“I’m producing and scoring the music for my first ever indie film short as part of the 60 day San Diego Film Con Challenge,” says multi-instrumentalist Alex Guillen. “It’s a timed competition called True San Diego: A Film Con Challenge, which tasks filmmakers to make a 15-minute film short from start to finish within 60 days.”
The competition kicked off December 1. “All stories came from the writers group So Say We All and aim to tell the real-life true stories of San Diegans.” The short drama chosen for Guillen to score was Coming and Going in Vegas, which he describes as “a story about loss and coming to terms with it by dealing with it head-on. The protagonist, Frank, is going to Vegas to visit his aunt and dying uncle. But, along the way, he’s also wrestling with his own demons as a recovering gambler who lost it all, trying to chase the big win.”
The 11-minute short was filmed over four days at locales like a private residence on Bonita Vista Way in Jamul (a neighborhood unaccustomed to five-ton equipment trucks full of movie gear and props) and on East Main in El Cajon, at the Pizza Stop. “We shot early in the morning, before they opened, and I think that ended up being their last day in business. They closed right after that.” The film was written by Robert Cox of So Say We All, adapting a story by Frank Dipalermo, a local talent agent. “Our lead actor, Mark Anthony Cox, plays Frank in the movie, and the real Frank is Mark’s talent agent in real life. We didn’t find this out until halfway through the production!”
Guillen’s only soundtrack training was a Berklee Online course in Composition for Film, TV, and Games. “I mainly play piano on the soundtrack, which I recorded myself directly into my DAW via a MIDI Keyboard Controller. This allows me to trigger realistic-sounding grand piano samples, as well as other instruments that I have available in my virtual library.”
“I’m finding that the virtual sound libraries are becoming more realistic sounding. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to have an entire score made from just virtual samples for low-budget feature films and shorts.”
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Coming and Going in Vegas will be screened along with other shorts during San Diego Film Week at the Museum of Photographic Arts on March 9, as part of the True SD Screenings, The Realist Tendency Shorts Program.