Boardroom catches up with Captain Marvel and Fortnite composer Pinar Toprak, whose Amazon Thursday Night Football start turn makes her the first woman to score NFL theme music.
Amazon’s long-anticipated debut of Thursday Night Football on Prime Video on Sept. 15 was an evening of firsts for both the NFL and the ecommerce and streaming giant. But beyond the field and broadcast booth, accomplished film, TV and video game composer Pinar Toprak made history of her own.
Toprak — whose credits range from Captain Marvel to Fortnite and beyond — became the first woman to score theme music for an NFL broadcast, which she performed live accompanied by an orchestra and surrounded by fans at a packed Fonda Theater in Hollywood for Amazon’s official TNF kickoff event leading into the Chargers‘ date with the Chiefs under the lights in Kansas City.
Breaking barriers is nothing new for Toprak, whose 2019 Captain Marvel star turn made her the first woman to compose for an MCU film, as well as the first to score a film that went on to gross more than $1 billion at the box office.
Additional highlights on her diverse resume include Pixar’s Purl, Stargirl, McMillions, The Lost City, the main theme music for Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, and the upcoming film Shotgun Wedding.
Her creative process with Amazon mirrored the secrecy of a Marvel film, so the composer was more than game to take the limited hints provided and run with them, creating several demos for consideration.
“Amazon couldn’t really tell me what the project was initially, but they gave me some clues and I had a feeling what this was,” Pinar Toprak told Boardroom. “I told them to count me in and began the process knowing that they were also talking to other composers. There was no guarantee I was going to land this, but I was so happy they asked me to throw my hat in the ring.”
Despite writing multiple demos while not knowing exactly what Amazon was going for, it was ultimately her first score that the streamer selected for TNF.
“These themes, they usually stay in history throughout time,” Toprak said. “I looked towards the past for inspiration and the common thread that I found was the combination of pride, excitement, and emotion, focusing on getting fans pumped up.”
Admittedly not a diehard NFL fan — the Turkish-born Toprak grew up with soccer as her football — she leaned heavily into the emotion of the league and its fans to create the new score.
“Football is such an emotional game both with players and fans, so it was important to bring those feelings into the theme,” Toprak added. “As soon as you hear the theme, it immediately takes you to that place.”
Toprak and a 70-piece orchestra recorded the Thursday Night Football theme in July at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios. Thursday night’s performance at Amazon’s event in Hollywood was the first time the three-minute theme was shared with a live audience of fans.
In addition to the three-minute version, Topraks said she created 60 to 70 different iterations for broadcast and marketing purposes, including everything from a rock version with electric guitars to a big band approach with saxophones and pianos. The unique arrangements and cutdowns can be heard throughout Amazon’s broadcasts on during different moments of a given game.
Although she didn’t have a specific rooting interest in Week 2’s Chiefs-Chargers Prime Video premiere game nor such a deep understanding of the players or teams, Toprak’s experience working with global cultural phenomenons like Fortnite and Captain Marvel gave her plenty of direction during the course of her creative process.
“Football is so different than a film, TV show or video game,” Toprak said, “but the process of finding the story and creating emotion in the score is exactly the same. Every medium has [its] own ways of working, but ultimately, it’s all about storytelling.”