Back in the Chicago Groove

Back in the Chicago Groove

First trip back to the lake this semester (Left to right, Joshua Meehan, Meghan Scott, Bharat Raman)

It’s now almost two weeks into October, and everyone seems to be slipping back into their groove from last year. It’s always a challenge to bring back last semester’s focus, discipline, and academic vigor after an entire summer off. After a month of taking conducting classes and writing film cues and video game tracks, I think I speak for my peers when I say we are right back in it.

We “second years” have hit the ground running especially hard with a seven-week intensive study on music for animation, under the direction of our current composer in residence, Vivek Maddala. He brought with him episodes of the Warner Brother’s Tom and Jerry reboot which he scored and received 4 consecutive Emmys for. I am eager to write a future blog about our experience with him after we wrap up our session. 

If you are unfamiliar with our program, the biggest takeaway you need to leave with is an emphasis on everything practical. In every class, we are tasked with completing assignments in a way that simulates working with game developers, producers, and film directors. That is why I sat down with my classmate Yuri Kwag to find out more about the premiere of Fairy, her first composing credit for a feature film. 

The international premiere was at the AMC Niles 12 here in Chicago, part of the biannual Asian PopUp Cinema festival held there. Most of the creatives behind these films were not able to attend the festival due to travel logistics. Based on the reaction and introduction that Yuri received at the event, I could tell it was a very special occasion to have a creator attend the premiere and take part in a special Q&A.

Yuri answering questions on the panel with CCC professor Ron Falzone

Below is part of a conversation I had with Yuri regarding the event.

Josh: What is the feeling like of having your first feature film credit? Does it feel like a career bucket list item you got to cross off?

Yuri: Absolutely. I still vividly remember that surreal feeling I had when I got the gig. It felt like the first breakthrough for my career. But frankly speaking, the excitement did not go for that long—rather, I got to know the pure joy of scoring the film. I genuinely just loved the process of scoring—building the musical world, carving the path of communication with the director, and at the end I was sincerely grateful that I was able to be the part of this film. For me, this first feature film gig is far more than just a credit, but a motive that made me to seriously “love” film scoring.

J: Did you get to go to any screenings of the film in Korea?

Y: Unfortunately I had no chance, since I moved to Chicago to enter Columbia right after finishing the project. The movie kicked off its festival run by being selected for Busan International Film Festival in 2021, which is considered to be one of the biggest film festivals in Asia. I am looking forward to its official cinema release which is supposed to be later this year in Korea.

J: This being your first feature film, what are your biggest takeaways from this project creatively and also business-wise?

Y: I would say the biggest takeaway is that I was able to adapt to a way of communicating with the director as a composer. At first, the languages we were using to depict the film were too different from each other. I learned to first see and understand the film from the director’s perspective and to jump into the musical world in his mind. During the process, I had to write five completely different versions of the opening cue, but when I eventually understood his perspective and needs, there was no single problem with writing continuous cues. It helped me not only creatively but also business-wise since I was able to build a firm relationship with the director and was recognized as a composer who doesn’t just write music but actually understands the big picture of the whole film.

Composers from the program with Yuri on the red carpet

I’m thrilled to be back at it this year for even more growth as a person and of my abilities as a composer. I look forward to more memories, milestones and blog posts throughout the year! Every post will have music from current students in my program. This week, because it is so fitting, a link to Yuri’s demo reel can be found below—check it out!

Till next time,