On most days, Simon Taufique starts his workday before the sun comes up.
Once he wraps up his three-year-old son’s morning routine, he switches through his other responsibilities. At the moment, he’s in talks for a second stint as a directing faculty member at James Franco’s filmmaking school, Studio4. He’s also narrowing down a venue for August’s Squalor, the monthly meetup he runs for New York’s independent filmmaking community as well as scoring four films for his primary job as a composer.
And that doesn’t even include his largest project to date: director Daniel Ragussis’ “Imperium,” which marks Taufique’s first producing credit under his own company, Atomic Features.
Scheduled for release on Aug. 19, the Daniel Radcliffe and Toni Collette-starring thriller about an FBI agent going undercover to foil a terror plot is one of the high points of Taufique’s decade-spanning career thus far.
The composer/producer dual credit is unexpected for an indie film, let alone a feature boasting a studio-sized budget and Hollywood stars, but Taufique’s never been one for convention. His entire career in film has been characterized by constant departures from the norm, a mix of scattered projects and partnerships. Producing “Imperium” itself came about as the unlikely result of two prior relationships. “I scored Daniel’s short, ‘Haber,’ in 2008, which Dennis Lee produced,” Taufique told NBC News. “Then Dennis asked me to score his production, ‘Jesus Henry Christ’ in 2012.”
Taufique's collaborative attitude struck a chord with them both. “When someone says they’d love for me to score their movie once they get funding, I’m that composer who thinks, ‘maybe I can help get it funded so that I can do the music,” he said.
While Taufique’s body of work has been built on such connections, rooted in each is creative impulse and entrepreneurial spirit. “Most of what I do starts with that gut feeling,” he said. “And then I take a more analytical view of whether it’s worth pursuing. Maybe it can lead to something, or maybe it’s just a way to help and learn about something or someone new.”
It’s an attitude that extends back to when he was flipping burgers at his father’s restaurant at age eight, after his family immigrated from England to Lowell, Massachusetts — a decision triggered by the prospect of a brighter future, Taufique said.
His penchant for music also took firmer hold in Lowell, with Saturday morning music lessons at the local high school. Though the program’s budget didn’t allow for a full set of drums, Taufique practiced by playing drumsticks on desks, turning the limitation into an advantage. “It let me focus on the mechanics of how to play more so than the actual sound,” he said. The lesson endured through his family’s move to Manhattan, as he channeled his enthusiasm for the late 1980s BMX racing craze into scoring his own routines. Hiring teachers for keyboard and guitar lessons, he picked up songwriting along the way.
His musical education came to a slowdown when he began studying economics and political science at New York University in preparation for law school, a “safer” path to success and one that many of his fellow South Asian students pursued, Taufique said. But it was only after the tragedy of 9/11, ten years after Taufique had been working in the tech industry, that he acted on his true passion. “One of my technology students perished in the towers, and a high school buddy of mine was also a victim,” he said. “It shook me to my core. I thought, ‘what am I waiting for? Why am I putting off my dreams?’” A few months later, Taufique left his job and rented a recording studio in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. He never looked back, as composing became supplemented by unanticipated forays into other pockets of the film industry.
It’s what led him to take on programming for the South Asian International Film Festival in 2008 and the Tribeca Film Festival since 2015, urged him to mentor Studio4 students, and pushed him to take the lead on Squalor, an event that, according to Taufique, “allows creatives to connect without the icky networking residue of industry mixers.”
“My hope is that they allow for a bigger network of people who can help make films better,” Taufique said. “I’ve met so many amazing filmmakers and audiences through this process. The rising tide lifts all of us. So if I’m experiencing one, I want to make sure that it can be shared with everyone I’m working with.”
With the upcoming release of “Imperium,” three more films in pre-production, and a return to Tribeca’s committee for next year’s festival, the remainder of 2016 is jam-packed, not to mention a drastic detour from the profession in law Taufique had originally envisioned. “I did write out my plans for getting from point A to point B, it’s just that none of it worked,” he said, laughing.
Ultimately, foregoing a charted route has worked in his favor. “I wouldn’t be producing ‘Imperium’ right now if I had stuck to a script," he said. "You’d never be able to predict that this person or that coffee date would lead to this deal or that connection.”