1) PINAR, YOU BECAME A FILM COMPOSER BUT INITIALLY YOU WERE A PIANO PERFORMANCE MAJOR. WHAT WAS THE PIVOTAL MOMENT THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE FOREVER?
I have always wanted to become a film composer ever since I was a child and when I started Berklee College of Music, that’s the major I wanted. However, pretty much everyone around me discouraged me from doing so. They would say I have higher chances of employment if I studied piano performance. I could play in sessions, teach, etc. etc. One thing to note, this was back in 1998 so film scoring wasn’t necessarily as desired of a profession as it is now. And for women (and Turkish women) especially it was even less heard of. So I listened to everyone and started Berklee as a piano performance major. Then one day, I was leaving the piano practice rooms at around 11pm and went to Tower Records (who remembers that? ) The soundtrack for “The Prince of Egypt” had just come out. I started listening to the CD on one of those listening stations and I was mesmerized. They were closing at midnight. (Side note, I only had about $20 to my name. I had to work three different jobs on campus and also drive around in my $500 car to give private lessons around Boston to make ends meet. So that $20 at that time was supposed to last me for 2-3 days…) When they announced that they were closing in 5 minutes I made an impulse purchase and bought that soundtrack with my last money. Then I went home and listened to the entire soundtrack, all night long. I didn’t sleep that night. I did a lot of thinking…I realized I’d rather fail by my choices than succeed by others’ choices. I was the first person at the registrar’s office that morning and changed my major and never looked back. That CD is still on my desk, nearly 20 years later. The jewel case is all cracked but the CD is still good. It’s a constant reminder of that one decision I made. Although I still love that soundtrack very much, thinking back, it wasn’t necessarily that soundtrack that made me make up my mind, it was the last drop in an already full glass. I needed an impetus to make that decision and I’m so glad I did.
2) WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS SO LITTLE DIVERSITY
(i.e. FEMALE COMPOSERS etc.) IN THE FILM SCORING WORLD? WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION?
This, of course, is quite a big subject… and naturally, I have had opinions that evolved over the years. With that said, I wish I had a simple, clear answer. I do think for things to change at a macro level, things first need to change at a micro level. So this begins with our family, our education but even more important than anything else, our self-belief and self-trust. We are sales people at the end of the day and the best sales people are the ones that believe in what they are selling. If you don’t believe yourself, or if you think you are starting this whole game with a penalty, how can you expect others to see you any differently? Whether you are spiritual or not, I do believe in the energy we transmit to others. If you feel like you are any less than anyone else (either because of your gender, your nationality, your religion, your background, you name it) then you will emit that energy to others. And as for education…by education I don’t necessarily mean go get a fancy degree. Some of the best education I’ve had in my life has been outside of the schools I have attended. And although I love Berklee dearly and I now teach their film scoring course online, to this date, one of my most influential teachers was when I got my graduate degree in composition at California State University, Northridge. Education (whether it’s at school, real life – ideally both ) is very important and never-ending. I still study scores and read manuals of synths and software, etc. almost daily. Then, there is the art of networking…which is sadly not emphasized enough in most curriculum. I could go on and on, but the point is, the way I operated has always been about concentrating on the things I have control over. I have control over my knowledge, my craft, my work ethic, my relationships and what I create. Anything outside of these are things I have no control over, therefore they don’t get to deplete my energy. I have no control over who hires me, who doesn’t and to be honest, there are a million reasons why someone gets hired or not. I don’t take anything personally, I put my horse blinders on and I keep going…. Because when I succeed, that shows my daughter that it can be done. I want my kids to learn by example… (and I also happen to think the world changes by example, not by preaching….) Seeing someone succeed inspires people and let’s not underestimate the power of inspiration. It can change the world in its core. I have always wanted to do everything I do with inspiration and change in mind. It was never a personal endeavor and it still isn’t. I do believe things are going in the right direction in some areas and in other areas there is the illusion that things are getting better but they aren’t really… As I said, this is a big topic. But for all those 17 year old girls living in different parts of the world and are being told what they should do with their lives, I highly recommend that you put your own virtual horse blinders on yourselves today. Believe that you can be anything you want to be, see yourself accomplishing those goals, work hard, be patient, stay humble, stay curious and support other women along the way. As the saying goes, how do you climb Mount Everest? One step at a time.
3) YOU WERE BORN AND RAISED IN ISTANBUL TURKEY FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY. YOUR JOURNEY WAS LONG, SO WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER TO COMPOSERS WHO WANT TO MOVE TO LOS ANGELES?
Be patient, leave your ego at home, keep learning, stay ahead of the game, get good at technology so you increase your chances of employment, figure out a way to live within your means so you are not stressing out about money all the time and invest in your craft. There was a time I survived on cup noodles. Not ideal but that’s all I could afford and I wanted to save money for gear, etc.. That mentality to invest in my work still remains…When my ex-husband and I bought our first house, the house itself was falling apart but we converted the garage into a studio, put a 2 ton A/C unit while the house itself had no air conditioning (and we were in the valley!). I always thought the studio would pay for the house but not the other way around. I still operate this way. My kids first, studio second, then I’m next. Everyone’s path is different. Just keep working hard, be the person people want to hang around with and don’t burn any bridges. This town runs on relationships, everything else is secondary.
4) AS A BERKLEE GRADUATE AND HAVING WORKED FOR HANS ZIMMER, DO YOU THINK THAT REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE, TRUMPS FORMAL EDUCATION?
One is chocolate and the other is strawberries. Both are delicious on their own but if you dip the strawberries in chocolate, it’s heavenly. So in an ideal world, you have both. Formal education is meaningless if you don’t know how to utilize it or if you stall in development as soon as you are done with your degree. I think having a curious mind is the most valuable thing because that guarantees you that you will be learning your entire life as you would never be satisfied otherwise… So to me, curiosity trumps all. I have seen people with fancy degrees do nothing related to their degree and I have seen people who didn’t get a chance to have a great formal education but they hustled their way into knowledge and success. I would choose the latter any given day.
5) WHAT ARE SOME GOOD WAYS TO CREATE AND FOSTER RELATIONSHIPS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY? THINGS DON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT RIGHT?
Although lots can happen in one day/night, no career is built overnight. Just like any kind of relationship, work relationships need nurturing as well. I’ve said this for years, if you want to fish, Step 1: Go where the fish are! So go and meet filmmakers, cinematographers, editors, line producers, post supervisors, etc. Take them out to lunch. During my entire career so far, I took people out to lunches. Even when I was broke and I had to max out my credit cards. I don’t recommend going in debt but I found that people are more willing to meet you if you tell them “I’d love to take you out to lunch and chat further. When would be a good day/time?” This is something I still do… Also, don’t follow up with a filmmaker (or anyone else who might employ you) only when you find out they are about to start a project. At that point everyone is reaching out to them but if you are with them during their low, during the times when they think they’ll never make a movie again, as soon as they have something they will come to you because they’ll know you cared about them and their talent regardless. So just be a good, compassionate human being and don’t have an agenda. People smell that miles away…I consider many of the directors I have worked with as my friends. Even if they never make a movie again or we never work again, I’ll still care about our relationship and nurture that. Your friends and your film friends become your family after a while. Don’t be one of those people who only check in after the new year to see if they can offer you anything. Be the person that asks how YOU can be useful to them…not the other way around.
Thank you so much for these wonderful questions!