"Somewhere Beautiful" at Cinefamily

by Clayton Webster

Armenian-American director Albert Kodagolian's Somewhere Beautiful is a portrait of collisions – between ambition and responsibility, love and art, cultures and continents. The story is a "metatextual homage" to Atom Ergodan's seminal 1993 film Calendar, and traces the intersecting arcs of a fading relationship and the creative struggle to complete a film. Set in the contrasting worlds of Patagonia and Los Angeles and shot in a suggestive mix of formats (35mm for L.A., 16mm in Patagonia), the film is an achingly gorgeous and intensely intimate examination of dissolving relationships and the sacrifices we make for self-realization. 

Since its debut in 2014 (which we covered) Somewhere Beautiful has aged like a fine Argentinian wine, picking up attention and accolades as it hit the festival circuit last year. Now the L.A. treasures behind Cinefamily have brought it up from the cellar for a special presentation featuring Calendar director Atom Ergodan and live performances by Avi Buffalo and Andrea Silva, whose evocative music appears on the soundtrack for the film.

About Avi Buffalo's involvement, Kodagolian told us, “Making music with Avi was a magical process. The minute Andrea walked him through the door, we just knew that there was this instant connection and a deep understanding amongst us that resonated and shined light on the emotional core of the film that we were about to watch and discuss making the original songs for. The combination of Andrea’s diverse Colombian roots and Avi’s direct Californian breeze resulted in the seamless creation of a handful of beautifully crafted and soulful songs that capture the essence of the film and elevate it’s subtlety and visual grammar." 

We spoke with Avi about his involvement in the film, his philosophy toward songwriting, and heartbreak:

Describe how your creative contribution to Somewhere Beautiful came to be?

It came about because of an amazingly talented friend of Albert's who was spearheading the creation of these songs named Andrea Silva. She's a musician and songwriter from Colombia living in Los Angeles. We met randomly at a show and very soon after realized we had a deep connection as people and musicians. I started playing guitar on some of her songs for fun, and then somehow it came about that her friend Albert needed music for his film and she thought it'd be awesome for us to tackle it together. So we spent a few days writing and recording in our own home studios (She co-wrote one song with her violinist friend Samantha Valdez as well), then we added drums and bass by our friends Kyle Crane and Samuel Wilkes. The whole thing was a quick and potent melting pot of talented friends. The last piece we recorded was a piano piece I wrote at Albert's house. So, very free flowing and spontaneous within Andrea's, Albert's and my visions. 

Your lyrics are often abstract, yet they seem to hint at something particular in that abstraction. What do you set out to capture in your lyrics? What’s your writing process like?

I think maybe because songwriting is such a personal thing, abstracting subject matter through imagery and metaphors can be a good way for me to find perspective for myself on what I'm trying to express. Other times I like to completely abstract things in order to express maybe some sort of mental confusion within myself. I'm a big fan of free-writing and stream of consciousness writing because I think it can allow me to get deeper than I would with being too strict with writing. I often find meaning in my songs later, even years after writing them. When I write I usually start with an instrument I'm comfortable with, whether it's a guitar, a piano or even a pen and paper where I write chords down, which also is a good way to abstract the process from the normal muscle-memory intuition. I sing along to chords and try to match or contrast my emotions going into the lyrics with what I'm playing. Then I love to have other people add to it with me to diversify the sounds. I'm working on a new album right now of my own stuff, and writing new songs is so refreshing and exciting to me. 

Are there certain advantages to being a multi-instrumentalist, or being able to play more than just one part in the band? How does that affect the songwriting process?

Yes, I believe the more instruments someone plays, the better. You always get another perspective from trying different instruments, and if you start a song on a different instrument (bass as opposed to guitar, piano as opposed to guitars, drums as opposed to any, oboe, flute, synth, what have you), you'll get different sounds and feelings and varying emphasis, and I think that helps diversify an artist's range and uniqueness. When I play different instruments on the same recording I find I can sometimes play to myself pretty well or fittingly for the song because I know what the song feels like it needs in different spaces and I can just add it in without much thought. But I also need and crave collaboration and other people's perspectives on my own music, and I think they enhance it a lot. 

You’ve been through quite a few lineup changes. What impact have those changes had on the music or on your live performances?

All sorts of changes, it's very fun and stimulating because I learn from so many different people and playing with them. Most of all I've found I love when people have a certain sensitivity to playing music, like when they care about how the songs are expressed individually and also love to synchronize and empower each other musically. 

Define "special".

"Special" in the case of this film score and musical collaboration, to me means when something comes together in a particularly seamless and enjoyable way. The feeling of being understood and felt in a way that is uncommon and beautiful to me is "special". 

Define "heartbreak".

That's a tough one! I think it might have to do for me with being disappointed or finding out something wasn't what you thought it was after investing your life into it. Music and life experience are the best medicines for me. For all the heartbreak a human being can experience, are just as many or more lessons and beautiful new experiences, so I encourage people to embrace the future and possibilities of new connections. 

The screening and show take place at the Silent Movie Theater on 4/13/17. Tickets are on sale now.