Scoring Let Me Breathe: Elias Serpa, Composer


By Michael Smith

Filmmaking is an artform that requires a collective effort. As in the execution of any particular vision, music plays an important role in helping to set the mood and tone. If a composer has it right, a film’s score can draw you in. If not, it can just as quickly take you out. In the Let Me Breathe short, this was the job of Composer, Elias Serpa, a man who tells stories by evoking emotions through music. Obsessed with sound, the Venezuelan born Elias is an honors graduate of the UCLAX Music Production and Business Program.

Elias Serpa, Composer of Let Me Breathe ( Photo by Miguel Rama Torres)

Elias Serpa, Composer of Let Me Breathe (Photo by Miguel Rama Torres)

Written specifically for Let Me Breathe, the score in this short allows the audience to dial in on character development and each character’s distinctive place in the setting. More specifically, the film’s score demonstrates to the audience that we are clearly within Stella’s world. Stella, the film’s antagonist, prompts the cello, an instrument able to create sweet melodies when played within higher notes, as well as darker, more solemn notes when played in the lower range. This versatility lets the audience know emotionally with nuance when Stella is being either sweet or deceiving. The piano in a higher register represents Laura: beautiful, innocent, fragile and lonely. 

A clip of Elias Serpa creating Laura’s theme music.

A talented multi-instrumentalist, Elias mainly plays the piano and guitar. He has used his talents working on projects with Verité Entertainment in the past. During the film’s first stages of development, Elias happened to be scoring a web series for Verité Entertainment. During a casual conversation with Writer, Director, and Producer, Donald Roman Lopez and Executive Producer René Veilleux about the forthcoming short, Elias expressed his interest in composing the music. Although producers already had a composer in mind, the stars lined up to give Elias a chance. Elias brought his excitement and passion with him throughout the process of creating music for the film. “We wanted to give the whole journey of all the characters and connect them through the music,” Elias said during a phone interview.  

A behind the scenes look at the recording of cue #2 of the Let Me Breathe score

After arranging the first cue and being inspired by an Antonio Vivaldi performance, the Director, Donald Roman Lopez was compelled to complete an entire score for Let Me Breathe. “I was just like ‘OH MY GOD’ this is it,” said Donald. [IMDB] “It was the push, this sort of dragging thing going in that piece that worked so well.” 

The score of any film should elevate the story. For example, when Laura smokes a joint with Stella in one of the scenes, the score guides the audience as Laura loses her grip on reality. With each note, the drug’s effect on Laura is increasingly clear. By gradually heightening tension with each progressive note, Elias Serpa was able to craft a score that elevated the narrative of Let Me Breathe. “Donald was very hands on,” Elias said, “he [Donald] played a key role in determining how dark we wanted it to sound or how hopeful, so people could be fooled.”

All the music in Let Me Breathe is composed by Elias Serpa. Learn more about him and his work by visiting www.eliasserpa.comLet Me Breathe is a short film directed by Donald Roman Lopez, based on a feature script of the same name. It stars Colombian star, Marlon Moreno [Mario], Danielle Hoetmer [Stella], and Megan Hackett [Laura]. 

Listen to the Let Me Breathe Soundtrack


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