Friday, November 16, 2012

An Interview with Our Composer

We get a lot of compliments on the music included in Abandoned Allies. Much of it was created specifically for the film by our composer Kyle Owen. The entire opening segment of the film is Kyle's work. Here is an interview with Kyle so you can learn more about his experience. Enjoy!

Kyle Owen and Camden Watts at the premiere of Abandoned Allies at
the Wells Fargo IMAX at Marbles in Raleigh, N.C., on August 26, 2012.

Describe your role on Abandoned Allies.

My formal role on Abandoned Allies was composer. My informal roles were friend, confidant, creative support/challenger, tech support, and sometimes frenemy. This is the first movie I've done, with only having some experience in iPhone game music. Most of my music has been focused in the classical chamber music world, and my goal is always to be performed and interact with live musicians. This project allowed me to approach the music differently and make the best of what I had available so that Camden could also have the best I had to offer. It was mainly ‘small works’ but some sub-projects took a lot of time and many revisions before we decided on what we were finally going to use.

Why did you agree to work on it?

I agreed to work on this film because I believe in the overall message. We not only have to be here for the people we make commitments to but also those that share our world with us. We must support each other, no matter who or where we are. The message is a lot more global, even though it focuses on two stories from Vietnam.

It was saddening to hear the story of the Montagnards. It was not surprising to me that it happened, but that we allowed them to be abandoned after the war and this is just now bringing light to the issue. In many cases, it is a human rights issue more than anything else; regardless of if I personally knew them or not, I felt sorry for them being treated that way. We can never forget those who stand by us, especially in hard times.

I literally knew nothing about the subject when signing on. I met Camden through friends of friends. I fell into the role, took a chance, and was given a great opportunity. Everyone on the team has volunteered, so everyone was donating their time. I ultimately decided that this project was worth my time and energy because I felt it was worth getting out there.

When I “signed on” I felt it became just as much my project as it was Camden’s. Although my voice didn't always need to be heard, it was great attaching myself to a project that had a voice and was sharing an important message. Although this is just the beginning for this project, and we are just getting it out there, the message is important, and truly timeless. It lasts well beyond this project and these stories.

Kyle Owen answers questions from the audience at the private screening of Abandoned Allies as a work-in-progress at ComedyWorx in Raleigh, N.C., on July 17, 2011.
What was it like working on the film?

It was a huge learning experience. Camden and I were asking questions and learning together. We were approaching things differently, so we had different questions to ask. Camden and I went from barely knowing each other, to becoming really close. We were sharing work that was unfinished. In any creative role, it is a hard thing to do, especially in new working relationships. I couldn't have asked for anything more, and I’m grateful for anything of mine that got used in the film.

There was always a constant work flow but it changed depending on what we were working on and when it needed to be done. I learned that it isn't about me but creating a product that Camden could use to help tell the story of the Montagnard people.

I tried to pay homage to the Montagnard people in the music I wrote. Although I wasn't able to meet them and speak music during the making of the film, I had a few resources that I trusted. I approached my music using them as a model. I wanted to create something that was understandable and approachable to the Western culture while still playing with harmonies, rhythms, and the ‘presence’ of the Montagnard people.

What was it like to work with Camden Watts?

Working with Camden is--and has been--fantastic. Camden has been highly supportive of everything I've done, both in and outside of the project. We knew nothing about how things would end up. I think with this project under our belt, we know how to approach each other and what we would like to have as we work together on future projects. I expect new projects to be different, and have a different tone and requirements, but that is part of the fun.

When I reviewed the final cut of the film, I realized that the first five minutes of the film are ALL my music. It sets the tone, and releases the audience into the project in a way that is really important. There wasn't overkill of dialogue, and as a ‘prologue’ to the subject it works well.

I feel lucky, and still continue, as I've been a part of this project. We have been here for each other, and that, besides getting our work out there, is highly important. I truly believe Camden and I have become close friends, that know when / how to feed off the others energy.

How do you define independent film?

Independent film, like independent music, is a voice for the people. We are able to make a lot with a little, and we all have something to share, so I feel like this is the way of the future. We can share our voice while still maintaining control of our work and engagement with the audience.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This project has been awesome! I got to see at least five rough cuts, seeing where the project started and where it has ended. It isn't often that you get to share in someone’s creative process, and for any project like this, we are learning as we go through it. I feel Camden and I were both selfless and that we approached things with the right context. Camden was incredibly open minded, and grateful of what I could bring to the table. I can’t wait to see the project progress as Camden works on marketing, promotion, and distribution.  I will always be happy I worked on this project, and that I got my first IMDb byline. The small things like that make me feel like I had an important role.

Kyle Owen has been playing the flute since he was 12, and composing music since he was 14. He is currently in college studying computer information technology, and blogs about his music at He is a newly wed who lives in Cary, N.C. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleDOwen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Speaking to Film Students

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with a group of Meredith College students taking Alisa Johnson's intro to film course. It is always a pleasure to visit with students, especially at my alma mater. It felt good to be on campus again.

We spoke about things specific to Abandoned Allies and challenges faced while making it. The students asked great questions about how a film is made, lessons learned along the way, and the film industry. I was so happy to speak with them and hear about what their experiences.

Side note: speaking with a class is an interesting thing. You're in front of a group that doesn't know you, but hopes you'll have something interesting to share. Knowledge to impart doesn't really matter, just don't be boring for the next hour, you know? Because it's a forced captive audience--not one that showed up by choice. I feel like people can see through your bullshit quickly, too, so it's best to just be yourself. The least I can do, I feel, is be genuine and honest. So that's what I tried to do. I tried to be honest. I tried to be myself. I tried to share what I know and, hopefully, make it relevant to what they want/need to hear. It's a tough thing to do.

The good news, for those students, is that they can come see Abandoned Allies next semester. They can come hear the real stars speak about their experiences in Vietnam and here in the States. They don't have to listen to me ramble on and laugh at myself. They can hear what these guys have to say--which, I feel, is infinitely more interesting than anything I could share with them.

They seemed like an incredibly kind and smart crowd. Not too surprising since Meredith College educates women to excel. What a great group of women. I felt like I was home, even just for a little while.

Huge thanks to Alisa Johnson and her students for the visit yesterday. It was tons of fun. Thanks, too, to Hilary Allen for the introduction to Alisa. I am grateful to all of these women for their time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day (Observed)

Today is the observance of Veterans Day.

To all those whom serve and have served, I'd like to share my deepest appreciation. Even if we've never met, I want you to know that I appreciate all that you've been through. You've sacrificed and suffered, enduring things I may never hear about or understand.

Because of you, your service, and your sacrifice, I'm at liberty to do many simple things on a daily basis. Things you may have only dreamt about while you were deployed. Things like talk to my loved ones, sleep in a comfortable bed, or take a warm shower. I'm free to dream of limitless possibilities and a brighter future.

I live in the land of the free because of you. Last Tuesday, I walked up to the polls to cast a ballot--without fear--to vote for the people I believed in. I wasn't worried about being abused, hurt, or killed when I voted. I knew that I could vote safely.

Our democracy isn't perfect, but you defend it with your life. You fight to protect the men and women serving alongside you--no matter where they're from or what they look like. You have given so much, and you continue to give long after you've retired from the service.

You amaze me.

There are so many ways I want to thank you, but they all seem small and insignificant. When I see you in uniform at the airport, I may be too chicken to walk up to you and say thanks directly, so I might buy your lunch anonymously. I hope you're OK with that. I'm not as brave as you are. I worry that I might not sound genuine when I say, "Thank you for your service."

Thank you for all that you have done--and continue to do--for this country and its people. You may not know me, but I appreciate all that you've done. I will never be able to thank you enough. I hope that I can find a way to show how much I mean it.

Know that you are loved. I may not know your story, but I long to hear it. I may not even know you, but I love you. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.