Music as the "Glowing, Beating Heart" of 'Minari': 'THR Presents' Q&A With Lee Isaac Chung, Harry Yoon and Emile Mosseri

“It really seeped into the emotions and the tone of the film," says director Chung of composer Mosseri's score, which impacted Yoon's editing "going into the cutting rooms."

The Hollywood Reporter’s Mia Galuppo sat down with director Lee Isaac Chung, editor Harry Yoon and composer Emile Mosseri to discuss their A24 film, Minari, in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.

Mosseri was brought in by producer Christina Oh, the two having worked together on The Last Black Man in San Francisco. “It felt like being set up on a date,” he says of meeting Chung for the first time at Last Black Man’s Los Angeles premiere. After reading the Minari script, Mosseri immediately began to write music, months prior to the film’s production start in Oklahoma.

“We knew what we didn’t want it to sound like, but we didn’t know what the sound would end up being,” remembers Mosseri of early conversations about the score. They didn’t want to have an Americana-inspired score with acoustic guitars and harmonicas. It needed to be, as Mosseri describes it, "a glowing, beating heart, with some pain and struggle."

“It was like having a cheat sheet,” says Chung, who received the score five days before filming started, while the filmmakers were finalizing Minari’s shooting locations in and around Tulsa. “I had a lot of time to drive and had it on as I was driving here or there. I’d even play it for the actors,” said Chung. “It really seeped into the emotions and the tone of the film.”

The score began to affect other aspects of the production, as well. Listening to the track that would go along with scenes of Steven Yeun’s Jacob farming, Chung and cinematographer Lachlan Milne matched the frame rate to complement that section of the score.

As for Yoon, having the score ahead of creating the first cut of the film became highly influential. “I would often listen to [it] going into the cutting rooms,” says Yoon, who adds that it is rare for an editor to have access to a score prior to postproduction beginning. “It conveyed a certain feeling, and that really influenced how I started to look at the dailies, too.”

Often over the course of postproduction, Chung, Yoon and Mosseri would have breakfast together and then work for a few hours, with Mosseri sitting at the piano making live compositions to the edit. Says Yoon, “That was so fun and amazing to see his creative process in real time.”

This THR Presents has been brought to you by A24; additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed in THR’s new public hub at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.