Be self-motivated: There’s going to be deadlines and multiple projects happening at the same time, so keeping everything in time is very important. In order to successfully complete everything in time, I have to make my own work hours and make it happen.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Julie Joohee Jeon.
Julie Joohee Jeon is a versatile composer, singer-songwriter, music director and instrumentalist who creates music for film, multimedia and musical theatre. She writes and performs in a wide range of musical genres including classical orchestral, acoustic, synthesized, pop, and electronic music. Julie’s music creates soundscapes and musical scores that depict and enhance different contents of the moods to support the scene.
Julie has achieved a Master of Music in Scoring for Film and Multimedia at New York University. She is a Korean-Canadian who earned a Bachelor of Music in Integrated Studies of Voice Performance and Music Education at University of Calgary. The journey for music started back in Vancouver, Canada at Capilano University while studying Music and Conducting.
During this musical journey Julie has composed music for a number of films, musicals, animations, documentaries, games, movie trailers, web series, dance, commercials, and more. Many of the films she worked on were premiered, selected and won festivals all around the world such as Directors Guild of America Student Film Award, Manhattan Film Festival, Digital Box Office Awards, Busan International Film Festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, Busan Independent Film Festival, Macao International Movie Festival, San Diego Asian Film Festival, Florence Korean Film Festival, Cinema New York City Film Festival, Rack Focus Film Festival, BMCC Film Festival, Festival of the Hunt, Americana Music and Film Festival, Museum of the City of New York, Johns Hopkins Film Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival, and more. Also, a New Musical that Julie has worked on as a composer and music director called The House of Setting Sun (2015) premiered at the New School in November, 2015, and Midtown International Theatre Festival and Dream Up Festival in 2016.
Recently, Julie has released her latest album, Epic Rendition. She has also composed additional scores for Korean Films such as Confession (2021) starring Yunjin Kim from the TV series Lost, The Divine Fury (2019), The 12th Suspect (2019), Romang (2019), Dinosaur Mecards: The Island of Tinysaurs (2019), TV Series Trap (2019), and more. She composed songs for a Korean new musical, Fighting Call and participated as a music director in 2019. Soundtracks of some of her work can be found on any streaming sites.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me. I would love to share about me.
I was born in South Korea. My family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada when I was 13 years old. I studied vocal performance and music education at Capilano University and University of Calgary in Canada. Since I was a very young kid, I played different instruments like piano, guitar, violin, drums, and synthesizer, and sang at church. I always made my own songs and sung them randomly and spontaneously. My first official song I wrote is called, One-Sided Love, which was written when I was about 15 years old. I grew up loving all different kinds of music, musicals, and Disney movies and music, which led me to join the school band and choir, community orchestra, garage band, musical pit band, church band and choir.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
After I got my Bachelor’s degree, I wanted to continue studying music and begin building my career in music. I wasn’t sure if I should continue studying vocal performance, music education, music therapy or composition. I just wanted to influence as many people as I can with music, and affect people’s lives positively. So, I thought making music and letting people listen to my music would touch their lives most effectively.
When I was in high school, my school band and choir had a chance to go to Disney Land in California and perform there. My choir had a chance to experience studio recording and sang “Steady As The Beating Drum” from Pocahontas as we watched the screen and followed scene by scene. I’ve always loved all the Disney movies and music, but this was the moment when I knew that I wanted to make music for Disney and music for screen and stage.
This experience which captivated of capturing my heart was recalled and had a significant influence when I had to choose my career path. The only Master’s degree program and school I applied for was Scoring for Film and Multimedia at New York University because I was sure that creating music for film and multimedia was the one I wanted to go for. This is how my career path as a composer for film and multimedia started. I love creative things such as music, art, set, light, moving pictures, storytelling and so much more. I love the process of collaborating and realizing ideas, dreams and visions into one piece. I would like to make people imagine, dream, and come up with more creative ideas from listening to my music and seeing my creative work, because my goal is not just becoming a good composer but to become a creative artist.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I traveled the world, I always said to myself that I’ll come back for work and I’m going to make my music be heard there. After one year I came back from the trip, I had a chance to revisit The Slovak Radio Concert Hall in Bratislava, Slovak, and AIR Studios in London, UK for work. For the film, The Divine Fury (2019), I had a chance to record my music with the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and a chance to mix and master them with Jake Jackson at the AIR studios that I always dreamed of working with.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There is one mistake that I can call it as the funniest mistake when I was first starting. I was working on a documentary film, and I finished exporting the music of it a few hours before the deadline. I just had to send the music files to the director. But, the internet connection was terrible at my place. I searched for an Internet café and there was one near my place. I went there to send the file over. The internet café had a little bit faster internet speed compared to my place, but it was still slow. Thankfully, I could send it a couple hours before the deadline. Nothing went bad, so it’s hard to call it a mistake, but I should have avoided anything that would have cut it close.
There is another one that I’d like to share. I don’t want to call it “the funniest mistake” but would like to recall it as an immature and embarrassing mistake when I was first starting. I had a chance to work with a Broadway producer. The story was about something I always wanted to work and actually planned to work on even a few years before I met the producer. I always wanted to work on a Broadway show, and this opportunity was like my dream come true. There were amazing crews to make this show happen. After I got the first draft of the script, I started writing music that I had in my mind. I thought once I have something, it might be easier to edit and develop it from there. It took long to work on it because there was a lot of music. So, after about less than half a year, I finished working on the first act and half of the second act. I shared my mock-up recording of what I got with all the crews, and they seemed to like it. But a few weeks later, they told me that they have a new composer. This broke my heart, but I learned that there has to be more communication even before I start working on music. I thought having the music produced and then talking to the crew about it will be easier. I, also, learned that the real world does not give me a second chance, so I should do well in the first place. However, I will present my work on Broadway and more amazing places one day in the near future.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful for all my professors, families and friends who always encourage me a lot and love my music. I would say Ja wan Koo is one particular person I am grateful towards. He helped me get to where I am. When I first came to South Korea to visit my family after a three-month world trip, I did not plan to work in Korea. However, I wanted to see and experience how the entertainment and film industry is like in South Korea. Therefore, I applied to this studio called, ON THE TRACK, which was established by Ja wan Koo. He studied film scoring at Berklee, and he was one of the most passionate and knowledgeable composers in creating music I’ve ever met. I worked on a number of films, commercials, animations, documentaries, etc., and learned so much. He led me to another level of creating music and thinking about music.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Don’t give up. Don’t lose your dream. Keep creating things is the best way to be in this career. Opportunities will come, so be prepared for them and seize them.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
My passion for music and goal to succeed in my career drove me to get up everyday and work in TV and Film. However, not just working in the Film and multimedia industry, but to keep working on creating my own music and creative stuff is important to me. My goal to succeed is to create good music, compose a lot of music I like and the audience would like, compose music that depicts and enhances different contents of the moods to support the scene. making my music famous so that as many as people can listen to my music and feel something.
The change I want to see in the industry is giving fair opportunities to talented people. In this industry, there are certain people who have big names and keep getting big projects. I want to see more unheard but working hard and talented artists coming up to create more amazing projects.
I hate to say there should be more women composers working with big names and working on big projects because this should be naturally happening without saying this needs to be changed and without demanding for it.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
It’s difficult to share the films and projects that I’m currently working on that have not premiered yet. But, I can share that I’m working on more personal music albums. I see myself creating more music that will be used by different forms of multimedia and films and be heard by many people. I’m making different genres of music, and I want people to imagine, feel something that they have not felt before, get creative ideas and see visions from listening to my music. I’m writing musicals and I’m planning to direct a film as well. I would like to collaborate with media artists and integrate the music, dance, set, light, directing, multimedia with high technology. I will keep creating creative arts.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
I think it’s very important to have one’s style and colour of music. There is a lot of great music, but I believe there should be one’s own music. This will lead to diversity not competition. Building up one’s identity in music is more important than competing to win.
Here’s three reasons why I think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television.
First, there is a lot of great work already. Originality is very precious, rare and important. The audience wants something new and of good quality. Creating something new will make it diverse and different from something that people have already seen or heard before. I don’t like reference music because it limits artists’ creativity and it will be music that sounds like something else. So, trusting the artist and believing in the artist’s creativity may bring more originality to the work.
Second, work is accessible from anywhere and everywhere these days. The background, status, and culture of the audience are varied and diverse.
Third, technology is improving and evolving. In order to follow the speed of developing technology, the diversity of or adapting new technology to film and television is needed.
This will give our culture and our youth growing up today more creativity by making them want to hear and create something new and diverse. Moreover, since COVID-19, we are unavailable to go to the movie theatre, and people watch film and television through computer, laptop, cellphone, and tv. The technology of home theatre will be developed even more, and film and television need to follow up with it as well. VR, surround sound of 5.1 system setting at home theatre, 4D, hologram, and more will be accessible from home, and I would like to make more work that can be played with these high technology systems in creative ways.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be self-motivated: There’s going to be deadlines and multiple projects happening at the same time, so keeping everything in time is very important. In order to successfully complete everything in time, I have to make my own work hours and make it happen.
- Keep writing music: Not only writing music for someone else’s projects, it’s important to keep up with creating my own music. This way, I can find my own style of music and let the audience know me as an artist. This is the best way to freely express myself as an artist because I can do whatever I want.
- Keep learning: Learning is endless. To me, learning to make my music sound better and have a better quality is important. New gears, tools and virtual instruments are continually made and released. New sounds and styles of music are keep coming. I don’t want to be stuck to a limited style of music. As a film composer, it’s important to make diverse genres of music, and it’s not easy to be an expert in every genre of music. So, learning and creating different genres of music is very important and helpful. Keep up to date, but at the same time, keep your own style of music as well.
- Be good at business: Meeting people in this industry and building relationships with them are very important. Becoming friends with directors and producers will help continue working with them. In order to make a good and long relationship with a collaborator, it’s important to do a good job, have good communication skills, and provide the collaborator what she/he wants.
- You’ll be spending a lot of money: I don’t usually regret spending money on buying gears and anything that is needed in creating music because they are worth it. But, building my music studio and buying keyboards, synthesizers, controllers, speakers, headphones, interface, microphones, computer, computer programs, Virtual Studio Technology Instruments and plug-ins, etc. cost a lot.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Working with a good condition of the body and mind is very important. I tried to go for a short walk or a run for at least half an hour everyday. I do stretching and workout daily because this job requires long hours of sitting. I try not to eat too much. I read the Bible and books that are helpful in keeping my mind stable and maintain a high self-esteem. I write down anything that comes up in my head. I listen to my past compositions or other good artists’ music to get impacted to write good music and keep me creating good stuff. And, I walk and sing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘Expect the Unexpected’. This is what I always like to say. In that way, I could hope for things to happen in my life and I can enjoy any unexpected things that happen in my life.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be Renaissance. I believe music and art give people quality of life because it gives opportunity to look back at and look forward to one’s life, and think about oneself. Listening to music and/or looking at artwork allow people to develop their creativity, and this creativity will affect their work, family and their lives. Therefore, I believe music and art are a couple of elements to develop society. However, I want to see this coming with technology. It’s hard to forget the good stuff and the experience that people have for the first time. I want the audience to feel and experience unforgettable amazement of the technology. Imagine that the audience can see a movie with the five senses of seeing, touching, smelling, feeling the vibes, sensing the same things that the character of the movie is experiencing. The audience will never forget this movie. This high tech movement would be something I would like to bring.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to have lunch with one of my favorite directors, Christopher Nolan. First, his films are amazing. And, he keeps trying to create something new and continues to challenge himself. Wes Anderson, Bong Joon-ho, Pete Docter, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, James Cameron, Greta Gerwig, and Ang Lee are some of my favorite directors I’d love to meet.
If I can add more, I’d love to meet amazing film composers like Cliff Martinez, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Christophe Beck, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Danny Elfman, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Thomas Bergersen, and many more.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you again for having me!