Scoring Short Films

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Close up of main antagonist in "The Stranger"


The Stranger

Read more about The Stranger.

Gross Little Worm

Read more about Gross Little Worm.

Trailer for Sleeper Agent

Forest, No Moon

A original composition performed by the Brightwork newmusic ensemble at Chapman University’s Salmon Recital Hall.

The Stranger


A woman packs her car in a seemingly deserted parking lot for a camping trip. A man approaches her, offering help. Nothing announces that he has ill-intentions, but she can’t help but feel something’s not quite right.


The score had to steep the film with uneasiness. Debussy’s Des pas sure la neige provided the inspiration for the film’s theme. Composers tend to either depict snow as lighthearted, a la Christmas music, or as some concerning flurry.

In la neige, Debussy depicts dread. The piece’s mood honors its title in an almost comically literal sense. But taking la neige for what it is, the listener senses that something more than just schlepping is happening in the world of the traveler. Something’s churning beneath the surface in both la neige and The Stranger.


Post-production for this film occurred entirely during quarantine. So it was solely up to me and instruments on hand, one of which happens to be a bowed psaltery. I still haven’t learned how to play it, so it sits there detuning.

Luckily, this is just what I needed for a hit point when the protagonist’s keys come into focus as well as for a subsequent shift point. One upward glissando on the psaltery and some processing in Logic provides the eerie, crunchy color, highlighting the danger she could come under once the antagonist has them in his possession.

Otherwise, sampled and synthesized sound comprises the score. Although Covid restrictions primarily influenced this decision, the bluer palette of synthesizers reflects the film’s environment well, cold and concrete.

I intended the processing during the credits to sound like a tinny, dilapidated loudspeaker in a parking garage, hence the addition of parking garage foley. It’s unnerving in my cultural context as I can’t recall a time where I’ve heard music playing over a PA system in a parking garage. It reminds me of vaporwave (specifically mallsoft) more than anything which always makes me feel surreal.

Close up of blah blah in "The Stranger"

Gross Little Worm


A woman berates her friend for not cutting ties with a repulsive ex, but perhaps she was being too harsh…


When I initially discussed the score with Kristina Jin, writer, co-director, and actor, we both had old Pixar shorts in mind.

I didn’t have the budget nor skill to perform a waltz on the accordion. But I wanted my work to have the same endearing, tongue-in-cheek heart. At the same time, it was important for both directors and I not to distract too much from the dialogue; Geri’s Game and most other Pixar shorts have the benefit of not having much dialogue, if any at all.


The result was a minimalist version of the Pixar feel while adhering to the quarantine instrumentation limits mentioned above. There are only three voices in the score: maraca, bass, and electric piano.

Yes, that’s one maraca. I lost the other at some point. But it ended up being perfect for my purposes and a nice opportunity for live percussion, such as it is!

The maraca sets the mood, fades into the backgrounds, and then lets the electric piano drive the rhythm. It does the heavy lifting while extended arpeggiated electric piano chords keep things interesting—but inconspicuous—on top.

The film maintains the Pixar short trajectory by utilizing the sentimental ending. Vince Guaraladi’s “Love Will Come” popped into my head. The chord progression and overall feel of that piece inspired mine.