U.S. Film Composer Ashsha Kin Makes His Mark In Movie Helmed By New Zealand Writer-director

Published: Fri 24 May 2024 10:32 AM
Cinema audiences are resonating with the musical score provided by American film composer Ashsha Kin in Anno 2020, the new-release, award-winning movie written and directed by Tauranga-born James Morcan.
The Temecula, California-based family man is best known for his work on 1521: The Quest for Love and Freedom for which he completed the audio mix, and the soon-to-be-released Flight 704 for writing the score and providing all audio post-production.
Kin said he jumped at the chance to do the score for the contentious, Australian-produced, mystery-drama Anno 2020 when its New Zealand writer-director James Morcan approached him.
“I think working with James is the main reason I wanted to be a part of this production,” said Kin.
“James sent me a cut of Anno 2020, accompanied by an audio recording, giving me insight into his style and how he approached filming remotely on Anno 2020. I had such a good feeling about James that I decided to take the opportunity and do the film. And I am so glad that I did.”
Sydney-based Morcan, who adapted the Anno 2020 screenplay from his published novel of the same name, said he had always envisaged it being a music-driven film. He described Kin as a breath of fresh air in the film industry.
“I found directing this, my first feature, quite stressful at times, but I quickly discovered Ashsha was a calming influence,” he said. “Always humble, he was a positive, mature force that helped the team get to the promised land of film completion.”
Morcan said Kin made an incredible contribution as composer.Anno 2020 composer Ashsha Kin (Photo supplied)
“Ashsha achieved the interconnectedness I was seeking all along within the story but didn't find – until he stepped in and showed me the possibilities through his unique world of sound.”
Kin said looking back on Anno 2020 – the movie and the year – it was all a kind of a whirlwind.
“When I joined the film’s production team, I had about six weeks to write the whole score. I was faced with writing about 40 cues, which was somewhat daunting.
“However, once I got into it and realised that James and I were on the same page, I was able to get into a groove and find a good rhythm. For me, knowing that the director trusted me with his film went a long way toward easing any worries I had.”
The composer said it was an added bonus that the producers approached him to mix the film.
“That gave me the opportunity to present the music in a way that reflected how I heard the film. It also bought me a bit of extra time, allowing me to revisit the music mixes and refine things while working on the mix itself.
“The whole experience was a pleasure from start to finish. James and lead producer Gil Ben-Moshe gave me a great degree of support and trust, and just let me do what I do without trying to control how the work was getting done. They were very receptive to my interpretation of the music for the film.”
Ben-Moshe, of MoneyShot Productions, Sydney, said Kin made an outstanding contribution to the Anno 2020 production, and attaching him was the best decision he and his fellow producers made.
“Music composition and sound design are both integral facets of the filmmaking process, and Ashsha's music set the mood and tone for every scene, enhancing the viewer's experience immeasurably,” said Ben-Moshe.
“A creative genius, he really took the time to understand what the movie, plots and characters were about. His work ethic, professionalism, talent, and attention to detail were tangible in every single piece of music that he composed. Not to mention his ability to convert the director's vision to screen musically.”
Kin was impressed by Anno 2020’s cast, which includes veteran American actors Kevin Scott Allen (Star Trek, Alias, Prison Break), Sheila Ball (A Prince and Pauper Christmas, Assault On VA-33) and Chinese-American Crystal J. Huang (Dark Feathers) as well as leading Australian actors Erin Connor (Occupation: Rainfall, Dino King 3D) and Greg Poppleton (Last Days of the Space Age, Backtrack and Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).
The Californian was also impressed that Anno 2020 garnered awards at various film festivals in 2023/24. These include winning the Titan International Film Festival’s ‘Best Experimental Film’ award in Sydney recently, Quarter-Finalist status in the Best Film category at the International British Film Festival 2023 in London, and an official selection for the Symbiotic Film Festival in Ukraine.
As for Anno 2020 the year as opposed to the film, Kin described it as surreal.
“Professionally I was able to keep working but psychologically having to go through COVID, with all the regulations, vaccines, and lockdowns added to the fear that was kind of everywhere, it really impacted on me and my loved-ones.
“My wife Tina, who is asthmatic, contracted COVID and she took ages to recover. We were constantly worried one of our adopted twin boys Oliver and Charlie, both autistic and only eight, would be struck down. It was a scary time, for everyone, everywhere, and not just for us.”
Kin said he spent much of 2020 working on music.
“I think music is the most important thing to me in life. Nothing, besides my family, has given me more purpose or ignited more drive in me than writing and producing music. I tend to find solace when writing. At the time, it was my way of washing off all the world. I approached it sort of like a healing, or at least a recognition that healing was needed.Ashsha Kin’s studio…where the magic is created. (Photo supplied)
“I released the tracks that I wrote during that time as an album titled Sacred. It was inspired by a poem I wrote years ago and is a mixture of electronic beats over ritual ambiences, rooted in native American shamanic folklore.”
Kin’s poem, titled The girl with red streaks in her hair, reads as follows:
I first heard of her from the Indian at the circle of stone.
Her image appeared to me in the mist of the sacred drum,
Conceived from rhythm and light.
Her voice scattered into a million reflections as she whispered in my ear.
“Listen,” she said and then she disappeared.
Carried on the breath of that one word I soared above myself,
Searching the endless sky for another glimpse of her.
Three days turned night before I returned to the circle,
Her gentle voice still echoing in my ears.
“Will I ever see her again?” I asked my Indian friend.
“She is with you now,” he said. And then he smiled, turned, and disappeared. - Ashsha Kin ©
Kin, who has been working in the music and entertainment industry since 1993, said he was drawn to music as a kid.
“I would sit in my room for hours and hours listening to vinyl records, top to back, over, and over. I started playing piano when I was seven years old, and in middle school I started playing the alto saxophone and continued playing in both symphonic and jazz bands through high school.
“I left college with a BA in Business Management and a BA in Music Recording and Technology, making my living mainly working on game music and sound design as well as writing songs for kid’s toys on various platforms.
“About five years ago, I began putting myself out there, contacting film directors and producers to see if I could find some more challenging projects. Since then, I’ve worked on about 35 projects, including eight feature films, as a composer and audio mixer.”
As for whether he would consider working with Gil Ben-Moshe, James Morcan and the team of Anno 2020 again, Kin was unequivocal.
“Absolutely! Just let me know when we can get started on the next one!”
Anno 2020 celebrated its world premiere at a sold-out, red-carpet cinema screening in Sydney last month, and it enjoyed an equally successful Victorian premiere in Melbourne earlier this month. The film’s Queensland premiere, another red-carpet event which is shaping up to be yet another sellout, will be held in Brisbane on June 4.
Beyond these interstate cinema screenings, the filmmakers envisage online distribution on major streaming platforms for Anno 2020.

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