A New Documentary About Black Roller Skate Culture


Jongnic Bontemps (Courtesy photo)
Bontemps in his element. (Courtesy Photo)

His name is Jongnic Bontemps, remember it. In the very near future, it’s going to be popping up a lot.

Bontemps is a gifted music composer and the owner of Composer Tech, and it’s his musical composition in the new documentary “United Skates” (by directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown) that is causing the strong pre-festival buzz, and that’s always good news for new filmmakers and film festival honchos. It might also be one of the key reasons the production company, Get Lifted Film Co. and partners John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius have just joined as executive producers of “United Skates.”

Making its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 19th), “United Stakes” is a documentary that centers on the battle in a racially charged environment to save African-American roller rinks, an underground subculture that has thrived for decades in the U.S., supporting community and helping hip-hop grow by featuring acts from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre in Los Angeles to Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Naughty by Nature on the East Coast. Their rinks have been dwindling, and the doc becomes part history lesson and part investigation into racial politics as the filmmakers visit Black rink owners in L.A., Chicago, North Carolina and elsewhere.

In speaking with the film’s music composer Jongnic Bontemps, it’s absolutely clear that he operates from a place of great love.

The word “love” is described as an intense feeling of deep affection. Connecting the power of that word to how “babies fill parents with intense feelings of love” which is with deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, and endearment.

Jongnic Bontemps loves music. A family man with a supportive wife and two sons, his success as a music composer almost didn’t happen, like many creative people who dream of careers that fit their passionate side, life happened and making money, and for Bontemps, good money became his focus for a long, long time. Then something happened … he found a music composition teacher at USC (Univesity of Southern California) and convinced him to give him private lessons, driving from the Bay Area, to L.A., he was determined to find a way to merge his two passions, and he did so by creating Composer Tech, but let me rewind.

An entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, Bontemps well-paid day job for 15 years consisted of building award-winning software products, enterprise web-based applications, and pioneering software as a service for software security, building and managing state of the art data centers. He also hired and developed quality assurance and product management teams. As the owner of L.A. based Composer Tech to this day, he still maintains his network of software engineers, data center operators and IT professionals that can be harnessed to solve the needs of his Composer Tech’s clients.

A graduate of the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television program at the University of Southern California (USC), Bontemps seamlessly blends his vast experience in computing and software with his experience as a composer.

It’s such a unique position.

Here is an excerpt from an hour-long conversation with the music composer of “United Skates” and owner of Composer Tech Jongnic Bontemps

Los Angeles Sentinel:  I enjoyed listening to your compositions, so much so that I am now using them as background music when I write, so thank you.

Jongnic Bontemps: (laughing) You are welcome.  I saw your Twitter compliment, and I “liked it” so thank you.

LAS:  At first glance, your road to becoming a music composer isn’t exactly, well traditional, is it? Or is it?  You had a brilliant career in Silicon Valley, true?

JB: (laughing) Yes, that is true. I spent 15 years in Silicon Valley working as a software developer, development manager, and ultimately as an entrepreneur.

LAS: I am floored by your tech background.  Where did you learn music composition if you were killing it in Silicon Valley? It’s not a natural connector, you have to train to become a music composer, correct?

JB: Correct, I am a graduate of the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television program at the University of Southern California (USC), but to get there took time. I found a teacher from USC and convinced him to give me private lessons while still working in the tech field. It wasn’t long before I knew that studying composition, full time, was what I needed and, what I wanted to do.

LAS: The camaraderie of USC film graduates has achieved legend status, I’ve personally witnessed it, and it’s nothing less than impressive.

JB:(laughing) You are 100% correct. [USC alumni] We absolutely look out for each other. It’s more than just simple networking, there is a genuine respect that we have for each other and the program. We [alumni] know just how detailed the training is at USC, for me, in the film program, at least. There is a lot of great talent out there especially in the composer field, it’s exciting.

LAS: Is this why you were motivated to start Composer Tech, which is designed exclusively for composers?

JB:(Laughing) In part, yes. I have a wife, and two sons so I still have to pay the bills. It’s because I am a composer myself that I am able to develop IT and music technology solutions that work for film, TV and game composers.  Being a composer, I intuitively understand the needs and so my company Composer Tech builds custom targeted solutions.  It’s fun and I get to work with other composers, that’s a job perk. I also have a studio in my home.

LAS: I can hear the joy in your voice, you sound like a little kid. But where did you have your first taste of pure music?

JB: I do have my roots in the church and jazz world. I am a pianist. I grew up in Brooklyn and I studied music at Yale, and then USC. Music has always been a part of my life.

LAS: As a composer, you were also very carefully nurtured, having been accepted in several important composition labs, correct?

JB: Correct, yes. I was selected as a Sundance Lab Composer Fellow in 2013 and, in 2014 I received a Time Warner Artist Fellowship.  Wow, time is really moving fast. I think I’ve worked on over 50 projects from film, TV and video games.  I still love doing work on short films, a lot.  And, again, my side business (Composer Tech) allows me to meet all types of composers, and that’s exciting!

LAS:In the world of musical composition, who have you worked alongside?

JB: Great question, some of the industry’s biggest for sure, like Alan Silverstri, Alexandre Desplat, Bruce Broughton, Danny Elfman, Christopher Lennertz, Christophe Beck, Marco Beltrami and Theodore Shapiro. Nothing beats real-life experience, another reason why I still love working on short films. In hip-hop, I also collaborated with Erykah Badu and NAS on the original song ‘This Bitter Land’ for the Sundance film ‘The Land.”

LAS:  Thanks, let’s get back to the Tribeca Film Festival and the sound of “United Skates.” What should people expect?

JB Definitely, my love for what I call the “hip-hop rhythmic elements” right alongside traditional film score components, let’s call it “instrumental hip-hop” (no lyrics).

LAS: I don’t know how you can find the time, Sir, but is there anything else that you’re doing that is not in your bio?

JB: Umm, let me think.  Does it say that I am also a teacher?

LAS: (laughing). No, it does not. Details, please?

JB: Well, I teach. I am a scoring professor at USC (University of Southern California).

LAS: Ok, I am finished, it’s only 24 hours in a day.  More on the teaching and your company, later when we meet in New York for the premiere of “United Skates” at Tribeca Film Festival, 2018.

To learn more about  Composer Tech:  https://www.composertech.com/about

To visit the trailer for “United Skates”:  https://www.unitedskatesfilm.com/