Written by Melissa Kent

Even if I hadn’t been the one to edit Música, Rudy Mancuso’s debut feature as writer, director, lead actor, and composer, I would be obsessed with this movie.

Starting with the thoughtful transitions. The way we segue from one scene to another is something that so often gets overlooked, and these were planned like no other. The first one of note is after Rudy’s puppet, Diego, pseudo assures him that “everything will be alright…well, probably not,” and Rudy tilts to lean against the subway wall but we cut to him falling into bed. The camera rotates with him 90 degrees, and as it pulls out, his mother Maria comes knocking on his door, but because the camera is on its side, she appears to be standing in a horizontal position, with the door creating a horizontal split screen between mother and son.

Música - Official Trailer | Prime Videowww.youtube.com

The following scene in her kitchen ends with Rudy swiveling his chair to face camera, and starting to clap his hands, finishing the movement on the bus where the other riders are performing a complex rhythm using books, phones, newspapers, and their hands and feet. This is the second “música” scene in the movie, where Rudy’s synesthesia turns everyday sounds into complex rhythms. They finish the “dance,” joined by Rudy, but his last action cuts midway and now we are in his college class. He finishes the movement as his elbow hits the desk, head in hand. At this point, my mind is blown and I’m totally hooked.

I got involved with Música a few months before shooting began. I was sitting at home, out of work, perusing a long list of movies that would be going into production soon when the title caught my eye because my favorite thing to do is to edit movies that revolve around music. And here is where I got lucky. I had just worked with Música’s producers McG, Mary Viola, and Steven Bello on my most recent movie, Tall Girl 2 on Netflix. I called them immediately, “what’s the plan with Música?” Because Rudy had edited all his YouTube videos, I wasn’t sure if maybe he felt ready to tackle a feature. But again, I was lucky, because he knew he was already wearing a lot of hats. We met on a Zoom job interview and immediately hit it off.

Many times during our collaboration Rudy told me, “Thank god you speak music.” We had a way of communicating in beats, and generally using musical language, especially when working on the rhythmic dance/synesthesia sections. Preview audiences remarked that Música reminded them of In The Heights and tick, tick… BOOM! which I considered the highest of praise as Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda are big influences of mine.

Having edited about 30 movies so far, I think Rudy relied on my experience to craft the general structure of the movie and the dialogue scenes specifically. We worked virtually, where I was at home and he was anywhere from London to Vancouver, B.C., from New Jersey to Los Angeles. I kept regular hours and he would work at whatever time matched my schedule in LA. In many ways it worked best when he was in London, eight hours ahead. Musicians love to work late at night, I guess.

Música is based on a true story, and critics have said it’s the first movie to show successfully what it is like to have synesthesia. And because this condition expresses itself in a myriad of ways for Rudy, we have scenes where music is created from a dinner table conversation, from street vendors in the Ironbound (Newark’s Brazilian neighborhood) that erupts into a full dance number with horns and drums, and later, park goers whose games of basketball, soccer, checkers, and jump rope become a full-blown orchestra, just to name a few. This is not a typical musical where the main characters break into song, save for briefly singing along with a subway busker or when Rudy perceives his mom’s hair salon clientele to be pestering him to meet their daughters.

After that episode, Rudy hides in the salon closet, explaining to Diego the puppet that sometimes he has to just, “get away from the noise.” But as Diego wisely observes, “that noise is a part of you, bro.” This movie is the opposite of the usual studio strategy to try to appeal to everyone, and therefore please no one. By staying true to his unique experience, by crafting a movie that is very specific and unusual, by including some Portuguese, puppets, and casting his own mother as his mom, Rudy was able to create a movie that audiences and critics connect to and enjoy.

I am so grateful to have been a part of making Música, to have been able to call upon my own talents in music, dance, art, and editing to bring this unique movie to life.