June 26, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

KARYN RACHTMAN
The Impresario

Age 34 Why her? Rachtman has become the hot soundtrack producer of the ’90s, with hits including Pulp Fiction, Clueless, and Bulworth. Soundtracks, she says, are “not just marketing tools.” Work habits Drive-by strategizing. On Bulworth, she worked while cruising in her BMW. Next? Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights.

ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL
The Classicist

Age 44 Why him? Among film composing’s new guard, this Renaissance man may be the most shtick-free—perhaps because he’s too busy writing ballets, operas, or Vietnam oratorios to waste time on movie conventionality. “I split my life in thirds—film, theater, and the concert stage,” says Goldenthal. Work habits A 9-to-5 guy…p.m. to a.m. Tight deadlines stoke creativity, especially “when I’m in the subway and see my name on a movie poster, and I haven’t written a note.” Next? His fourth Neil Jordan movie, In Dreams; a trumpet concerto for Wynton Marsalis.

MARK MOTHERSBAUGH
Tunes for ‘Toons

Age 48 Why him? Founder of the seminal new-wave band Devo, Mothersbaugh brings the same geek-funk sensibility to scoring, whether it’s Pee-wee’s Playhouse or a McDonald’s commercial. Having written the music for the Nickelodeon cartoon hit Rugrats, he’s now whipping up a score for the forthcoming film version and directing its soundtrack, which features David Bowie, Beck, Jakob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Busta Rhymes. (One number involves the artists, providing voices for babies, “in a Busby Berkeley choreography of bassinets in a maternity ward.”) Work habits For inspiration, he draws on everything from Andy Warhol to elevator music. In the studio, he thrives on the way that the singular nature of soundtrack work can creatively rejuvenate artists: “They’re working on a project that takes them outside of their normal arena.” Next? Finishing up the soundtracks to Dead Man on Campus and Rushmore, and starting a project with artist Georganne Deen.

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