Film Translator- Nami Melumad

Nami Melumad conducting at Fox Studios- Newman Stage. ASCAP Workshop, Los Angeles 2016

Nami Melumad is a film translator. That’s right, she looks at a film, or show or even a video game and translates it into musical sounds – beautiful and emotionally enhancing music that is called a film score when it is finished.

Among her credits is a film called At Last. It is a unique film that is widely recognized for its exceptional comedy storyline: it shows a romantic-sexual relationship between two elderly people. How do you ‘sell’ this storyline to a young audience that normally watches comedies? Well, one of the ways to do so, is to hire a composer who knows how to create melodies that will instantly engage the viewer in the story – which is exactly what Anna Skrypka, the director, did when she asked Nami to compose the music.

Nami works with many successful filmmakers, who recognize her incredible talents and abilities to make their movies better. In Roy Zafrani’s acclaimed documentary, Until The End, Amir, which has been screened in many festival across the world and aired on television networks in Israel and in Europe, Nami’s music is prominent and important to the actual story-telling. In fact, her score elevates the film to a new level, establishing a the drama in a very compelling, ‘unnoticeable’ way like music in films should do. The viewer feels emotionally engaged because the music. One scene specifically broke our hearts: The family learning about the sad news of Amir’s death. The scene is edited beautifully and the score is constructed around it with a growing intensity. The composer took a minimal approach in the beginning, which grows into the main theme in a soft, almost introvert way. The clarinet tone when combined with the timpani is quite unique, and evokes strong emotions. The way Nami builds the thematic materials is what makes this film so engaging, especially when the orchestra kicks in and your eyes are simply filled with tears. In a speech at The Palace Film Festival in Bulgaria, where the film was screened as the opening film of the festival, the festival director stated that ‘The music serves the movie extremely well in the sense that it brings a strong emotional impact and it accentuates the heartbreaking moments, but also the conveys hope towards the end’.

Zafrani and Melumad have been collaborating on many films together, since their first film together, Until The End, Amir. Magic productions, the production company based in Israel owned by Zafrani has most recently signed Nami to score their upcoming animated film, Over The Wall (2018). Magic productions stated that as long as it is possible, they will continue to work with Nami who according to Zafrani possess skills that are irreplaceable and are second to none’s. ‘Her work cannot be copied or performed by another composer; it simply won’t do the magic. I’ve tried to work with other composers previous to Nami – they were good, but Nami is the best of the best, and I feel fortunate to work with her. The music in my films has a lead role, like a main character alongside the actors. It is crucial to have the right person to create it, otherwise you’re risking your entire film’, said Roy.

On The Edge, another film by Zafrani, is an important feminist film. It’s a relatively short documentary film, but covers a lot, and has a significant message of hope and redemption. It tells the story of Alona, a young woman who coped with countless hardships  – as an immigrant, she faced racism in her origin country and in her new country, sexual assault, financial hardships, and family problems. This film is so powerful that is wasn’t only presented in film festivals but also screened regularl at prestigious Ivy league institutions such as Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management. The team behind the movie is responsible for its growing reputation: director Roy Zafrani who dealt with the overwhelming story in a way that won’t overwhelm the audience, but rather make them sympathize and identify with Alona, and Nami Melumad who sensitively composed the music around these delicate subjects the film deals with.

The film’s score isn’t the typical emotional-over-the-top score you might expect. On the contrary, it’s delicate and sensitive, yet upbeat and driving; It gives us hope. In a documentary film, provoking the emotion can be a difficult task: there is no written dialogue, the characters don’t show us how they feel, we don’t know what’s in their minds. The job of the music, when done well, is to convey the missing emotions, and direct the audience in the right way Nami’s theme for Alona captures her character wonderfully – it completes her. Like the character, the music shows that Alona is strong and independent, yet also vulnerable. It gives us a little glimpse of what she is experiencing on screen (and in real life). What works so well about this picture, is that the music completes it entirely. It adds a new level of complexity to the film.

Recently, Nami completed an original score for the mind-blowing thriller directed by James Neese, Mindgame. The score plays a lead role in this film. The spotting (spotting is music placements: music starting point, and ending point, for each scene) is simply perfect, completely drives the story and really makes a Hollywood standard production! Using haunting musical themes, Nami makes the scary moments frightening, the action moments exciting and energetic, the mischievous moments full of suspense with secrets and double meanings, in such a dramatic way, but her music is always in the background, and doesn’t take the attention from the actors, exactly the way expected from a successful film score. Her work is breath taking (pun intended, the thriller includes some murder scenes in it…) and the she wrote the score less than 10 days, which must have surprised everybody because it was such a short time. She was brought into the project to save the day – which she certainly did. She delivered a hi-end product, which is likely to receive awards and nominations as her previous scores did.

Other movies Nami has composed the score for are: And the Tiara Goes To a girl-empowering short film directed by award-winning filmmaker Melissa Hoppe produced for American Girl company, Stings of Hope, directed by Eva Merz and produced by Hoppe- both filmmakers frequently collaborates with Nami. Another film she recently scored, (In)Visible, directed by Rosser Goodman, won the Disability Film Challenge competition and just screened at the famous Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles about a week ago. The thriller film doesn’t have much dialogue in it, which is why the music is such an essential instrument of the storytelling. It carries much of the tension of the story. On this film, Nami reveals she can compose dark, suspenseful electronic music.

Nami was also on board to score the touching and expressive drama Silhouette, directed by Adva Reichman, an up-and-coming Israeli filmmaker, who previously worked on TV shows in Israel. In her film, Adva successfully deals with the difficult subject of breast cancer: when a dancer finds out some though medical truth, she has to make heart-breaking decisions that may change her body and femininity. Both director Adva and Composer Nami were able to find the right tone and balance for creating this delicate drama to leaves the audience emotionally moved, but not in a melodramatic way. The score includes burlesque music as well as dramatic underscore, and it was recorded by live musicians in Los Angeles.

Nami is always making music whether it is destined for a movie or not- but most of the time- it is for a movie. She has an established reputation in Los Angeles and Israel as a solid and highly creative composer who is always in demand. Nami will present some of her original compositions at a live performance at the Ebell of Los Angeles, an honor received by the prestigious organization, Women In Film, that chose only 11 women composers to present their work in it; She had also already been invited to perform her scores at the Future Is Female concert to be held in May 2017, where some of her orchestral work will be performed by the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra.