Under Covers: a Vimeo Staff Pick

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2019 at 3:53 pm

A while back, I composed and recorded the music for this gem of an animated short. It premiered at Sundance and then played a series of festivals before landing on Vimeo as a Staff Pick. I’m tremendously proud of the success and reception Under Covers has had. And I’m honored to have worked with the brilliant Michaela Olsen and Mighty Oak.

Watch Under Covers in its entirety.

Under Covers from Mighty Oak on Vimeo.


There were a couple interesting challenges in scoring this film. One of which was the nature of having several vignettes tie the story together. I found myself asking questions like, “Does every vignette NEED music? If so, must the score match the tone shifts in each one?”

I ended up with a soundtrack that followed the changing tones of each vignette, but felt like a unified score. I did this by limiting myself to a selection of instruments and musical genres. From the start, Michaela said she wanted something that felt organic. She liked my use of bells and plucked strings—things that felt tiny and child-like to match the fabrication style. However, the subject matter of the film is decidedly un-child-like, so the music needed to utilize those tools, but then subvert them someway—adding edge, sophistication, and humor.

To match the way all the characters return and swirl about each other in the end, I knew I wanted the score to return and blend in motifs we’ve heard in various vignettes. The harp plays a similar melody from the very beginning. The bells, harpsichord, and drums introduced previously return to assist the jazz vocalist, who is now singing a new song—this one about the secrets we keep and loving ourselves regardless.

I definitely drew inspiration from composers like Mark Mothersbaugh and Jon Brion, but also the reactionary scoring in the likes of Loony Toons. For some of the piano stylings, I drew from Art Tatum, and the singing style definitely contained elements of Billie Holiday. Dylan Stephen Levers’s ability to croon like a jazz vocalist from the ’40s really brought the sound together.

I’m Going to Sundance (and other news)

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2019 at 5:34 pm

I scored the short film Under Covers, by Michaela Olsen, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. I was hired by Mighty Oak last year to compose the music, and I had the absolute best time. Re-watching it over Christmas with my musician father was a real treat as I got to discuss some of the more nuanced aspects of the score—stuff like repeating motifs, and the challenge of writing and recording a song that sounds like Billie Holiday. Check out the trailer below!

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The Backward Astronomer has a lot of laurels

I’m so happy that the movie I made with Jake Nelson is getting so much attention. I’ve been flying to as many festivals as I can to accept awards. Here’s a picture of me in Winchester, England, where we got “Honorable Mention”.


And here’s just a current screenshot of our film’s page where Jake has been updating this image with every new festival laurel we receive.

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Almost a complete set!

Stay tuned for some Side Effects news that should be arriving shortly. Happy 2019!

My short film: The Backward Astronomer

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2018 at 8:55 pm

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance whom I occasionally saw at parties of mutual friends handed me a doodle with his contact info written on the back. This happened at my 30th birthday party, which Kat and I hosted at our apartment in Brooklyn. I had seen his animated short Hungry Boy before and was tremendously impressed with his style and aesthetics. I was also a big fan of his paintings, which hung on the walls of many of our shared friends. Flattered and intrigued, I met with this man, Jake Nelson, for a beer to discuss the potential collaboration.

After sending him an assortment of my short stories, he ultimately picked one that I had written in graduate school and that was published in the 2013 Fall/Winter issue of H.O.W art & literary journal. It was called The Backward Astronomer—part poetry, part fiction. It belonged in a larger collection of these po-ficts that made up my novel The Dead Space Architects. Each po-fict described the relationship of two people in different settings, and each piece could stand on its own.

I got to work translating the po-fict into a screenplay and Jake began the long process of directing and animating it. Fast forward about two and a half years and we finally have a finished short film (runtime = 10min).

Watch the trailer here…

TRAILER – The Backward Astronomer from Jake Nelson on Vimeo.


The film is playing at select film festivals. You can find the complete list including more information here: thebackwardastronomer.com

The score is all original music by myself and Jesse Perlstein.