Five New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Selected as Finalists in LA Live Score Film Festival

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Whether a director is choosing a song to play in an onscreen location or adding a composed score to the soundtrack to punctuate an emotion, music is a key element for a successful film.

This May, the Film Festival Department of the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles selected five student and alumni filmmakers to participate in the 2018 Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival. For this unique event, each filmmaker was matched with a professional composer from The Academy of Scoring Arts who then wrote their score. Several filmmakers also worked with post-production sound professor Huch Platt to enhance their sound design. This Saturday, July 21, 2018, the films will be screened for the first time before a live audience while the orchestra Helix Collective plays the new music.

We caught up with the filmmakers as they looked forward to the event and asked them about their experiences.

Nicolas Varela

Film: Aphrodite

Composer: Drum & Lace

Logline: A frustrated career in singing drives Aphrodite to pay with her own flesh and identity for an uncertain opportunity in the industry.

What has it been like to work with your composer?

Working with Sofia has been such an amazing experience. I think the directors of the festival made a really good match by putting us together. She really understands my visuals and knows how to translate that in music. We are really communicative with each other, and we are always working for feedback. Beyond the festival, Sofia and I are creating an artistic relationship of mutual support and networking. 

What have you learned in this process? 

I learned how important music is. Film is born when music and motion picture meet each other. My film is more powerful than before just because the music is able to highlight emotions and thoughts in an underneath level. Music is not explicit, music works through sensations. 

What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

I hope the orchestra can make justice of Sofia’s work and that the people in the audience can just enjoy this very unique experience of watching a movie with an orchestra playing live. 

What was it like working on your sound design?

Huch is such an amazing professional and teacher. I never had classes with him, but when we worked together he was teaching me a lot in the process. Sound design is really underrated among amateur filmmakers. After working with Huch, I realized the big difference a good sound design makes to your film. Sound design is atmosphere, it’s mood, it’s subtle but very important. 

 

Lanyue Zhang

Film: Arrow and Oil

Composer: George Oldziey

Logline: Around 1010 A.D. during the Northern Song Dynasty, Chen YaoZi, a civil officer from the imperial court with superb archery skills starts questioning the relationship between his archery and his work after he meets an old oil seller.

What has it been like to work with your composer?

We did a spotting session at our first meeting, and I gave George some references. He did two versions of music, then my co-director (Majik Jingwei Zhou) and I gave him some notes. He changed some parts, and although we had some different ideas, we accepted each other idea in the end.

What have you learned in this process? 

We learned how to communicate with our composer. To make sure our composer can get our story, we let him watch our film and talk about his first idea, then we explained our story and the metaphor in our film. I learned communication is very important in this process. On the other hand, because this is a festival event, we didn’t hire him as our composer. Our collaboration is not like the normal process between director and composer, so we gave George more freedom to do the music.

What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

We are looking forward to bringing our crew to the festival, and also we are looking forward to the live performances.

 

Vicken Joulfayan

Film: Liminal

Composer: Shaun Chasin

Logline: Nadim tries to escape his own reality but soon realizes that he is being forced to confront it more than ever.

What has it been like to work with your composer?

I was not sure in the beginning how the composer would approach my movie after explaining the mood and what genre of music is needed. Then he sent me a first rough and it was way too different from what I wanted. We spoke about it in more detail, and I gave him a deeper explanation of each part. He blew my mind with the updated version.

What have you learned in this process? 

I learned to wait and let the composer do his thing, and start tweaking from there, because I did not expect the music to be what it is now, and I love it. That was mainly the composer’s personal touch on the film after understanding the beats of the story.

What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

Actually watching the movie and seeing the live orchestra play the music in front of us is the most exciting part for me!

Victoria Gagieva

Film: Niara

Composer: Steph Kowal

Logline: A lonely child soldier trapped in the horror of an African militant group experiences a simple act of humanity from a person she is about to condemn to death.

What has it been like to work with your composer?

Working with Steph has been great! We met once in person to watch the film together and discuss/dissect it to find a strategy and approach for the music. We were talking about characters, their situations and intentions and also discussing examples of best practices from different films. It was so productive that the first try was exactly what “Niara” needed music-wise.

What have you learned in this process? 

The whole experience taught me to be prepared thoroughly for such conversations. I had characters’ back stories ready for Steph, I could explain and reason about the story, ideas and intentions. I was also very open to what she as a professional was bringing to the table, and overall, our collaboration turned out to be perfect.

What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

This will be my first festival experience, so I’m excited about it and open to it. 

What was it like working on your sound design?

This was my first time working with a professional sound mixer, and that was extremely interesting and useful. Besides working on the film, Huch explained lots of nuances and practices for future projects. How you organize the tracks for the sound mixer, deliver elements. He was very impressed with my work on the sound design and basically he went off of it. He didn’t have to do any sound design. He just had to mix it and level everything up, distinguish dialogue from the background, things like that. We did two sessions of a couple of hours each.

Oliver Weinmann

Film: The Pill

Composer: Jonathan Keith

Logline: A dark comedy about a woman who is trapped in a relationship, and the only way she is able to go on is by taking a pill.

What has it been like to work with your composer?

Being able to work with Jonathan has been an incredible experience. We are both so passionate about the craft of filmmaking. Yet we view films so differently. I focus on the picture whereas Jonathan follows the film by the music and sounds. When I was able to rewatch the film I made with the soundtrack Jonathan created, it evoked emotions that I could not have created with imagery. 

What have you learned in this process? 

I have learned to take more of a backseat. As a director, it is easy to over-direct. After meeting Jonathan and talking to him about the vision of my film, I knew that I had to let go of the reigns and let him do what he is best at doing. 

What are you looking forward to in the live screening?  

I look forward to an evening filled with music, storytelling, and the people who put it all together. 

 

We could not have put it better ourselves, and we wish the best of luck to all the filmmakers!

 

The New York Film Academy community is invited to attend the LA Live Score Film Festival this Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 6-10 pm at Barnsdall Art Park. To purchase tickets, please follow this link and use promo code FilmScoresRock to receive a discount.

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