The 2005 Indie Composer Contest: And the Winner Is… – By Jordan Garren

Back in April I did a short piece about the 2005 Independent Film Composer Contest that was hosted by Indieshare.com.  Originally the contest started out with twenty-nine contestants, but once it came down to voting, only sixteen lucky composers made the cut including: Michael Damon, Desha Dunnahoe, Adrian Ellis, Ron Meza, Mike Conway, Nicholas Pavkovic, Jon Ray, Martin Blasick, Arya Kumar, Paul Harckham, Richard Nelson, Daniel Smith, Billy Hale, Erik Dicksen, “Shadowman” (I know his true identity and I’m sure a lot of other people do too, but I’m still compelled to keep it a secret from the general public! Mwahahahaha!), and Carson Kievman. Before I even continue with this article I have to give a huge congratulations to all of you guys and gals.

I listened to all the compositions and truthfully I couldn’t seem to choose a favorite. I sat and took notes as each music track played, hoping to write down enough information for me to make my choice . I’m usually pretty good at deciding wether or not music is appropriate for certain scenes in a movie, but this time around I was stuck. Just take my advice and listen to the composed tracks or download the scored movie clips from The Awakening, then you too will see… or rather… hear what I mean! (You can sample the fine work of these indie composers yourself at Indieshare.com.) Anyway, the reason you’re reading this is to find out the results of the contest so without further ado, here are five winners of this awesome competition.

First place went to Michael Damon for his composition, “Rainbow Warrior.” With his music, Michael made extremely good use of percussion instruments (ranging from bass drums to triangles to tamborines) and creates an eerie and somewhat militaristic atmosphere with his music; it really fleshed out the movie clip! After listening to it a few times, I’d have to say that the voters were right to choose this one! Michael Damon and his wife Carolyn both own and operate Virtual Productions, an audio facility used by individuals in the music, film, and video game industries. Michael is quite adept in composing music and his credits include promo music for several major television networks (USA, NBC, and The Fox Speed Channel) and several short films. His latest achievement in the indie film world (other than winning first place in this contest) was his work as sound designer on Gowanus, Brooklyn, which won Best Short at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival! (Visit Michael’s website at: http://www.virtualproductions.net!

In second place was Desha Dunnahoe, who composed “Six Gun Gold.” Her musical style is much more restrained than Mike Damon’s, but she manages to add in crescendos and some neat instrumentals in all the right places. (Oh god, I like this one too! Why can’t I find one favorite?!) Desha has had an illustrious career in the music ‘biz’ and has done promo work for NBC, FOX, and ABC, tribute music for the L.A. Emmy Awards, and music for several independent films (including The Light and The Collector). In case you’re reading this Desha, you did a great job and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your compositions in the future! (Visit Desha’s homepage at: http://www.scoregarden.com/!)

Now here’s where it gets a little crazy, because two composers ran into a tie for third place (thus causing the fourth place position to be nixed). Adrian Ellis’ “Soylent Green” and Ron Meza’s “Scarlet Pimpernel” both received third place, which is interesting because each composer has their own distinct style. Adrian’s score is much more lively and has a sort of techno-pop/video game sound to it. The music fits quite well with the military action in the film clip and moves at a very brisk pace. “Soylent Green” really picks up toward the end of the track (during the movie clip’s thrilling chase scene) and definitely gets the adrenaline flowing! Currently, Adrian’s resume has been buildling up, as he has done music for nearly a dozen independent films ranging from shorts to full length documentaries. (Visit Adrian’s site at: http://www.adrianelliscomposer.com!)

Taking up the second part of the third place slot is Ron Meza whose musical style takes a much different route than Adrian Ellis’. Ron’s composition is much simpler and dare I say, more effective and thematically suitable than Adrian’s contribution. In fact, I’ll go even further out on a limb and say that Ron Meza’s music for this competition seems to mirror some of the music I’ve heard in several Full Moon films. (Could it be that Ron is a fan of Albert Band’s work?) Ron has an extremely impressive resume and I can’t even begin to list the films and other projects he’s worked on. What really caught my eye is that he did sound work on some higher profile films including Wag the Dog and the often overlooked and excellent, The Animal Factory! (Visit Ron’s official website at: http://www.ronmeza.com!)

And now, I come to the fifth (fourth?!) place winner of the competition, Michael Conway. It seems a bit ironic to me that Mike should manage to hit the top five list since the movie clip being scored is from his film, The Awakening. In his contribution, “Agent Orange,” Mike starts out with a simplistic John Carpenter-like theme that gradually gives way to a wider variety of tunes and instruments. (Needless to say, I liked it a lot.) Mike by the way is no stranger to this magazine and has been interviewed by our overworked editor about his feature sci-fi film, Terrarium. (A great little sci-fi indie film that I have yet to see.) Terrarium is now under distribution by the way (so buy it) and Mike is currently finishing up work on his extremely ambitious and impressive-looking The Awakening. (The Lab Chase clip alone was enough to make my mouth water!
Visit Mike Conway’s official Terrarium site!)

So there you have it folks: the winners of the 2005 Independent Composer Contest! Once again, great job to all those who participated and kudos to the champions! (By the way, I nearly forgot to mention the winner of the “What the Hell Award.” Carson Kievman (http://www.carsonkievman.com won the day with “Blue Max.” Way to go Carson!) With the Indie Composer Contest in the bag, I’m going to delve deeper into what makes these musicians tick. Starting next month, check out my first round of interviews with the winners of the this competition and learn more about their craft, their careers, and maybe a little bit about their personal lives. My first interview will be with the grand champion, Michael Damon, and possibly even Desha Dunnahoe! To find out for sure, visit Rogue Cinema on the first of July when the new issue goes live!

(Note: Many thanks to Richard McClure for keeping me up to date on the entire Composer Competition. Without his aid, I would not have been able to get this article done. Thanks again Richard, you’re the best!)