This post was written by Nicolas Humberto Repetto.

My name is Nicolás H. Repetto, but folks call me Nick. I’m a film and television composer, based out ofyou guessed itLos Angeles, CA. I have been fortunate enough in life to have a career that I actually love, one that allows me to work closely with filmmakers to bring their visions to life through music.

It’s a career that I started for myself, but that others have allowed me to continue and grow. It’s a career that has allowed me to learn, in a deep way, about the stories of people and places I don’t know. Stories continue to inspire me to move forward and change me a little bit with every new project. Being a composer is cyclical in nature, fueled by intangible inspiration. The inspiration fuels the work, and the work fuels the inspiration. 


Let me first tell you a little bit about myself, my journey thus far, and all the big and little inspirations that came my way to becoming the composer I am today.

When I first moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago, I cut my teeth working on jingles, student films, shorts–basically, any collaborative media projects I could get my hands on.

I would also meet filmmakers at networking events, film festivals, and workshops. I once attended a fight choreography workshop since I was interested in meeting action movie directors. The most interesting and inspiring people always came from these most random events.

During this formative time, I started using the language of storytelling to effectively speak with filmmakers. I made it a goal to learn filmmaking terms and techniques to better communicate with filmmakers–to speak in their language and make them understand mine.

I both founded and became the singular student at the Nicolas Repetto Film School for Composers by studying film books, visiting my local university, and of course good old fashion internet browsing. I became an expert at analyzing films and adding my own commentary on digital audio recordings, commenting on how the film worked with the score. As my confidence grew as a composer, I started applying for various film composer opportunities and workshops. 

I was accepted into the 2016 ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop in Hollywood where 12 composers were selected to work and learn from seasoned pros in the business. The workshop gave each composer a month’s worth of world-class training from the very best in the business. We also met great composers like Heitor Pereira, Hans Zimmer, Miriam Cutler, and Bruce Broughton.

Screen_shot_2023-05-08_at_5.33.02_pm_0The poster for 'A Run for More'Credit: Collective Eye Films

The workshop culminated with a recording session at the Newman Scoring Stage on the Fox Studio lot with a large 60-piece orchestra. Not only did I have to write the original music for a preselected scene from a studio film, but I also conducted a talented group of musicians. It was a night to remember and one that provides me with continuous inspiration and learning to this day.

I gained experience and the ability to manage live music recordings for various feature films I have worked on, like The Sound of Identity, The Reunion, Empire Queen, and The American Question. These projects were a direct result of the ASCAP Workshop.

When you’re actually in the moments of learning and experiencing, you don’t realize how much inspiration and aspiration is being put into your brain. In retrospect, when you snag a new film to score, everything in your past comes forth to move you forward. I do not doubt that all of these life and musical experiences were invaluable and critical for me to approach and collaborate on the score of my latest documentary film, A Run for More.

I learned about A Run for Morethrough two editor friends of mine, Angela Pires and Katrina DaVera. As many introductions go, one of my films was being screened at the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival and I met Angela and Katrina at one of the after-parties. We hit it off immediately. Katrina was the editor of the film and she made an introduction to Ray Whitehouse (our director) to learn more about the story of Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe.

It was a story I hadn’t heard before. The thought of musically supporting the telling of Frankie’s journey, her struggles, and her life drew me in so much that becoming involved was not an option, but a necessity. By her nature, Frankie was an inspiration to create my music. The cinematic world makes it easy to write because musical inspiration doesn’t have to come from thin air like with concert music I compose, it can come in many forms: the narrative being told, the characters on screen, the tone of each scene, the cinematography, even the brightness or dimness of the visuals.

In this film, I was drawn to Frankie’s firecracker spirit, her family, her support system, and how she navigated challenges that came her way as a trans-Latina politician fighting for a seat at the table in the City Council of conservative San Antonio, Texas. This was an overall theme I could relate to as a Latino LGBTQ+ person. 

After getting my initial inspirational spark, the technical aspect of my job kicks in. My approach to the creative process first involves having a conversation with the director about what we are trying to achieve with the music–what emotions, what tone, what color, and, sometimes, what to distract from or cover up.

This initial process is called the “spotting session.” You never want to go into a composition with a preconceived idea of the emotions or story you think a film wants to convey, no matter how much you know about the topic. You want to feel the emotions for yourself as they will be the guide to continue and evolve your initial inspirational spark.

During the spotting session, we sit, we watch the scenes together, and we take a pass at the best places for music to start and stop for maximum effect and to progress the director’s overall vision.

A Run for More was Ray Whitehouse’s directorial debut and this was his first time working with a composer, so I guided him through the process, providing my suggestions and collaborating on ideas. Working with a new director is surprisingly refreshing and inspirational. 

After the spotting session, I go into my studio and begin composing some themes and motifs. After watching the first few cuts of the film, what struck me the most was Frankie’s strength in the face of adversity. I wanted to capture this strength using two musical themes throughout the movie: hope and struggle. A sort of musical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Devil and Angel on the shoulder type of situation. These aren’t new or novel themes to score in a film, but they were unique to Frankie’s story.

"The Hope Theme" focused on her optimism, her energy, her family, her supporters, her volunteers, and the collective hope of everyone around her to win the election and make a change. In contrast, "The Struggle Theme" focused on her doubts, her fears, her haters, and her struggles to be seen and taken seriously throughout the election campaign. "The Struggle Theme" is the antithesis of "The Hope Theme," but both are necessary inspirations that drive her forward in the film.

Throughout the score, I use fragments of both themes and, like a puzzle, I fit each fragment into different areas of the film. I’m very proud of "The Struggle Theme" for what it represents in the film. I composed parts of "The Struggle Theme" by recording a violin and viola and manipulating the recordings by delaying and reversing the sounds to create tension. This was particularly effective and emotional when Frankie was recalling her past trauma of being sexually assaulted.

I did not want the music to be heavy-handed in this section, so by piecing the fragments together, I was able to get the tone and emotion of the important story Frankie was telling in a way that would facilitate an audience to be connected to her.  

While working on the score, many other memorable moments inspired me to compose. I will not give anything away, but I loved the intimate conversation with Frankie and Lauryn Farris, a trans activist from Texas. This scene provided me with a backdrop for "The Hope Theme." While Lauryn encouraged Frankie to keep the fight going, an underscore of strings helped pronounce Lauryn’s encouraging words that the world needed Frankie.

In another moment, there’s a nighttime driving scene, beginning with a rack focus shot, and as the focus sharpens on Frankie’s face, the audience sees her deep in thought questioning why her campaign signs were ripped out of the ground and went missing. The rack focus shot in the quiet and darkness of the city provided the perfect imagery to marry the piano of "The Struggle Theme" with a long sustained synth pad. As uncomfortable as negative emotions are, Frankie’s deep thoughts and fears provided an inspiration that I could only get from seeing her face, seeing her eyes, and hearing her words in that exact moment and scene.

The power of the imagery drove me to want to reciprocate that powerfulness with the music. It’s not easy to match inspiring visuals and imagery, but if there’s one thing that can do it, it’s inspiring music.

Stories, by nature, make you think and make you do, whether they move you forward in some way or act as a cautionary tale to step back. When these stories are told through film, the added layer of a musical score can provide such complexity to the storytelling that could only come from marrying imagery, words, and music.

There is no greater force than a perfect film with perfect dialogue and a perfect musical score–I truly believe that. But despite all these lofty words of love, I’ll tell you the truth, this career can be difficult. Really difficult. Sometimes my husband has to, in his words, talk me off the proverbial ledge.

Composing doesn’t make you rich, there’s a lot of rejection, and there’s a lot of pressure to help tell a story in the way it deserves and the way a director envisions it. The only thing that comforts me and inspires me daily is knowing that music can have the power to tell an untold story or tell a told story in a different way that will garner a reaction–whatever it may be.

I am always grateful to be able to change a project with my music and to be changed a little bit with every project and every new piece of music I write. The vicious cycle of being a musical artist, a composer, and a collaborator is what makes it feel new and fun. Simply put, I love my job and I hope you do too. 

This post was written by Nicolas Humberto Repetto.