A study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film says that less than 8% of film composers are women. Kelly Mac is one of the industry’s handful of female film composers. She told Screen Rant that she had always seen herself in the pop record industry.
Her curriculum at Berklee did not necessarily cover what she was passionate about because she studied Contemporary Writing and Production, which included jazz scores and score preparation for wind ensembles. She began to work on numerous record projects for musicians outside of the classroom because of this.
Recounting her journey, Mac revealed, “After Berklee, I went full force into that. I moved in with a bunch of roommates in New York City; we started a little production team in our apartment; and we started working with artists and doing artist development for them. It kind of just snowballed from there, and then I started getting into sync.”
She revealed that although she wasn’t getting paid much at the time, working for artists gave her a flair for composition. Mac made the decision to apply for front desk roles at numerous music houses with the aim of moving her way up through the company. This was the turning point for her.
“This one company brought me in and they were like, ‘Well, we don’t need anyone at the front desk, but we heard your music. Why don’t you write on a commercial spot for us?’ That first commercial spot ended up landing and being a big national spot, so that was how I stumbled into it.”
Aside from building a reputation for herself in the industry, Mac is also using her company, Kelly Mac Music, to assist other musicians in helping storytellers with their musical talents. She told Essence, “I was working as a composer independently, and I ended up getting so much work that I couldn’t take on all the work myself. It kind of started out of necessity.”
She told Screen Rant that some of her peers, who had seen her blossoming career, began to ask her how she was succeeding in the field, and wanting to help, Mac recommended they come join her.
“I was like, ‘Well, why don’t I bring you in on this project? I’ll sort of oversee it and serve as the executive music producer, [or] creative director,’ if you will. I started doing that, it snowballed, and we created our team really organically. I ended up incorporating Kelly Mac Music, and things just kept growing from there,” she said, although she added that entrepreneurship was always something she wanted to do.
Mac has collaborated with Grammy Award-winning producer LuneyTunez (Rihanna, Future) on several songs for The Crush Boys and Jack Knight (Usher, Keyshia Cole), according to Universal Production Music.
Mac has also worked on innovative projects with many well-known brands, such as Nike, Reebok, ESPN, and CoverGirl, as well as television shows, such as Disney’s Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything and The George Lopez Show, according to her website.
She has appeared in iStandard’s Producer Showcase and has worked with vocalists from MTV’s Making the Band, The Voice, and X Factor.
She has also composed music for feature films such as BET’s Block Party, HBO’s Luna, and Netflix’s A New York Christmas Wedding, as well as short films such as Descended From the Promised Land: The Legacy of Black Street and The Spring, which were featured in the American Black Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.