Composer Taymaz Saba scores big with Window Horses soundtrack
In early January, Taymaz Saba sat down at his computer to google the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards. He was hoping to find out when they were and who the nominees might be, but never expected he’d be among them.
“I had no idea,” said the 31-year-old film composer, who is up for Best Achievement in Music – Original Score. “It was really my first professional job.”
Two years ago, the producers of Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming, had to be convinced to take a chance on the Capilano University alumnus, unsure of whether he had enough experience to give them what they wanted. As a trial, the film’s writer/director Ann Marie Fleming gave him two sequences to work on. “She really, really liked them but she said ‘I’m not too sure because you’re too young,’” recalled Saba. “I was 29 back then.”
Saba soon put their doubts to rest, creating a soundtrack that drew upon his extensive knowledge of Western Classical and Iranian music styles; along with Chinese and Japanese systems, which he learned especially for the job. “If I had 10 features on my resumé they wouldn’t say the same thing, but in order to write music for 10 features I think you get to a certain age,” he said. “Anyways, [Fleming] trusted me and I wrote about 68 minutes of music. It took about five months.”
Window Horses is an animated film that tells the story of Rosie Ming (voiced by Greys Anatomy star Sandra Oh), a 20-year-old Canadian poet of Chinese-Persian descent. After accepting an invitation to present her work at a festival in Iran, Ming begins to awaken her identity and come to terms with her family’s history through the stories of others she meets along the way.
The feature premiered in France last June at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and soon began to make waves in North America as well. In addition to being listed among the Toronto International Film Festival’s top 10 Canadian flicks, Window Horses took home honours as the Best BC Film and Best Canadian Film at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival.
All eyes will be on Saba on Sunday, March 12 as the Canadian Screen Awards are handed out in Toronto. He is joined in his category by fellow CapU alum Jesse Zubot, who was nominated for different film, Two Lovers and a Bear.
Saba began his stint at CapU back in 2003, taking a year off in 2006 to score a film for his father, the noted Iranian cinematographer Farhad Saba. “I was in the cinema business with him, sort of, since I was a little kid,” he recalled. “It was always my dream to be a film composer, but I wanted to learn more about music. I took voice lessons, piano, jazz theory and then composition; different classes, different instructors.”
While attending university, Saba continued to compose music for commercials, short animations and the Capilano University Singers before jumping back into the film industry full-time. That’s when Window Horses caught his eye. “I really, really enjoyed working with animations and stop-motions,” he said. “I had no idea, it’s a totally different world than movies with actual actors. In animation everything is made up and created so in a way your hands are open to write more music and do more sound.”
As he waits for the reveal of the Canadian Screen Award winners later this month, Saba has been putting the finishing touches on the score for another animated project, this time with students from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Schedule permitting, he says he would be thrilled to collaborate with filmmakers and animators from his alma mater as well.
“I was always willing to write different things in different genres,” he said, “but I’ll tell you one thing – it wasn’t easy and it’s still not easy to stay in this business. After this nomination, I think it was sort of a push for me not to give up. I would never, but it’s a good motivation.”
To view a trailer and learn more about Window Horses, visit WindowHorses.com. The Canadian Screen Awards will air at 5 pm on March 12 on CBC and Facebook Live.
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