A Q&A with Up and Coming Composing Duo Shirley Song and Jina An

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  1. In some Princess” and royal news, you just scored Netflixs Christmas movie The Princess Switch 3 starring Vanessa Hudgens, which is spinning off the sequel. As the release is coming up in a few months, can you tell us more about how did this collaboration start and how did it go? And as this movie seems to be slightly different – story wise- from the previous parts, how will that reflect on the music score?

    Scoring Princess Switch 3 was so much fun for us. Theres much more action in this third film compared to the last two, so, with the stakes higher for our characters, we also made sure our music elevated all the action and excitement.  The film also explores a different familial relationship (without divulging too much of the film), so we, with the help of our director Mike Rohl and our editor, Lee Haxall, really pushed us to come up with a very tender yet memorable theme for those moments.

    We have to say that we were absolutely blessed to have worked with such a supportive and encouraging team, who also had the absolute best sense of humor!  Every zoom meeting we had with our director, editor and assistant editors was always productive, but full of laughter and jokes (and Jinas sleigh bell in the background.)

    Lastly, all this would not have been possible without our good friend/amazing music supervisor on the film, Angela Asistio who helped put our demo reel in front of our wonderful director/producer, Mike Rohl and writer/producer Robin Bernheim Burger.  Being two relatively new composers on the block, we are forever grateful that Mike and Robin took that leap of faith and entrusted us to compose for Princess Switch 3.

  2. It is not so often when you find a partner in music, and have not only incredible writing skills, but also harmonic and collaboration chemistry. When and how and where did this friendship start? How do you work on differences in opinion or vision when it comes to co-scoring? What challenges do you face? And where do you plan on taking it from here? 

    Shirley:

    I constantly rant on about just how incredibly lucky I am to have a friend and writing partner like Jina.  How our friendship came about was perhaps in our last year of studying at the Berklee College of Music.  It was the first time that we took classes together and I remember thinking to myself just how hilarious this woman is, but this was before I heard any of her music.  It was then awards/scholarship season, so I applied, with the hopes of receiving the film scoring award that had the biggest monetary reward.  I was, however, awarded a different scholarship (that I am VERY grateful for!) but was curious… “WHO WON THE AWARD I WAS INITIALLY APPLYING FOR?”  Lo and behold, I saw Jina Hyojin Ans name.  This was probably the moment that really piqued my interest and I knew that I wanted to get to know her more, both musically and as a friend.

    Long story short, we both started assisting composers Jeff & Mychael Danna and through working with them, saw how they worked and collaborated together.  We’ve always loved each others company, and loved each others music and scoring instincts even more.  For the most part, when were working together, there has not yet been a moment where we differed in instincts, but I am always pleasantly surprised with the direction Jina can take, musically in a scene.  When were working together, we exchange our music back and forth and ask for each others opinions, and our music has always been elevated through this process

    Jina:

    *wipes tears while hearing Shirleys story*

    Everything that Shirley said. She saved my butt when we were in school! Helped me pass my classes so I could graduate from college. Its a tough industry. But its incredibly comforting to have a support system, to have someone you trust musically and professionally. Shirleys been an incredible friend, writing partner and mentor for me. I 100% trust her musical/creative instincts and Ive never doubted that one bit. We are constantly working on our own projects. But when we hop on a project together, we bring all these improved knowledge and skills that weve been developing on our own and we get to share it with each other and grow even more together! Also.. Its a great feeling to just hand over a cue to Shirley and get a cue approved right away when Ive reached version 34566.

  3. What is your writing process like when you have a project together? 

    We always come together first and we talk extensively about the film, the themes, the sound palette… and we write out the themes that will be used in the film.  We split and delegate the cues and then, we collectively go back into our own writing caves and we… well, write away!  But theres always, always, always constant communication.  And yes, we talk, FaceTime or text every single day.  Every. Single. Day…

  4. As we are now having bigger awareness on the role of diversity in the entertainment industry, you both set an inspiring example being women, and also POC. How do you inspire the younger generation of both composers, and non-composers in pursuing their dreams? What are your goals in that area? 

    One of the biggest things is getting ourselves out there.  Growing up, I (Shirley) didnt know of any POC or women composers other than Tan Dun, when he won the Academy Award for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  We know for a fact, that these days, we get super pumped up and inspired when we see fellow female and POC composers posting about all the work that they are working on; it makes us want to work harder and to not give up.  We just hope that for now, we continue to work hard, stay humble, treat people right – the way we would like to be treated and to be proud of the work that we’re doing, no matter how big or small it may be.

  5. Finally, a question I always like to ask. If you had a magic wand and you can have one wish come true in your career, where you can work with any director you want or on any project you want. What dream project would you be scoring? 

    Shirley: 

    This is a tough one… But my dream project would be a film or a show that one of our POC/female directors and writer friends are working on. So many of our female and POC filmmaker friends of ours are absolutely killing it.  We hope that we can all rise and support each other together!

    Jina: Whatever project that will win a flippin Oscar!

    Interview by Ghiya Rushidat

Spotlight Archive

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