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Meet Tan Onwimon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tan Onwimon.

Tan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am an odd one. I always feel like that since I was a kid. I’m always the quiet one among the loud. And I’m also the loud one among the quiets.

In middle school, I had two best friends; one is good at academic, the other is good at sport. And there was me in the middle, who was terrible at both. The pressure from my parents and friends turned me into an unconfident kid. I know that I am passionate about film music. But my friend trashed my music right when I started playing the CD and switched to pop music. Everyone told me Thailand is no place for art music. So I decided to keep this passion to myself, and never take it seriously.

This insecurity has built up like cancer. I felt like I was born on the wrong side of the world. I ended up wasting my childhood proving something that didn’t exist. A decade later, an 18-year-old me, gay, still, an outsider decided to go to film school with an ambition to become a filmmaker and a storyteller. I had my first boyfriend who physically bullied me in public, yelling at me on how I will never get far in the future. This made me realize that no one else’ opinion matter anymore. I cared too much about everything else except myself. Since then, I turned the table, shut down the insecure thoughts and turned it into arts.

Filmmaking not only taught me the craft, but it also taught me to stand up on what I believe in. My passion that was suppressed deep down started to explode. I reunited with my love for film music and started writing a film score for my classmates’ film. And it just enlarged to a musical, a documentary, and a feature film. I know I was only a beginner pianist. I barely can read music. But I was not scared. I will not let this fear taking over my passion like before.

Has it been a smooth road?
I came to the US to pursue my film score career. It was the new world. And I lived my life to the fullest. After graduation from Berklee College of Music, I moved to Los Angeles and worked as an assistant composer to find more experience. However, I had done all the works for free.

Sometimes I had to go to work seven days a week. My dad was diagnosed with cancer not too long after I moved to LA. Me, who is the only child, couldn’t fly back home to visit him due to the visa process. My hands were tied. The non-paid job kept piling higher.

With no friends and family, no free time, no income, I fell deep into depression – wanting to quit everything and go home for good. But my dad told me firmly not to give up. “If you gave up now, this past 20 years will be for nothing. Don’t worry about me.” He said. I have come to realize that if my dad is still fighting, so should I.

Life in Los Angeles can be tough. And being an immigrant artist in the US especially now is not an ideal situation. But there is nothing I can do except learn to be a better artist and prove that action speaks louder than words. No one can stop me but myself.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m now a full-time music composer, orchestrator and a saxophonist. I compose music for a wide range of media; from film, television, video game, musical theatre, commercial, acting reel and more. So far my work has been screened around the world. Flower (2019), the short film I scored for just won the Los Angeles Film Awards 2019 and is also an official selection for many film festivals.

The documentary Duck Academy (2019) won the award at Asian Side of the Doc. And the film was on aired on Japanese’s NHK channel and will be distributed in France and Thailand. This year I’m also chosen to be an orchestrator for a stage musical called “Angel.”

I and my best friend recently founded a creative studio called “Zenday Studio” which provides full services for film productions and social media. I’m in charge of music and sound design of course.

I also do modeling as a part-time for fun! It is so weird to see my music career being paired up with modeling. But life is too short, and I’m down to explore any aspect of it. I have worked with some great photographer in Los Angeles. I will travel to San Diego next month to do the photoshoot in the desert with my saxophone!

I’ve just modeled for Grindr Asia Campaign. Yes, a gay dating app. It was an eye-opening experience and a proud one. It was a delight to be representing my race in the gay community. Asian people still need much more representation in any community and media.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
As a gay-Asian-immigrant film music composer, I rarely see people of color or minority group of people working in the film music industry. I know that many of us are currently fighting our way for it. And I hope that by the time we made it to our goal (which we will!), I will be a part of those who help to shape the film music industry. I believe our different background and different perspective of the world will bring in different sounds.

Diversity may play a part in the entertainment industry, but the true key is in the art we produce. This is the age of overwhelming contents being released in the cinema, streaming services, and TVs. The audience expects new experience visually and audibly that would hook them. What we can offer as a music composer is to take more risks to produce new sounds. This is how to keep the industry going.

After all the roller coaster of life experiences I had. I hope to see myself as one proud gay composer who stands in front of the studio orchestra, conducting them with my lovely baton, having a great time making music out of every single note I wrote. And grab a couple of drinks after a long day with my jams.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Randy Tran, Grindr, flc_fotography, Momo Thorys, Chanoknant Snidvongs Na Ayudhya

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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