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  • Writer's pictureDerek Nakamoto

Scoring “An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy”

Mid 2017 Film Producers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi approached me to score a documentary they had been working on based on the life of Norman Mineta. Knowing a bit of Norman’s accomplishments over the years I was sincerely honored to be a part of this film.

Viewing the first cut in December I was taken by the scope of Norman’s accomplishments. The challenges he faced as a child in Interment Camp, his years of dedicated public service, and even after retiring continuing to mentor and encourage positive dialogue is extraordinary. Framing this within an hour documentary would be a daunting task.

Norman’s presence throughout the film and the cadence of his narration set a clear directive for the music needed. His humility, gentle nature, and the subtle yet positive power of his intent made one thing very clear to me. His actions were never “about him.” He had that healthy balance of ego that always took a second seat to the big picture. It was important that the music did the same. It had to be simple, never over powering or garnering attention rather simply enhancing the emotion of his story.

May 10th I attended the CAAMFest36 in San Francisco where “An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” premiered selected as the Opening Film for the Festival. Norman and his wife Deni were in attendance making the event really special! I was nervous sitting there in the Castro Theatre. With anticipation I was hoping the music accomplished what the film needed.

CAAMFEST Post Screening Q & A

The applause at the end credits were genuine and warm. Norman took the stage for the Q&A with Producers Fukami and Nakatomi adding more layers to the depth of this man and his story. What was clear to me was the trust Norman had with Dianne and Debra presenting his story authentically and honestly with no filtering. Dianne did a fantastic job in sorting and creating a cohesive storyline of his life!

Scoring this film brought back words my mentor Michel Colombier told me years ago. “Listen to the song and it will tell you what it needs.” Norman’s voice and rhythm was “the song”. My responsibility as the composer was to frame it. I also realized how fortunate I was having the trust of Dianne and Debra. The film was beautifully edited by Hailey Yang who artfully found the rhythm of her work in Norman’s essence. I received the rough cuts with no temp music, just natural dialogue. As a composer I had a clean palette to write from which is rare these days. Thinking about it after the mixes were done I really was appreciative of the Producers trust and belief.

“An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” will be making the Film Festival circuitv leading up to being televised in 2019. Norman Mineta’s story is especially relevant given the current social condition in our country. I believe his story will inspire others to find in themselves ways they can use their voice to create or effect positive change.

I am very proud to be a part of this film, honestly one of the most important projects I have had the privilege to be a part off. I would also like to give a thank you to Glenn Suravech for his beautiful recording of the live elements and mix of the score.

Norman & Deni Mineta ~ CAAMFest36 Gala

Post Gala at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Producers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi

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