Tuesday, May 26

UCLA student writes music for award-winning films, games

Fourth-year music composition student Eric Cappello composed for "Classroom Aquatics," a game that uses a virtual reality headset to put players in an aquatic classroom, as well as award-winning short and feature films. (Photo credit: Brandon Choe)

In the span of four years, fourth-year music composition student Eric Cappello has composed his own music for numerous award-winning short films, video games and feature films.

One of his most notable works is in the short film, “Frame”(2011), which won the Silver Tripod Award for Best Original Soundtrack and the award for Best Drama at UCLA’s Campus Movie Fest.

Cappello’s most recent work, however, strays away from his typical projects. “Classroom Aquatic” is his latest musical venture. Though he has worked on the music for two other video games, Cappello did not just compose the music for the game, he also contributed to its creative development.

Capello said his involvement in the project allowed him to acquire a more hands-on and in-depth experience that went beyond just the music.

“This one I was involved from pretty early on,” Cappello said. “I was part of the team in terms of coming up with the concepts and decision making on what to do with the game.”

“Classroom Aquatic,” as described by Cappello, is a computer game using a virtual reality headset in which players play as an exchange student in a school of dolphins who is about to take a test without any preparation whatsoever. Players must resort to cheating off of other people’s tests in order to obtain the right answer to the trivia questions they are being asked, all while being yelled at by the dolphin teacher overlooking the students.

Cappello also said that much of the origin of “Classroom Aquatic” had to do with specific technology that would compliment the game and provide a more enriched experience.

“With the headset, when you move your head, it actually moves the camera in the game, so it is like you’re actually moving around, giving it a first-person perspective,” Cappello said. “We definitely wanted to take advantage of that mechanic. That was the starting point of it all.”

While Cappello has dedicated a significant amount of time to “Classroom Aquatic,” he said he has also made time to work on other projects. In the span of his artistic career, Cappello said he has put all of his energy into fulfilling his passion for all things musical by dabbling in various fields.

A notable project Cappello has composed is the music for the short film “Llegar A Ti,” a film directed by Alejandro Torres about a man struggling to let go of a troubled past. The film premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater last October and will be playing at the San Diego Latino Film Festival this coming March.

Alejandro Torres, director of the film, holds Cappello’s musical style in high regard.

“Cappello understands my crazy visceral directions because he is an artist himself,” Torres said. “There’s something special about him that translates in his work and I feel extremely lucky to have Cappello’s music in my films.”

Cappello said he revels in the fact that he has never had to depend on old recorded content for any new projects as he is always able to produce something new. He also described how the creative process varies from project to project and morphs with every area of music he becomes involved in.

“With film it is definitely very dependent on the project itself. I definitely try to soak in what they want and not undermine their vision because they’ve lived with the movie far longer than I have,” Cappello said. “For songs, I’ll listen to music and sometimes I’ll get chills … I definitely strive for that.”

Capello’s ability to balance the director’s vision while also offering his own take on things is something that UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumnus and former Daily Bruin opinion editor and news writerNeil Paik said he appreciated when they both worked on the film “The Doctor of Bagram.”

“As a composer, he was always willing to listen to what I wanted for a certain scene … but he wasn’t ever afraid to bring in his own suggestions and ideas, and that really strengthened the project as a whole,” said Paik, who directed the film.

Cappello said he is not done improving in his career yet.

“I’ve accomplished almost none of what I want to in terms of my career,” Cappello said. “I’m really just at the bottom rung of it all and I hope to keep rising through the ranks.”

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.