When it comes to entertainment and the cinematic arts, music makes everything better. Score music elevates any genre of film, television programming, and video games as well, and for many people, a property’s music is what stays with them long after experiencing a piece of media.
The perfect score can come across as almost magical, but it’s actually the end product of hard work on the part of a team that includes the composer, orchestrator, copyist, audio engineer, and of course many talented musicians.
You can probably tell from the headline that we’re here to share our chat with Kyulee Choi, an entertainment industry pro who has worked as a composer, an orchestrator, AND a copyist across many different projects, including the likes of the Sling series The Eight and the Sony Pictures feature The Woman King, released earlier this year.
And we can’t gloss over her work with Joy Music House (JMH), a forward-thinking business that aims to innovate score production by providing composition, editing, and orchestration services.
It was a lot of fun getting to talk with her about her earliest composition experiences, the nuts and bolts of her day-to-day industry work, and much more. Keep scrolling to read more.
When did you first start to explore composition?
I wrote my first song when I was 16 years old. Even though I was classically trained as a pianist and a flutist at a young age and I loved it, I wasn’t sure that I could also write music. At that moment, my mother actually suggested that I try writing music. I still remember the song I wrote for the first time and how I felt. It was probably bad, but I was thrilled by expressing my feelings with my melody and lyrics. That was the start of my journey as a composer.
Can you break down for our readers the differences between the composer, orchestrator, and copyist roles? Which role do you connect with the most as your contributions have gone on to receive significant recognition such as a Grammy nomination for the film ‘The Woman King’ and the show ‘The Eight’?
What orchestrators do is that they take a composer’s musical sketch and turn it into a score for orchestra and assign the instruments. Moreover, many composers write music with DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) these days, and they use some patches when they write music. When that happens, orchestrators need to decide which instruments play what melody and how the voices are going to be divided. Lastly, the responsibilities of copyists are proofreading scores and preparing individual parts for live recording sessions of film, TV shows, and video game music.
I was honored to be involved in the production ‘The Woman King’ which received a Grammy nomination.
I’ve been mostly working as an orchestrator and copyist. It has been a fascinating experience for me to be part of various films and TV shows that are recognized by significant awards.
I find that the copyist is also a very important role as well because it means I’m the last person who proofs the scores and parts before recording sessions which always need to be as perfect as possible in order for people in the studio to waste their time in the recording sessions.
Looking back to the start, what was your first film/TV project?
The first project I worked on was The Eight which is a TV show that was streamed on Sling in 2022. It was produced in Saudi Arabia and the show is about a man who was a member of a gang and wanted to take revenge.
I worked as an orchestrator and copyist, assisting the main composer at the recording sessions. There was actually a lot of pressure to make everything perfect because it was my first project, and it seems like it worked out well! I recently worked with the same composer again, this time on a documentary.
How does working in entertainment compare to your initial expectations?
I can say it is not that different from my expectations! I kind of knew that it was gonna be very busy because I worked on a few documentary films in Korea as a composer, and it had brutal deadlines. However, what I have learned is that I must be absolutely detail-oriented to work in this industry because we work in a fast-paced environment most of the time, so it is a must-have qualification to fulfill the job’s requirements.
What is it like to work on a Grammy-nominated production such as ‘The Woman King’?
The Grammys are the most significant awards in music, and the nomination is a lifetime honor for anyone involved in the sound aspect of the production. As a copyist on this production and being in charge of the final product with the composer, it truly is an honor to the whole team and everyone involved in the production.
Being nominated for such a prestigious music award gives our whole team the confidence to further create great music in productions.
What has been the most difficult aspect of your film/TV work so far?
For me, the most difficult aspect of working in this industry is the work-life balance. I’m basically working as a freelancer, and we usually work in a fast-phase environment with consistent deadlines as I mentioned earlier, so I sometimes had to work around 15 hours a day for months including weekends, and I sometimes didn’t work for weeks.
It’s good for me to have some gaps between projects to work on my own music and projects, but there was a time that I wished it was more balanced. However, I am just grateful to be a part of the industry and contribute to high-profile projects!
Before we let you go, can you tell us about any of the projects you’re working on currently?
I’ve actually been working on several projects that will be released in the near future, but I, unfortunately, cannot share them yet! BUT I have some really good stuff coming up, so you can check out my Instagram if you’d like to stay up to date.