Mercer Island High class of ’09 graduate Leeran Raphaely has a lot to be proud of lately. At only 22 years of age, his animated musical short film, “En Passant,” has received considerable praise, recently winning two prominent Jerry Goldsmith Awards from the International Film Musical Festival in Cordoba, Spain, for Best Song and Best Score in an Animated Short.
The all-around talented Raphaely, a composer, arranger and pianist, has been working on “En Passant” for the last two years. Raphaely conceived the original idea for film and has since created all the music and lyrics featured, managed the sound engineering, and voiced a minor role. Recruiting UK-based director Chris Burton to collaborate with him, Raphaely worked with virtually no budget during the entirety of the time that he spent making the film, using the free 3-D graphics software program, Blender. Burton, who was located in London, communicated with Raphaely via Internet for the entirety of the production.
Raphaely recalls, “I’d been writing musicals in my spare time, and I wanted to do something where I wouldn’t be held back by my inability to find sets and professional actors. As difficult as animation is, I thought I might be able to shoot above my budget.”
And he did just that. A startlingly thoughtful and aesthetically striking work, “En Passant” centers on a mob boss’s daughter, named Leilah, who is sheltered from everything that exists outside her home. However, when she finally ventures out on her own to explore the real world, she discovers an inner darkness that she wasn’t aware existed within.
Admitting that the overwhelming response to “En Passant” is a total surprise to him, Raphaely shares that his recent awards were even more unforeseen. “I didn’t actually know there were awards for best score and animated short,” Raphaely explains.
The online community has been equally receptive. The YouTube user’s comments on the video’s page are overwhelmingly positive with declarations of “En Passant” as a “masterpiece” and predictions that it will become an “icon in Blender history.”
Islander Greg Asimakoupoulos, whose daughter, Lauren, played flute in the orchestra featured in “En Passant,” said, “I think we should keep our eyes on Leeran. He has a brilliant future ahead of him.”
Before graduating from Mercer Island High School, Raphaely was very involved with the drama department, writing musicals and participating in jazz and marching band. His senior project consisted of writing and performing 30 songs for the fall musical, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” a feat he’d never attempted before.
It is certainly clear that Raphaely is an Islander to watch. Other locals played notable roles in creating the orchestral music that is so central to “En Passant.” Mikaela Kahn provided the singing voice of Leilah, Lauren Asimakoupoulos played flute, and Audrey Miller was on clarinet, with Jacob Bloom on bass clarinet, Julia Chalker on violins and solo violin, Zach Hartmann on bass and contrabass, and Ben Fang on guitar.
Leaving Mercer Island next month for New York City, Raphaely is embarking on his next adventure in the Big Apple, working as a software engineer for Google. He suspects he’ll move back to the Island one day, but until then, the City of Dreams seems like a fitting place for this local virtuoso.
A screen shot from the feature, which won several awards at the International Film Musical Festival in Cordoba, Spain.
Leeran Raphaely graduated from MIHS in 2009.