From Scoring a Marvel Film to Writing the Theme for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, this Female Composer Is Making History

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Pinar Toprak says she knew she wanted to move to the United States and shoot Hollywood films since she was a little girl growing up in Istanbul.

“I was about five or six years old when I started conservatory,” Toprak said. “My dad was a big movie buff and introduced me to all these American movies. I was fascinated by the art of storytelling and then I started to realize as I got older, the power of music as part of that narrative.”

However, growing up in Turkey and saying you wanted to be a Hollywood film composer wasn’t something people were used to hearing, so Toprak was discouraged from going down that path, he says. But when he was 17 he moved to the US, and that’s when everything changed.

“Once I finished conservatory, I moved to the United States, learned English and went through school,” Toprak said. “I went to Berklee College of Music and was originally a piano performance major. Everyone told me, ‘You’re not going to make a living scoring movies.’ As a pianist you can teach, you can give concerts. ‘”

Toprak ended up switching to film scoring because he felt he’d rather fail at something he loved than succeed at something other people told him to do.

“I finished Berklee in two years, and at 19 I moved to Los Angeles and got better,” he said.

Toprak began as an intern in the Music Department at Paramount Pictures and went on to work alongside some of Hollywood’s most famous composers, including EGOT winner Han Zimmer. And he continues to be successful in Hollywood. She was the first composer to be hired to score a Marvel film and the first woman to be tapped to create the NFL’s Thursday Night Football theme song.

Toprak sat down with Jessica Abo to talk about her career, the time it took to land the Marvel gig, and what advice she has for anyone chasing a dream.

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