A few years ago, Pakk Hui visited one of my film scoring classes at Berklee. Being an alumnus himself, our class got to hear about his experiences after his time at Berklee. When I moved to Los Angeles after graduating, Pakk was one of the first people I contacted (executing the "professional coffee meet-up" I had learned about at Berklee).
Pakk is a highly talented film composer and musician who has had the opportunity to work with such famed names as W.G. Snuffy Walden, Alf Clausen and Brian Tyler.
Nick Dolan: Starting before your career in film music, what is your musical background?
Pakk Hui: I started on the melodica when I was about 7. I was a part of my elementary school's melodica ensemble. I formally began taking piano lessons my freshmen year in high school. When I went to college, I majored in biology (pre-med) and minored in music, though I stopped piano lessons completely and focused more on singing. I sang with my college's men's acappella group. There I got my first taste of arranging music. As a music minor, I was given the opportunity to write a piece for the school orchestra. And that was my first taste of composing for an audience. I picked up piano lessons again when I was in graduate school for business. It was at business school that I decided to pursue a career in film music.
ND: You interned with W.G. Snuffy Walden and Alf Clausen, how did that experience affect your career?
PH: Interning for Alf and Snuffy was a great experience. They were the first connections I had in the industry. I had no family, no friends in this business. So it was hard to find my way in. I was able to see how they work. Beyond the music, they have to be managers of their teams. Seeing how they juggle it all, and write great music, was truly inspiring.
ND: You also worked with Brian Tyler in his studio, can you tell us a little about that experience and how that helped your career?
PH: In the 3.5 years I worked for Brian, I've learned so much, almost exclusively about the business and the industry. While I was there, I was also assisting Keith Power, who was Brian's assistant before me. They both gave me great opportunities to orchestrate and write. I've also met other great people, who definitely helped shape my career.
ND: How did you get started working specifically as a composer? What was your first experience like?
PH: After leaving Brian's studio, I went freelance full time. It was hard to take the plunge to do it, but it was a step I knew I had to take. I have to say, I'm happy that I took that step. The first few months were scary, because I didn't have the security of a biweekly paycheck. But I was able to make a decent living doing ghost writing and arranging for other composers. The first person to hire me was Tony Morales, who really took the time to help me through those first few months. I learned and am still learning so much from him, from composing, mixing, mastering, all the way to navigating through the business. He has been and still is a wonderful mentor.
ND: I recently interviewed Harry Manfredini, who commented on the industry saying there was once "A films with A composers, B films and B composers, etc... now...there are A composers and the rest are just about every man for himself." Having both worked on A films and composing for independent films yourself, what are your thoughts on this view of the industry?
PH: I think it's pretty much every man for himself on every level, A composers included. It is a business after all. I don't think there's a whole lot of guarantees for anyone these days. The view from down here is that I'm happy to have work, any work.
ND: Where do you see the future of the film music industry going?
PH: USA Today named music composers the 3rd fastest grow job in America. There is work out there, especially with so many video games, original series etc in the market now. As long as there's new content, I think there will be jobs.
ND: For young musicians trying to pursue a career as a film composer, what would you say are essential skills to have?
PH: Beyond the music, I think it's important to have a good business sense, which encompasses a lot. Essentially you're a small business owner. In addition to writing music, you have to be able to manage your own business as well. Unfortunately, this is not something we were taught at Berklee.
ND: And what's next for you?
PH: My short term goal in the next couple of years is to work on more projects where I'm the sole composer. I will continue to do ghost writing, if the opportunities are there. But I think I will try to pursue more projects on my own.
Thank you Pakk for an inspiring look at your experiences!
Film | Music
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