Michael Paraskevas (BA ’14) is a self-proclaimed nostalgic film nerd, but as a kid enjoying movies with his dad, a music educator, they didn’t simply watch the movies. The Paraskevas family listened for the music.
Now living in Los Angeles as a media composer, Paraskevas has contributed to movies such as American Made, Gringo and the upcoming Marvel Movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Only a few years ago, he was learning his craft at the TU School of Music. “One of the best strengths of the TU music program is how intimate it was,” Paraskevas said. “It allowed me to have the opportunity to play a bunch of different instruments and immerse myself in a variety of ensembles and styles.”
Hands-on experience is essential to learning how to score a film; and every spring, J. Donald Feagin Professor of Music and Film Studies Joseph Rivers invites a guest from the film scoring industry to TU to mentor the students. “We got to record a scene from a film with the full orchestra on the stage and having that opportunity was just incredible,” Paraskevas said.
After his TU graduation, Paraskevas attended the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program and studied under distinguished composer, Hummie Mann, who is known for Robin Hood: Men in Tights and A Few Good Men. “It’s not a traditional academic program. It was more practical where we went through the technical steps to use in the scoring process,” he said.
While it is important to continually brush-up on studio software and technology, Paraskevas’s favorite part of film scoring is broadening his musical pallet.
“The fun part about film music is you can work on so many different styles of music,” he said. “You are always learning and stepping outside your comfort zone.”
There are two vastly different sides to film scoring. It can be an exciting and collaborative process. “You get to meet with directors and other filmmakers and discuss the ultimate role of the music, which is to serve as another form of storytelling,” he said.
But composing music for film is not only about talent and creativity but also persistence. “It’s a time-consuming, hair-pulling process,” Paraskevas admitted. The music is like a puzzle, which has to be arranged to perfectly fit the scenario and emotion on screen. “You go back in your cave spending hours, days and months experimenting and figuring it out,” he said.
Paraskevas’s reward is finally recording with musicians and hearing his work on the big screen with all the elements put together. “A lot of people will say they don’t notice the music, but a composer will assign specific music to different scenes and characters moving the plot forward,” he said. “The music subconsciously influences and guides the viewer.”
Even as a kid, Paraskevas heard stories through music. Now, he readily describes his career — “I translate dramatic sensibility into music.”