Written and directed by Anuj Nijhawan, According to Plan A is a heartfelt and realistic portrayal of an immigrant’s struggle to succeed in the high tech world of Silicon Valley. Abhi (played by Ali Fazal) works in a big tech company, confident about his life plans and optimistic about his future career. Things don’t go according to plan and Abhi must discover a new path forward with the help of his two closest friends, Raghu (Sunny Moza) and Gia (Angela Gulner). All three of the lead actors deliver honest and likable performances in this tender and bilingual short film about aspirations and overcoming setbacks. Anuj worked closely with me on the score for his film. We started out with several listening sessions where Anuj played for me some of his musical influences and musical ideas for the film, which was exciting and educational for me because of our different cultural backgrounds. Another reason that I was excited about working on this project was that I would not only get to compose the underscore but I would also get to write and produce the songs for the opening title sequence, the montage scenes and the ending credits.
The final soundtrack I delivered for the film spanned multiple genres including electro pop and rock, but the pieces of music that I enjoyed working on the most were the underscores for the layoff scenes. They had to be somber and pensive, but not too dark and dreary. After experimenting with different instruments and motifs, I was drawn to the simplicity of the rhythmic droning of tapping on Asian jars tuned to only three different notes. With a bit of reverb, the result is almost hypnotic. It fit the scene perfectly and it was one of the first cues of music that Anuj approved.
Earlier this year, the film won “Best of the Fest” at the Riverside International Film Festival. It premiered at the Tampa Bay India International Film Festival and it was also an official selection at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival, the Maryland International Film Festival, the Santa Rosa International Film Festival and the Indisches Filmfestival Stuttgart.
San Jose-based director DB Cheng met up with me last year and gave me the script for My Name Is Seven, a short romantic comedy he planned to shoot in Los Angeles with hip-hop dancers Steve Terada and Brian Hirano of Quest Crew and Yuri Tag of Kaba Modern, best known for their performances on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. DB already had a few songs in place from The Bangerz and wanted some additional flavors from Boyfriend Academy. I wrote and recorded two electro pop songs for My Name Is Seven: “Do It 4 Me,” an up-tempo, four-on-the-floor, dance pop number; and “Gimme Summer Dat,” a mid-tempo, urban pop track. Both songs made the final cut.
The best part of the process was running the live sound playback at the shoot in in Los Angeles for the dance studio scene and getting to see the dancer’s choreography bring “Do It 4 Me” to life.
My Name Is Seven toured the Asian American film festival circuit in 2011 and 2012. I attended the premiere screening with DB at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film was also an official selection in the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, the San Diego Asian Film Festival, the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, the Boston Asian American Film Festival, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the PBS Online Film Festival.
DB Cheng and Tony Smith, premiere of My Name Is Seven, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
New York Film Academy student Adam Ishmael had written and directed his first short thriller, The Last Mission, as his thesis film project. His original composer was unavailable due to a family crisis, so Adam went online to find a composer who could work on a tight deadline and deliver a fully completed score within four days.
When he first emailed me a few screen captures to show the quality and tone of his 35mm film, I immediately started developing a sound palette, character motifs and thematic elements. The artistic direction Adam gave me was “somber, intense, modern and introspective.” Some scenes needed only a sparse and ambient soundscape, while others, like the final showdown, called for a climactic and percussive build.
Our collaboration over the next four days was done entirely online; Adam would send me the video files and I would send him drafts of the score. His team was doing ADR work while my score was coming together. Four days later, we made the deadline for the May 28 premiere screening. I wasn’t able to attend the New York screening but Adam told me that it was an audience favorite and that he was approached by a producer interested in working with him on a feature-length project.