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Scoring Big: Student-Led Clubs Making Movie Magic

SFCM students have produced the first short film at the school, and a new film-scoring club helps peers get to grips with the sounds of cinema.

May 8, 2023 by Alex Heigl

SFCM students are taking the movie industry into their own hands—and cameras. Between clubs like the Conservatory's new Film Scoring Club and Cinema Club students like Caroline Feitosa and Bobby Alarcon producing their own short film, there's no shortage of silver screen magic floating around.

Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) students Alarcon and Feitosa, and their Cinema Club are behind Breached, about two young women navigating the sudden death of their tech-giant mother, which premiered at the TAC showcase in April. "The reason why we did this in the first place was because we're both very interested in film scoring and you don't have a lot of opportunities per se in academia to score original content," Alarcon said of the project, funded with a grant from the school's Professional Development department and starring and produced by SFCM students. "So it was sort of like, well, what if we just create our own original thing to do music for?"

two students look over a film score in a SFCM TAC studio

The pair spent the winter break immersed in screenplays and the writing process and began reaching out and assembling a team when they returned to school. Production started mid-February and was wrapped by March. "We originally had four shooting days and we condensed that to two shooting days," Alarcon explained. "The film is just under 30 minutes, and so getting that shot in two days and then the post-production of editing, color grading, VFX, recording the music…"

a movie poster of a dew covered window. it says breached on it

"Bobby is amazing to work with because he works so well under pressure," Feitosa said. "There would be like eight people asking him, 'What am I supposed to do right now? What do you need me to do?' Seeing him handle that with such grace and kindness was really inspiring to me."

With the film's music, Alarcon and Feitosa were stepping back into their comfort zone as musicians, albeit on the same compressed schedule. "The final cut, at least for scoring purposes, was finished seven days before the recording session," Alarcon said. "It was 5:00 AM every night that night, that week after spring break."

But, Feitosa said, "It was good practice for the real world, because I have scored a short film before, and the director was pretty much like, 'I need this in a couple days.'"

Meanwhile, Declan McLeish and Udit Srivathsan are the TAC students behind another collaboration between Srivathsan's Recording Club and McLeish's Film Scoring Club. "I was in Recording Club last year," McLeish said, "and the collaboration came about because people are interested in writing for film or TV, but composers need to learn how to run a recording session or at least be present and see how things are done." The collaboration culminates in an end-of-semester Film Scoring Club Showcase May 8, in which McLeish and Srivathsan will have their works premiered along with other students. 

two tac student headshots

Srivathsan and McLeish.

Aside from that educational aspect, McLeish said most of the club's focus is networking and developing a non-musical tool set for working in film. "I think the main point that I'm trying to get across to people is, there's so many people who write music, so it's important to be able to do more than just write music, like build relationships or kind of act like a customer service role—how do you support a director and make them feel confident in your ability to take the lead on the music."

One the networking side, McLeish—working essentially through social media—has achieved an impressive list of guest lecturers for the club. This includes Taran Mitchell, an LA-based composer who works at Hans Zimmer's production and publishing company 14th Street Music, and Juan Dussán, who recently composed the score for Martin Scorsese's daughter Francesca's debut short film, Crimson Ties. In February, they even visited Pixar Animation Studios' headquarters in Emeryville, Oakland, viewing in-progress shorts with Music and Sound Editor Barney Jones and touring the facility.

SFCM's TAC department provides students with inroads to the world of professional scoring for film, TV (and video games) via visiting lecturers, but with students these eager to start working in the industry, Hollywood had better be prepared for them, not the other way around. 

Film Scoring Club's student showcase is May 8. Learn about studying Technology and Applied Composition at SFCM.