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Composer Michael Shlafman uses music to tell unique story in award-winning indie series

Music has always been a driving force in Michael Shlafman’s life. The Canadian native was greatly influenced by his parents, both of whom are musicians. His father would spend the nights teaching him guitar when he was as young as six, or he would be with his mother seeing the Montréal Symphony Orchestra. Growing up, music was like a sixth sense for Shlafman, and he never envisioned pursuing any other avenue in his life.

Now, as an industry-leading composer and orchestrator in Canada, he explores that passion every day. Working as part of the music team for Hollywood blockbusters like Pet Sematary and decorated films such Botero, millions around the world have heard Shlafman’s extraordinary touch while at the cinema, and the small-screen is no different. He has been a part of several acclaimed television shows, from composing additional music for Netflix’s Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever. to scoring the award-winning web series LARPs.

“I’d say the highlight of my career so far has been getting to work on the show LARPs: The Series. It was a fantastic creative experience in almost every way, which also took me out of my comfort zone in almost every way, and I learned so much from working on that project in just a couple of months,” he said.

LARPs is a Canadian series that explores how the imagination of play affects reality–and vice versa. Five friends meet regularly to play in a LARP (Live Action Role Play), and we follow them through their daily lives to see the parallels between the game and the real world. The story is deeply embedded in geek culture. The group leader, or game master, creates a story that the participants act out on an ongoing basis. The entire subculture of LARPing was something Shlafman was not previously familiar with and he found it all very intriguing.

“I think the story was really cool because it’s a way of championing not just LARPing but geek culture in general – which tends to not always be represented in a super positive way in the media,” said Shlafman.

Shlafman composed and orchestrated the score for all 10 episodes of the second season, and organized, oversaw, and conducted the recording session at Planet Studios in Montreal, Quebec. Coming into the show’s second season, Shlafman had to think carefully about how he would approach the music. LARPs’ first season was a huge success with a very dedicated fan base, so he wanted to preserve what he could. However, the showrunners were looking for something different and he wanted to put his own touch on the music and rectify what wasn’t working during that inaugural season. With his help, the music not only added drama and emotion, but helped elevate the emotional content of the story. Many parts of the show take place in the characters’ collective imaginations, and Shlafman’s score emphasized each character’s mindset, adding to their journey.

"LARPs' second season called for a huge musical undertaking: we needed an epic original score in a range of styles, to be orchestrated and recorded in a studio with live musicians, under unbelievable time constraints, all while keeping the fun and excitement the show is known for. Not only was Michael able to pull that off, he did so with a passion and wit that has made me question ever working with any other composer again. Forget the fancy cameras and coloring suites, its composers like Michael who could bring a web series on par with a multimillion-dollar Netflix original," said Julian Stamboulieh, Director.

Shlafman’s approach to revolutionizing the score was an abundant success. The show has taken home over 8 awards with over 14 nominations at prestigious festivals and award ceremonies all over the world, including Canada’s ACTRA Awards, the Canadian Comedy Awards, and the Indie Series Awards, where Shlafman himself was honored with a nomination for Best Original Score for his outstanding efforts.

“Honestly it was a challenging project, and I loved that about it. It was a lot of long conversations, talking about what we were going to do and what they wanted to achieve – and then a lot of long days and nights to help them accomplish that with the music. It was also really cool to work on something that had such dedicated/die-hard fans. It’s a lot of fun to see people you’ve never met excitedly talking about something you worked on and posting about it on twitter – some of the fans even looked me up and reached out to me on social media. It has been an amazing experience,” he said.

LARPs was released on Crackle and on YouTube (through the channel Geek&Sundry, which is owned by Legendary Pictures), with hundreds of thousands of views on each episode. Be sure to check it out.

By Annabelle Lee
Photo by Erin Ramirez
June 18th, 2019

Composer Michael Shlafman uses music to tell unique story in award-winning indie series Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:38:00 AM Rating: 5
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