I’m a big fan of good short films. Besides JR’s Ellis, Kheaven Lewandowski’s “Bat Boy” (I recently interviewed composer Jeremy Nathan Tisser) as well as T7 Production’s Darth Maul Fan Film, all were recent highlights for me in their own unique ways. Now last week I stumbled across Jonathan Sutak’s award-winning short film THE FOREIGNER. I was so mesmerized by its way of storytelling that I had to get in contact with the composer behind its truly immersive score.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the award-winning short documentary The Foreigner below:
While writing this I’m listening to two cues from the soundtrack in a loop. You can do so as well on TheForeigner.tv. When you then look for the composer’s name, a certain Sarah Kerrigan catches your eye, just as in the credits of the documentary itself. For anyone slightly interested in StarCraft, Sarah Kerrigan would be a very big coincidence to be a composer’s name.
So I reached out to Jonathan and actually found out that, composer and sound designer “Kam” was behind the score. As Kam says himself, he goes by many names such as djk, djkambo, howser, apolloone, angeldrips and many others. Kam goes by different aliases for different projects. Thus, if you’ve ever come across one of these aliases… now you know!
For this project, it was Jonathan who gave him the name of the famous Zerg Queen; fitting the favourite race of the short film’s main character Greg Fields (calling a classic antagonist a protagonist would sound strange here), better known as the infamous former StarCraft pro-player IdrA, who was one of the rare Zerg players in 2011 when the documented eSports event took place.
Kam told me that he is a sound designer and retired rock guitarist based in California. While working mainly in the trailer industry, he specialises in orchestral electronic pieces. Below you can find two of his stellar sound design works for James Franco’s Spring Breaker Oscar campaign in 2013 and a 30″ TV spot for the recent Krampus adaptation (Kam was also responsible for the excellent Santa Claus Is Coming To Town cover here):
With Jonathan Sutak (who happens to be an editor at LA trailer house Rogue Planet), Kam has worked on numerous projects in the past (including the two works above), which is also how the two got to work together on The Foreigner. The briefing Kam received was quite precise in one regard: Jonathan wanted to have 3 chords as the main element of the score that Kam should come back to every now and then.
Other than that, Kam was free to do whatever he wanted to do. Since Kam is not a classically trained composer, Jonathan played some reference cues to Kam, to explain the war feeling Jonathan was after. Always working by ear, it was the perfect way for Kam to understand what Jonathan had in mind and afterwards he wrote the score within less than 10 hours, spread over a few days. Jonathan himself having a background in music, then went on to edit the cues and embed them into the documentary.
Whilst Kam, who, with a smile, says about himself that “darkness is in his soul naturally”, he found it to be too dark after the first cut, Jonathan on the other hand was elated, it was exactly what he had had in mind – and it’s what gives the short film this special kind of feeling that I do not often see in documentaries and especially not in documentaries or movies about eSports.
Having played in eSports leagues and ladders like the ESL myself (not too well and thus it lies in my past…) what struck me most, was how well The Foreigner transmits the intense rivalry that is omnipresent in the eSports scene. Not having read anything about The Foreigner before watching it, from the documentary’s first minutes I didn’t expect it to be about eSports at all and was then positively surprised that it was finally a well-done documentary about the core of eSports.
Now having won at two festivals in the US already, I bet you will hear more about it as well as Kam and Jonathan. So be on the lookout and keep following their next steps on Kam‘s and Jonathan‘s websites!