How Pinar Toprak Became the First Composer to Write a Billion Dollar Movie


Pinar Toprak shatters the glass ceiling for female composers. Having already marked the popular Fortnite video game, she recently achieved her greatest achievement to date: creating the score for Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel. This makes her the first woman to helm a billion dollar blockbuster movie.

Recently, Toprak has shown an expanded skill set as the film’s producer. The walk, which stars Justin Chatwin and Malcolm McDowell. In August, his theme music for Amazon Prime Thursday night football will make her debut, making her the first woman to compose an original theme for an NFL media kit.

The odds were stacked against Turkey-born Toprak at every step of her journey to becoming a top film composer. As a young girl, she was fascinated by the power of music in movies. “I was mesmerized by the legendary John Williams and Ennio Morricone for their craftsmanship.” She determined that she wanted to do what they did. But she was discouraged from pursuing her bold ambitions. Toprak says, “Especially growing up in the 90s in Istanbul, Turkey, it wasn’t very common for a Turkish woman to say, ‘I want to be a film composer.'”

Feeling the lack of support, when she applied to Berklee College of Music, it was as a piano major and not for a degree in film scoring. However, that changed after just a month of classes at the prestigious institution. Toprak had what she calls a “beautiful serendipitous moment.” She realized that she would rather fail at something she loves than succeed at something others expected of her.

Her first break was an internship at Paramount Pictures when she was just 20 years old. This helped Toprak land his dream job of working with Hans Zimmer at what was then known as Media Ventures International. Over the next few years, she continued to hone her craft and take on bigger projects.

To this day, Toprak is driven by a genuine passion for what she does. She says, “For me, doing something that fulfills me intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally is the reward. Every day I wake up grateful that this is what I can do.

The biggest challenge Toprak has faced in her career has been proving her songwriting abilities to others. She overcame this by showing a willingness to play the long game. For Captain Marvel, she invested her own money in hiring a 70-piece orchestra, in order to show the studio that she could handle composing and performing a score of this magnitude. She expects to continue making decisions like this to achieve her ever-increasing goals.

Toprak lives her life purpose despite the obstacles in her path, and she wants others to believe in them like she did. She shares, “The greatest thing a young person can do for themselves is to find what lights them up. What do you do that makes you feel like you’re lost in it and lose track of time? What is fulfilling? Once you know this, you can increase your chances of success by focusing on one obstacle at a time.

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