Film Composer and Vocalist Tori Letzler '12 Contributes to Hollywood Blockbusters
Alumna Tori Letzler '12 is making her voice known in the film scoring industry, not only as a composer working alongside Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler, but also by singing in movies and trailer scores for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Thor: The Dark World and Wonder Woman, as well as for video games including Beyond: Two Souls and Call of Duty.
Letzler recently organized and produced The Future Is Female: A Concert for Women in Film, presented by FIF Concerts and Events Inc., a nonprofit organization she founded to encourage and inspire female composers in an industry where women made up only 3 percent of composers who worked on the top 250 grossing films of 2016.
"I did this to give the younger generation a platform that doesn't currently exist, and the outpouring of support we got was way more than I could ever have expected," Letzler says of the Santa Monica event, which featured a live 35-piece orchestra performing scores from 10 up-and-coming female composers, mostly fellow Berklee alumni. "It shows there is a need for this, to get women higher paying gigs in a place where they're not somebody's assistant but the main composer. It's changing the culture, trickling from the top down to make a change."
A Cinematic Turn
Letzler began her career at age 10 in the Metropolitan Opera's Children's Choir and quickly followed that up at age 14 with an international tour with Cirque du Soleil's Quidam. It was around this time that she saw a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert conducted by John Williams and became inspired to work in film.
"A turning point for me was realizing I had this great love for film music, but because I was constantly performing as a vocalist, I just never really thought it was something I could do," she says, adding that while studying at Berklee, recognition from professors for her talents as a songwriter led her to major in film scoring, with a minor in video game scoring. "I absolutely realized within two seconds of sitting in the Intro to Film Scoring class that that's what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
This passion led to a move to L.A. and an internship through Berklee at New Wave Entertainment, a small production house, as a runner. But two weeks after she was hired, the company's music department was cut, so she got an internship and eventual job as a studio runner at Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Productions.
"There are so many composers under that roof, that if you really want to make it in the business and succeed, it's a really good place to start," Letzler says.
In L.A., she focused on being taken seriously as a composer, all but abandoning the idea of singing. But after about five months at Remote Control, someone found out about her background as a vocalist, and somehow a CD of Letzler singing got to Hans Zimmer's business partner, Steve Kofsky. The next day Kofsky asked her to sing on the CNN-produced documentary Girl Rising, and soon afterward composer Bryan Tyler hired her to sing on her first blockbuster, Thor: The Dark World.
Watch Letzler sing live in London during a performance of the Thor soundtrack:
Thor was the vehicle that led Letzler back to singing, and onto vocal work for American Horror Story: Coven, Kong: Skull Island, Wonder Woman and Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombie Chronicles, garnering two million YouTube views overnight for the video game's trailer featuring Letlzer's voice. These connections led to more work as a freelance composer, including work with The Hit House, a boutique music production company that provides music for movie trailers, including a recent theatrical campaign for Beauty and the Beast.
Letzler points out that despite the dismal statistics with regard to women composers in Hollywood, there are now more women in film scoring than ever before. Still, the lack of women in the field was apparent even while she was still a student.
"It was tough when I was in class of 12 people, and one of maybe two women in your class; it’s a little disheartening. So one of the goals of the [Female Is the Future] concert was to show young women still in school that they’re not alone," she says, adding that her advice for women currently looking to break into the industry of film scoring is to not give up. "You have to keep going. If you look around and you’re in a room of men, don’t let it affect you. Just be as good as you can be, work hard, and hopefully you'll succeed."