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Composer Michael Shlafman highlights geek culture in award-winning series 'LARPs'
As a composer and orchestrator, Michael Shlafman doesn't just tell a story with his music, he elevates it. He crafts a unique and interesting musical approach to every film or television show he works on, while creating the highest quality music possible. He knows that one single note can make the difference, transporting an audience to a different place in time or making them truly connect with a character onscreen, and there is a large sense of responsibility behind that. As a renowned composer in his home country of Canada, he keeps that in mind when he embarks on a new project.

"When working in film/TV, you have to always remember that you're serving the picture, and regardless of what you feel like writing, you need to be helping the director/creators fulfill their vision. This of course means that you first need to understand their vision, and this isn't always easy. It's really hard to talk about music in a meaningful way, and that goes double for those who don't have any musical background. It's the film composer's job to distill meaning from conversations about mood, tone, story, and character, and be able to translate those ideas into musical concepts," he said.

Shlafman worked on the music team for the record-breaking new Stephen King movie Pet Sematary and popular Netflix series Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever., and scored the award-winning new documentary La Guerra. However, the highlight of Shlafman's career so far came back in 2015 when he helped to give new life to the show LARPs, a Canadian independent 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.

Live action role playing (LARPing) is where a group of people get together, often on a regular basis and act out a storyline. By far the most common setting is a medieval type fantasy world, populated by typical fantasy creatures such as orcs, goblins, elves, etc. It's worth mentioning though that there are really no limits to what the world can entail. The world is dreamed up by the game master who acts as the guide that keeps the story moving, and then the characters, often wearing costumes, sometimes with fake weapons, will play as their unique character that they created. As a group they will move through the story/campaign, which unfolds throughout their regular meetings.

"In this show we really had two different worlds that required two completely different styles of music: the real world in which the characters had their regular lives and personal conflicts/resolutions, and then the fantasy world in which they were LARPing.  The fact that a majority of the show's story took place in their imagination created a unique opportunity for music. The goal of the music was to help reinforce the idea of that world and help make it feel as real to the audience as it did to the characters imagining it. The result was that although on screen we were seeing characters that were obviously in costumes, we were hearing the sort of epic fantasy music that you might expect to hear over a true fantasy film/TV show. We felt that that approach would really help sell the experience of the fantasy, which is of course what LARPing is all about," said Shlafman.

LARPs was released on Crackle and on YouTube through Legendary Pictures' channel Geek&Sundry and went on to win many awards across renowned festivals and received many more nominations, including the Best Original Score award for Shlafman's music at the 7thannual Indie Series Awards, a well-known awards ceremony that included awards for celebrities such as Jim Rash and Keith Powell. Such success still feels great for the composer, who worked tirelessly to achieve such results.

"It was a lot of work, not just for me but for everyone involved in the project, and it's really gratifying to have gotten to see that work pay off. One of the best parts of this project for me was getting to go to all these different festivals in LA for screenings and awards ceremonies. We got to visit the Geek&Sundry campus and meet Felicia Day, the head of the channel, as well as collect a not-so-modest number of awards and nominations at the different festivals, including a nomination for my music at the Indie Series Awards. That was a really cool awards show in North Hollywood at a historic theater. The red carpet event was a lot of fun and I met a couple of actors whose work I have admired for a long time," he said.

Shlafman composed the score for all ten episodes of the second season of LARPs, and organized, oversaw, and conducted the recording session at Planet Studios in Montreal, Quebec. He describes it as an exhilarating process. They completed the score in just under a month, which made for a very intense schedule. He worked closely with Director Julian Stamboulieh to find just the right sound, and ultimately did just that.

"What was really great about this show is that it was just about regular people and their lives, and they also happened to be into role-playing games. They weren't at all the stereotypes that we see in movies of these social outcasts or whatever. They had jobs, they had friends, they had romantic relationships, and they liked to LARP. I think that's a big part of why so many of the fans loved the show so much, they felt represented ? which is something that is important for everyone," he concluded.

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