Delray native, FAU alum composed music on short-film headed to HBO this spring


By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Paul Zambrano spent a year delivering food for Delray-based Delivery Dudes to save up enough money to move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of composing music for movies.

The Delray native graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in  commercial music.

With $8,000 to his name, he made the move cross country and began cold emailing anyone working on a film project to begin to build his portfolio.

His first project was a low budget indie film “A Fighting Chance” where everyone who worked on it was paid “little to nothing,” he said.

Since then, he has composed scores for a number of indie films, several of which have received accolades at film festivals like Cannes Film Festival.

His latest project “Slipping into Darkness” will soon be aired on HBO. The award-winning short film focuses on generational incarceration in the Latino community.

Zambrano said he was attracted to the project because he had an uncle who was recently released from prison on parole after serving 35 years.

The film was rejected 43 times from festivals, he said, because it was depressing and did not have a happy ending.

“It’s very real,” he said.

But the 44th time, it received an award for best film from the 2019 Latino Film and Arts Festival in Palm Desert. It also won the first-ever HBO Latino short film competition, which secured a licensing deal with the network.

The film will air on HBO in April for two years.

The 30-minute film tells the story of Juanito, a young man struggling to fight the cycle of imprisonment that his father fell into, known as generational incarceration. Writer and prouder David Mansanalez said he is now working to turn the film into a television series.

Zambrano first got into music when he began taking piano lessons when he was 13.

“I was always into classical music,” he said.

When he was a freshman at FAU, everyone told him if he wanted to purse film music he had to move to L.A.

When selecting a project to work on, he said he looks at the story. If he likes the idea, he finds out if the director has something in mind for the music. Sometimes they send references for a tone they are looking for or emotions they are trying to evoke, sometimes they leave it up to Zambrano.

He uses a digital audio work station where he plugs in a key board to his computer and uses a sound library to turn any note into different instrument sounds. If the film has the budget for it, he can source live musicians to use.

In addition to the HBO film, he has worked on other projects like “Take Care of Emily,” which was recently on a successful festival run.

He has also released several soundtracks on major streaming platforms, as well as two solo albums. He is also writing for Gothic Storm Music, and Elephant Music, two major trailer music publishers with his trailer co-writer Ennio Tangocci, who’s work will be featured on upcoming albums.

If he could work on any upcoming movie, he said it would be the new Lord of the Rings or Batman.