Hollywood-based film composer and music producer Yang Zhang (also known as Zhang Yang, Chinese characters “张旸”) pursues a multi-faced career in film scoring, music publishing, digital music startup, and other digital media related business endeavors. Her music career can be traced back to her childhood. After taking years of classical music training, she built her early-stage music career as a composer then immediately jumped into the diverse landscape of electronic music, which she nows blends into her film music. Additionally, she officially became a member of the Academy Television Arts & Science (Emmy) music peer group. In 2012, her creative music production sparked franchise “Transformer”video game director, Flint Dille’s interest, who invited her to join his creative team for the trans media franchise titled “Tiki WikiTiki”.
You’ve just been awarded at an International Film Festival. Did you expect to win? And what were your feelings after the victory?
Zhang Yang: No, not at all. I was thrilled to hear that I was the nominee for their competition finals. But to win the nomination, was totally out of the blue for me. The feeling of winning was great, it came as an unexpected surprise, then blending with recognition and confidence, I felt like finally I saw my efforts came to fruition, following the harvest.
What and who exactly is Views of Worlds Film & Music Festival at Montreal?
Zhang Yang: Views of the World Film & Music Festival is a Montreal-based international film event, combining a passion for quality film-making and an interest in promoting social and environmental justice. The Festival’s primary goal is to present films, scripts & film scores which have the power to raise awareness about vital social issues and inspiring audiences to take positive action. With the intention of becoming an annual event in Montreal, Views of the World is the result of a thorough study of both the Montreal and International film festival scenes. The Festival’s founders and juries are composed by a team of world level industry experts with years of the A-list international festival running and film industry working experiences. The festival is an outgrowth of international media company XII Tribes Entertainment. As the name suggests, “Views of the World” encourages diverse perspectives with the ultimate purpose of creating and promoting art that advocates progressive change.
Compared to other film festivals, what makes “Views of Worlds Film & Music Festival” stand out?
Zhang Yang: One of the festival’s most distinctive movements is to open up a rare avenue for discourse about film music. The new competition category “Best Music For A Non Produced Film” definitely is a revolution, it ventures out a new possibility to discover those interesting music scenes which haven’t got a chance to release along with film in a traditional sense of “film music”.
How do you feel that winning an award at the Views of Worlds Film & Music Festival at Montreal may benefit your career in any way?
Zhang Yang: For me, certainly it was a professional recognition in my industry. It will definitely be helpful to get professional attention among music publishers, agents, managers, music supervisors, etc. But more importantly, it delivered me the signal that you have to constantly build your professional recognition.
How did you get involved in the project with Flint Dille, who is known for his animated work for box office super hits such as Transformers and G.I. Joe?
Zhang Yang: I met Flint Dille through an industry conference called “Digital Hollywood”. We had a brief conversation and exchanged our current projects afterwards. He asked me about the possibility to write a couple of tracks for his ongoing trans-media project and I certainly felt interested to be part of his creative team, this is how we built up our collaboration at the beginning point.
Your winning composition is entitled “The World Is A Retro.” Did you only compose this song for the project or did you write the entire score?
Zhang Yang: I wrote several theme tracks including but not limited to the title theme track and the ending theme for the whole project. The interesting thing about this project is that it is still in the development phase as a nontraditional trans-media project, but the whole music part remains a totally independent value.
Could you give us an idea of how you went about writing the score and what the general theme is?
Zhang Yang:I was experimenting something when I wrote the theme for this project, the idea is trying to evolve a sense of film noir style by infusing futuristic EDM music elements, in attempt to re-define the renaissance style with a touch of futurism. For me, it was the perfect tone for this project as well.
Did you also perform on, and produce the music for “Tikiwikifiki”?
Zhang Yang: No, not so far. But I really wish someday we can move the music production onto the live concert. It will be a totally different concept on the stage. By far my focus is on the production world.
Will the “Tikiwikifiki”soundtrack score also be available as an independent entity in your catalog and be released as an album maybe?
Zhang Yang: Absolutely, as I mentioned earlier it has a totally independent value. One of my intentions and ideas to write themes for soundtracks was to create film-noir inspired EDM style in my music catalog. I am in the process of collecting more tracks to be released in near the future.
Is the music for this project being published through your own digital music publishing startup “Mercury Orbit Music” in Los Angeles?
Zhang Yang: Possibly, another possibility is co-publishing with other publishing companies with the focus on soundtrack or EDM catalogs.
Could you tell us more about Mercury Orbit Music and its intended focus?
Zhang Yang: Mercury Orbit Music will be the first ever all-in-one digital platform that focuses on film scoring and soundtrack music industry. Combing all the best elements of music licensing network with an effective and efficient approach, monitoring and management music database, video-embedded soundtrack streaming service. Our platform is going to make it easier for aspiring composers, music producers, network buyers, broadcasters, filmmakers, fans and merchants to interact with one another, creating the environment in which these quality soundtracks deserve to exist and get attention.
Are you actually leaning your career more to towards film scoring and soundtrack music than just regular mainstream music now?
Zhang Yang: Yes and no. 🙂 I mean my music background is more related to film scoring and soundtrack fields rather than mainstream music in a general sense. But one of my intentions and desires, also part of the reason to create my startup, is to combine mainstream pop music trends into film score and soundtrack industry, both from a creative and a business perspective. Currently, I am in the process of soliciting several collaborations, details will be revealed in the future.
Now after the success of your award-winning score what can fans and music lovers expect next from Zhang Yang?
Zhang Yang: I am experimenting a variety of trailer music catalogs. More details will be disclosed soon.:-)
Do you have a desire to work with any specific filmmaker of note? Maybe someone who you think could benefit from your particular style.
Zhang Yang: I can make a long list here.-) But general speaking, those directors who are deeply involved in Sci-fi, Fantasy and Adventure category are the ones I would love to work with. Regarding who could benefit from my particular style, I would like to say those directors who are open and adventurous to explore a new sense of creativity when it comes to film scoring, if I start out a list here(just kidding), it would be Neil Burger (Credit “Divergent”), Joseph Kosinski (Credits “ Oblivion”, “Tron Legacy”), Sofia Coppola (Credit” The Bling Ring”), to name just a few. Those are ones who ventured out film score parts into a new sense of music trend direction.
You have often been cited as someone “who works like no other” in the industry. How would you personally define that statement? And what do you think truly sets you apart from your colleagues and contemporaries.
Zhang Yang: Certainly I feel flattered. I guess that probably I have the most diversified career background. Not only being a composer and music producer, but also an entrepreneur and a sales-driven business executive. My years of sales and marketing experiences has developed me a sense of instinct when it comes to forecasting music and industry trends, and I know where I will invest my time, energy and efforts.
Do you draw any inspiration from any of your peers at all? And which composers are you particularly fond of, or whose work you appreciate more than others?
Zhang Yang: Interesting enough, believe it or not, I still listen to those film composers icons, particular John Barry and John Williams, who are the ones really defined film music genres back then. If you listen to those 007 soundtracks and epic move themes produced during those periods, they still sound incredible and legendary.