spent several years conducting and/or playing piano on Broadway for the musicals Grease, Pippin, Tricks, Sextet, and the infamous Prettybelle, which closed before its Broadway debut despite its pedigree, which included Angela Lansbury, Gower Champion, Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Alexander Cohen.
Less than one month after turning twenty-two, Frank conducted The Me Nobody Knows at the Helen Hayes Theater, becoming the youngest conductor on Broadway at the time. He continued conducting the show through the end of its run at the Longacre Theater. Frank accompanied Hal David for the famed Lyrics & Lyricists series at the 92nd Street Y. In 1976, Frank co-wrote an original musical with Eric Blau (Jacques Brel is Alive and Well) for the bicentennial, I Paid My Dues, starring Elly Stone, which received its world premiere at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., before an audience of Cabinet members and other government officials. The show then moved to the Astor Place Theater in New York, where it starred Joe Morton.
Musical Director career
While based in New York, Frank arranged and/or co-wrote songs for Irene Cara, Elly Stone, Jane Olivor, Mary Travers, Cissy Houston, Carl Anderson, Donna McKechnie, and Northern J. Calloway. Frank conducted and arranged Jane Olivor’s many television appearances, her two sold-out Carnegie Hall shows, her appearances with the Dallas Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra, as well as her three-week residency with Johnny Mathis at the famed Olympia in Paris, where Edith Piaf was discovered, and home to legendary concerts by the Beatles, Jacques Brel, Marlene Dietrich, and the Grateful Dead. In Los Angeles, Frank has conducted TV appearances for Jim Carrey, Bonnie Franklin, Jane Olivor, Irene Cara, and Joel Higgins.
Frank returned to his Broadway roots to co-write a new musical based on Ian Ogilvy’s play, A Slight Hangover. In September 2018, he wrote original music for the new play, Will’s War, which was directed by Karen Arthur. This project marked their seventh collaboration, having previously worked together on such projects as The Staircase, starring Barbara Hershey, and A Will Of Their Own, starring Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn, for which Frank received a Golden Reel Award nomination.