Classical Minnesota Stories

Twin Cities' Film Score Fest aims to match filmmakers with composers

The Film Score Fest orchestra performs the scores live at a screening of the films.Provided

February 11, 2019

Are you a composer looking for a filmmaker or a filmmaker looking for a composer? If so, Film Score Fest is something you should know about.

Film Score Fest was formed in 2014 by two longtime college friends who were running creative challenge organizations. Oanh Vu rallied would-be filmmakers through MNKINO, and Charlie McCarron challenged budding composers through the Composer Quest podcast. They combined forces, and Film Score Fest was born.

During the first year, they solicited entries from around the world.

"But we soon realized there are many, many local creators who wanted to get involved," McCarron said. "So we've decided to keep it mostly our little secret here in Minnesota."

By focusing on local talent, they have been able to foster and empower a spirit of experimentation deeply ingrained in the Twin Cities community.

"MNKINO's tagline is, 'MNKINO is an excuse for anyone to make a film, and to meet others who like doing the same. It's not just for film school graduates, MFA candidates or videographers. It's for you.' When selecting films for the fest, our judges look for creativity rather than just technical quality," McCarron said.

Right out of the gate, Film Score Fest was embraced by the community.

"The reaction from audience members has been overwhelmingly positive," he said. "Even though the films we screen are sometimes very experimental, the added element of the live orchestra makes everything more approachable and exciting. It's sometimes even more fun to see what a composer will do with a DIY film shot on someone's phone, rather than watching something completely polished."

So far, composers have been easier to sign up than filmmakers.

"The composers can instantly envision the coolness of this opportunity," he said. "But once filmmakers see their film come to life with an orchestra, they're hooked. That's why we get so many repeat participants."

The ever-increasing participation has called for some changes of venue over the years.

"We started having our screenings in the Landmark Center auditorium, but eventually we had to move to a bigger space in the Science Museum Auditorium."

Still, the organizers strive to keep Film Score Fest a small, local event.

"While the fest has grown in number of participating artists and audience members, we try to keep the fest super approachable to new creators."

With scores performed by a live orchestra for each film, Film Score Fest has really shined a light on the orchestral talent that is core to the Twin Cities community.

"It's always great to see talented composers come out of the woodwork here in Minnesota to create incredibly fun and moving scores," McCarron said. "Our goal is to give composers a wide palette of sounds to write scores with, so we include one of each orchestral instrument, plus a few jazz instruments. We've also experimented with inviting guest soloists, including last year's live vocal score by Dua Saleh" — who was recently highlighted by Bandcamp as album of the day.

The fest also is working hard to foster mentorships between new and experienced filmmakers and composers.

"Writing a score and making a film can be a very intimidating thing, so we're hoping to create a few more formal mentorships this year, including ones with teen filmmakers at the Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center, which is housed in the Science Museum of Minnesota," he said.

Over the past five years, Film Score Fest has become an integral part of the film and music communities in the Twin Cities. Each year it chooses a new theme to inspire creators and has been able to continue its efforts without a registration fee to increase accessibility for diverse artists in the community.

If you are looking for a reason to experiment, need an excuse to try something new or just want to meet new people, Film Score Fest is looking for you. Film Score Fest is hosting a kickoff event at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at FilmNorth.