Saturday, July 20

Alumnus leaves his mark in music


Through hard work, composer Christopher Caliendo makes his first feature score in "˜Footprint'

The Egyptian Theatre will premiere the new film, "Footprints," written and directed by Steven Peros, and featuring a score composed by UCLA alumnus Christopher Caliendo, pictured above. The film follows a woman with amnesia who wakes up on the footprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The Egyptian Theatre will premiere the new film, "Footprints," written and directed by Steven Peros, and featuring a score composed by UCLA alumnus Christopher Caliendo, pictured above. The film follows a woman with amnesia who wakes up on the footprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Christopher Caliendo


Aspiring actors and actresses from all over move to Hollywood, entertainment capital of the world, for their shot at fame and fortune.

Some find success in transforming their talents into a career, others let their dreams slip away. Composer and UCLA alumnus Christopher Caliendo leaves his musical footprint in award-winning writer Steven Peros’ directorial debut.

“Footprints” is a fable-like tale of a young amnesiac (Sybil Temtchine) who wakes up on the footprints of the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and is given a second chance to become an actress with the help of a few denizens, tour guides and a scientology auditor.

Much like the yellow brick road that Dorothy walks on in “Wizard of Oz”, or the kooky characters in “Alice in Wonderland”, this story borders along the premise of when dreaming meets reality on the famous “Walk of Fame” on Hollywood Boulevard.

Peros, who is childhood friends with Caliendo, was excited to bring him into the project.

“I always wanted him to score his first feature, so I gave him the opportunity and he delivered wonderfully,” Peros said. “I was thrilled he was able to step up and deliver so beautifully with an amazing ensemble of musicians,” he added.

Caliendo said his own Hollywood success story started at an early age, as a child guitar player.

While a student at UCLA, Caliendo played at the Vatican for John Paul II, became a professional composer, and later received an Emmy nomination in 1988.

He wrote more than 500 chamber works, toured with “The Caliendo Trio” ““ which features a world style of tango, gypsy and classical jazz ““ and started his own sheet music company for world music and classical musicians.

In Caliendo’s seminar class “Composing for Success,” he teaches his students the techniques necessary to have a successful music career in the business domain and on the psychological side, helping them turn their weaknesses into strengths so that once they graduate they can find success in the real world.

“You don’t negotiate; you go into the real world with your drive. It’s thanks to UCLA and my ambition that I got to start my career in music,” Caliendo said.

Caliendo said that his own challenge was finding exactly which part of his talent to hone.

He often jumped around the industry with jobs in various aspects of the business before finding his true passion for composing.

“The most challenging thing for me was what to do with this gift. I stopped playing guitar, went into publishing, toured for a bit and then went back to Hollywood. It was challenging moving from one to another, but looking at things in hindsight, I’d probably do it the same way,” Caliendo said.

“Footprints” has given Caliendo an opportunity to showcase music that rejects the commercial aspect of the film industry.

“I had the opportunity to write unique music with a much deeper sense of psychology and aesthetic, versus the typical … music in movies today like “˜Spiderman,’ with wall to wall drums and loudness. (In “˜Footprints’), silence is appreciated. I created subtle music, so the characters have a chance to come alive,” Caliendo said.

Peros highlighted Caliendo’s musical contributions to “Footprints.”

“One of the greatest strengths of this film is (Caliendo’s) score,” he said.

Caliendo used a variation of instrumentation from flute to alto flute, sax, guitar piano, electric base and percussion to create a ’40s style nostalgic of old Hollywood.

“The music captures, in one sense, the dream-like nature of the film, which is modern, but metaphorically accounts to the story of a young lady who represents all women who come to Hollywood, try it out for a period of time, and then quit. The very minute you quit is the very minute you would’ve been permitted entrance to Hollywood,” Caliendo said.

Caliendo said he hopes that “Footprints” motivates and inspires UCLA students to continue working hard at their craft.

“The technology may change, the business may change, but if a student wants to be a composer, he’s got to have passion,” Caliendo said. “It’s about finding peace of mind and success in the industry. … I don’t think you get that in “˜Iron Man.’”

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