The Heartbeat of Captivating Stories – A Conversation with Filmmaker Gene Yoon

For filmmaker Gene Yoon, empathy is the vital heartbeat of storytelling, connecting creators with audiences and infusing narratives with enduring authenticity.

Filmmaker Gene Yoon

The essential element for a compelling story, according to filmmaker Gene Yoon? Empathy. Keep reading to learn more about the role music plays in his films, his advice for new filmmakers, and how he uses Musicbed in his stunning films.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Gene Yoon: It’s hard to say exactly when I started making videos, but my earliest memories are shooting on a small Sony Digicam in junior making goofy videos with my friends that never made the Internet. Years later, I got my first DSLR the summer going into college and that was the beginning of me becoming obsessed with making videos and taking photos. I wouldn’t have called myself a filmmaker during those years, but what I wasn’t aware of was that those years were formative in shaping the filmmaker and storyteller I am today. Documentation seems to be the constant theme from those early years and the work I find myself creating now. Whether it be for a project or just for myself, time and time again documentation seems to be at the heart of what drives my storytelling. 

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

My motivation is largely driven by the desire to see what I’m capable of. I keep telling myself that these may be the best years of my life as a creative/artist/filmmaker/photographer and I don’t want to squander it. I want to look back someday on my career and find satisfaction that I gave it my all. I find a lot of inspiration from the people in my life and I’m thankful to have such talented friends surround me. Balance is important to me, so I always try to blend improving my skills as an artist, and then completely unrelated things, like playing basketball.

Gene Yoon and friend with camera

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling?

Over the years I’ve found that I’m really drawn to interesting compositions and lighting techniques. The use of color to convey an emotion is very powerful, and all these things when done somehow in a simple manner I believe make any story more memorable and powerful. Music is the unsung hero sometimes, you can’t see it in any film or project, but it’s absolutely necessary as a character in every film. It can help drive and push the story, or help it slow down and go in a new direction. 

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

You have to empathize with the story. I think that’s what helps us craft good stories when it resonates with us as artists. From there, it’s really finding the story within the story, and sometimes the story within the story within the story. It helps to build layers, but not get too lost in the sauce. Other elements like music, sound design, interesting compositions, tension, conflict, and resolution are also key. 

How important is music in your work? 

It’s the unseen character that’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes you don’t even have to notice it, but it’s there. On the other hand, if you take it out, you completely notice it’s not there. It helps me drive emotion, ramp up the energy with big swells, and even create tension in my videos. It’s the tool that I use to shape my videos and help me convey the exact message or story I’m looking to tell. 

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers?

Give it all you’ve got, and don’t give up. It may take some time, maybe even longer than you ever thought, but even if you don’t hit the benchmarks you had hoped to hit, you’ll learn so much along the way. Secondly, find people to create with and alongside. There’s no way I’d be where I am today without the help and support of my creative friends. They push me, hold me accountable, inspire me, and it’s a group effort. And although it seems impossible, you never know, you may be the first to do something new and exciting because there’s no one else like you. 

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

Definitely requires a balance and I always find it’s a bit of give and take. For client work, it really comes down to working with clients that align with your artistic approach, but also a ton of communication to make sure everyone is on the same page. And shoot a bit more, so that you have extra footage or visuals in case you did push it a bit too far creatively and you have more assets you’re sitting on to use that the client would like more. When creating for an audience, it’s a bit of creating for yourself and the audience at the same time. I find this always go back and forth.

Gene Yoon taking photo of city on skyrise

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

Over the years, I have found that one of the challenges I can’t escape is comparison. In different seasons of my work and career, it’s looked different, but sometimes I can’t help but compare myself to other creatives. In some ways, it works in my favor to push me to keep leveling up, but in its worst form, it holds back my confidence and handicaps my creativity. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

I worked on creating a documentary over the past couple of years with a few friends and business partners. It’s easily the most ambitious project that all of us have worked on and one that I’ll look back on fondly for many years. It may sound corny, but some of my YouTube videos are my favorite personal projects that I’ve been able to work on. A couple of them are centered around my personal life, my family, and just my journey as an artist so far and they’re special to me for those reasons. 

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

It really depends on the project that I’m working on, but I first start by listening to what’s new on the platform. I’m always looking to source music for current or future projects by finding inspiration through new songs and artists. After that, I’ll begin searching by using the filter tools that are very accurate to source something typically based on mood, feel, and overall energy. Sometimes it’s something somber and emotive, and other times it’s something with huge swells and tons of energy. Those two methods have worked well for me and what I’d tell others looking to maximize the platform. 

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

I’ve been using Musicbed for years and as I’ve experimented with other brands early on, I kept finding that the most diverse music that was frankly just really good is Musicbed. It started with sourcing music for my wedding films and has morphed into using music for my YouTube videos and commercial work. The deep and diverse catalog that’s ever-changing keeps things fresh and nearly every time I’m searching for music, I find music that inspires me for the next project that I haven’t even started yet.

Explore a curated playlist of Gene’s favorite songs to use in his films—available to license only on Musicbed.