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News > Profiles > Oscars Nomination!

Oscars Nomination!

Congratulations Varqa Buehrer ('03) on the exciting news that Better Days, a film he scored, has been nominated in the International Feature Film category for this year's 93rd Academy Awards.
17 Mar 2021
Written by Nicky Mohd

Better Days is a Hong Kong romantic crime film directed by Derek Tsang and starring Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee. It has already won a swag of awards, including Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Varqa’s work on the film was nominated for Best Original Film Score at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Rooster Awards. While not nominated for any awards for it, Varqa also makes a cameo in the film and his is the first voice you’ll hear when you watch it.

Now living back in Kuala Lumpur after stints in Hollywood and Shanghai, Varqa says ISKL had an enormous influence on his choice of career. He says, “At ISKL, the art, dance, stages were all professional level. I was exposed to a real professional environment, at a different echelon from anything I experienced before, and I took every advantage. I took a lot of art classes, was involved in Grease and Little Shop of Horrors, took graphic design class. I played violin and took music classes, and was in Choir. I was in heaven!”

Varqa has the highest praise for the professionalism and care of his ISKL teachers, especially those involved in the arts: Karen Palko in dance; John Stupka in Art; and Mrs Piper in Choir. Of his drama teacher, Patricia Sands he remembers, “Mrs Sands never gave me any big roles, but I did sing one solo. Even so, I was able to appreciate the level of excellence that she was trying to bring to all her productions and I learned so much just by being at the rehearsals. It was very valuable in terms of building my confidence and understanding of how drama works.”

Describing himself as “not the best pianist”, Varqa says his success has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. He explains, “I’m fortunate to be in a generation of computer musicians; able to rely on a feedback loop. For example, if want violin, the computer will generate it and provide immediate feedback. Twenty years back in time, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m doing now. Now, film requires a lot of hybrid scores that include sound effects and music.”

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in television broadcasting at Western Illinois University, Varqa returned to his home country, Taiwan, where he worked at an English language school, all the while continuing his interest in art, design and music through school productions and activities. Then, in 2013, something serendipitous happened. His childhood friend called to say he had been accepted into the University of Southern California to study film direction and telling Varqa he should apply to study film scoring. He reminded Varqa that they had made a pact as children that one day they would work together as director and composer on their own film.

Following an arduous application process, Varqa launched himself into an incredibly challenging one-year course that ultimately honed his composition skills and led to him being able to realize that long-held dream. He recalls, “The course immediately threw you into recording sessions - 25 or 30 in one year. So, on Tuesday you would get an assignment and by Saturday, there would be musicians on stage recording it!”

Besides his film and television work, Varqa also composes music for ads and his work has been used by Apple, Samsung, and Bank of China. To hear some samples of Varqa’s work take a look at his website -

The 93rd Academy Awards will be broadcast on April 26, 2021. We will be watching with interest and lots of #PantherPride.

#PantherProud #ISKLAlumniComposer #Oscars


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