The Music of Mango Sticky Rice, The Musical (Part 1)

This past Saturday (Dec. 12), the screening for our gorgeous musical film short, Mango Sticky Rice (MSR), was held at the Eileen Norris Theater at USC. A romantic comedy about a woman who is pressured into trying online dating, MSR was one of three (3) films funded by and produced at the USC School of Cinematic Arts advanced production course, aka. "546." It featured lead performances by Mina Son and Christopher Park, and was directed and written by Mallorie Buenaventura Ortega and Naomi Iwamoto, respectively. 

I signed on this project as the lead songwriter/composer. and music supervisor for the production.

This was an interesting situation because I normally come onto a project during post-production (when everything's been filmed and edited, and then create a soundtrack or work on the sound aspects and such). Also, when I write and record songs that have lyrics, we typically record vocals while we record instrumentals, or after the instrumentals are recorded. 

HOWEVER, because this is a musical, the music has to be written and final vocals recorded (with just scratch instrumentals, live instrumentals came later after picture lock) BEFORE we start filming (pre-production), so that the actors can lip sync in front of the camera (production). Not only this, but I also had to be on set during filming and work very closely with the sound team, to make sure that we had all the music elements in place for specific scenes and shots, and that the actors were actually singing the right words and in sync with playback audio.

Furthermore, we had a scene recorded in one shot (aka. oner) and recorded vocals live on set, the way the recent Les Miserables film was done. Much more easily said than done.

In other words, this was quite an ambitious endeavor for a short film. I started writing the songs in August while I was still in Boston, and continued with any editing or changes during production (sometimes all the way up until the night before filming!). 

It was rewarding to have had such a strong influence over how the film would sound and turn out. I was connected with a lyricist (Jahmal Holland) on the team who had written quite a bit already, but as I was working to write the music and fitting in the existing lyrics, I found that I had to write additional lyrics to help along the melodies and create hooks. Some of these ideas that I'd come up with were incorporated into the script, which is really somewhat terrifying because I'm not a script writer. 

In fact, I ended up wearing a lot more hats than I'd originally imagined, due to the nature of this project and tight deadlines. I'm not even mad! I was pushed to the limit, and came out stronger than ever. More details to come regarding the process!

Cheers! -Diana