Composer takes interest in 10th Mtn Division project |

Composer takes interest in 10th Mtn Division project

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Carlo Nicolau

VAIL — As local resident Chris Anthony struggles to complete what has been, for the past five years, his life’s work, he has had to send out many calls for help, and help continues to come to him in unexpected ways.

The story that led Anthony to create “Mission Mt. Mangart,” a film that details a little-known story of the original 10th Mountain Division troopers following WWII in Europe, came to him. Since then Anthony, who lives in Avon, has himself been on a mission to see the story told in the medium he knows best — that of the educational ski movie.

It’s a genre Anthony helped develop through decades of work with the Warren Miller film company — through the pursuit of skiing Anthony visited Mongolia, where ancient cave drawings of skiers can be found; Iran, where skiing helps bridge cultural gaps; and right here in Colorado, where the U.S. Army developed a skiing infantry unit at Camp Hale.

Anthony then took those film segments into the classroom to help kids through his nonprofit Youth Initiative Project, where he saw amazing results.

“We found that these film segments could really capture kids’ attention and engage them in a way that you don’t always see in the classroom,” Anthony said.

After seeing the demand for the short features he brought to the classroom, Anthony decided to make a full-length effort in “Mission Mt. Mangart.”

Composition from Carlo

Of the many people who have responded in helping Anthony to see it finished, one of the most unlikely participants is a man who knew nothing of skiing or ski troopers before meeting Anthony, but who heard the story and became captivated — not just by the tale, but by Anthony’s efforts, his struggle and the painstaking labor it takes to put something like this together.

Carlo Nicolau immediately recognized in Anthony’s work the conditions which often produce great art.

Himself an award-winning composer, Nicolau sees all of the makings of an important piece of modern media in Anthony’s effort.

“He’s so passionate about it, his passion has become contagious,” Nicolau said. “I jumped into his boat and wanted to work with him as if it was my film, too.”

Nicolau said at this point, Anthony couldn’t get rid of him even if Anthony wanted to.

“Every note of music I write, I want people to say ‘that’s from ‘Mission Mt. Mangart.’” I want it to be that distinct,” Nicolau said. “I want to earn the credit ‘Original music by Carlo Nicolau.’”

Core of the craft

Nicolau has more than three decades of experience in composing musical scores to accompany video. His work became recognizable around the United States in 1994, during the FIFA World Cup, when his music ran during a popular commercial where Bud Light beer bottles were playing soccer. He won a CLIO award for the work, setting his career in motion.

In 1999, Nicolau co-wrote the original music for the 1999 film “Santitos,” which won the Latin America Cinema Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and in 2007, Nicolau worked on the original score for the film “My Mexican Shivah,” which was performed by the Grammy award-winning ensemble The Klezmatics.

“It’s a very lucky break that life has given me, to love what I do,” Nicolau said.

Anthony said when Nicolau discovered the film, it was like another part of the story which needed to find him in order to complete the effort.

“These incredible connections keep presenting themselves to me, throughout this process, which help this story to be told in a beautiful way,” Anthony said. “Finding Carlo was part of this story’s destiny.”

In completing “Mission Mt. Mangart,” Nicolau and Anthony now tap into the core of the craft, harkening back to the era where music and film found a synergy as the metronome ran to the rhythm of the film.

“One of the most beautiful things I have done in my career is work with Chris on this film,” Nicolau said. “I accomplished what I wanted for the film, not for him or me, for the film.”

‘Something special’

With a singular focus on the art itself, Nicolau will not accept payment at this time. And Anthony, of course, doesn’t have the funds to pay Nicolau even if he would accept a payment.

“Create the magic first and then the money either will show up, or won’t,” Nicolau said.

His advice to anyone navigating the business side of art: “Build a relationship based on creativity rather than based on a product.”

Anthony does, of course, intend to pay Nicolau the proper market rate, even if he has to get a night job tuning skis to do so. But he needs to finish the film first. As it nears completion, Anthony is once again reaching out to the world for the final push. He needs maps, he needs graphics, and he needs professional mastering over his rough creation once those maps and graphics are filled in.

The storytelling part of the film itself, however, is complete, and it is indeed a remarkable story. At a recent event in Slovenia commenting the 75th anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division’s activity at Mt. Mangart in Slovenia, U.S. Ambassador Lynda Blanchard’s staff helped organize the event, and also are eager to hear the story told through Anthony’s film.

“It will be much, much better known once Chris gets the film out,” said J.B. Leedy, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Anthony is hoping additional donations and crowdfunding can complete the film, as he is unwilling to relinquish any creative control or offer any of the compromises which often accompany a corporate partnership.

“Chris has something special here,” Nicolau said. “It’s a story that’s going to interest people internationally.”

Anthony and Nicolau hope to debut “Mission Mt. Mangart” later this year.

To contribute, visit