For more than 20 years, Focks has worked with various orchestras such as the Munich Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the German Philharmonic Orchestra Berlin, the Slovak Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic, as well as with internationally successful musicians such as Frederik Köster, Andi Reisner, Alex Vesper, Sreten Krstic, Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici, Ferran Cuixent and Anja Lechner.
Focks began playing the piano at the age of five; later she added organ, trumpet, drums and mallets. She studied music at the Musikhochschule in Cologne from 1985 to 1993. During this time she performed in bands of various musical genres. With the band Die Weißen Männer she recorded and sang two albums produced by Henning Schmitz, who has been a member of Kraftwerk since 1991. In 1994 and 1995 she was twice a scholarship holder of the European Biennial for Music. From 1996 to 1998 she studied composition for film and television at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich, graduating in 1998 with a diploma in composition for film and television. In 2002, she went to Los Angeles and participated in an orchestration workshop with Steven Scott Smalley. In 2005, Focks was awarded the German Television Prize for the best film music for a total of five films. In 2007, she was nominated for the European Film Prize in the Prix d'Excellence category for Four Minutes by Chris Kraus and in 2008 for the German Film Prize Lola for A Flying Horse by Rainer Kaufmann. She received the Grand Prix spécial du Jury for best music for the film Vier Minuten at the 8e Festival International Musique & Cinema D'Auxerre from the hands of John Barry. Marco Kreuzpaintner's Krabat earned her another nomination for the German Film Award in 2009. In 2010, Score Poll was awarded the Teatro Politeama di Catanzaro Prize for "Best Film Score" at the Festival Internazionale Del Film Di Roma. In 2013, Annette Focks was awarded the Gema Authors Award for her work as a film composer. In 2019, Annette Focks was awarded the German Television Award for the second time in the category Best Music for the film Freibadclique. In 2020, she was nominated for the German Television Award for the third time for the film Lotte am Bauhaus.
Focks has contributed music to over 150 German and international cinema and television productions; many of these films have won national and international awards. Among others, she wrote the music for Marias letzte Reise and Ein starker Abgang by Rainer Kaufmann, Auf ewig und einen Tag (director: Markus Imboden), Ein Jahr nach Morgen, Im Zweifel and Atempause by Aelrun Goette, Schlaflos und Ruhm by Isabel Kleefeld, Rufmord by Viviane Andereggen. Well known, in addition to the above-mentioned award-winning and nominated works, are especially the soundtracks to the feature films Malunde by Stefanie Sycholt, Die Wilden Hühner and Die Wilden Hühner und die Liebe based on the children's books by Cornelia Funke, Die Drei Fragezeichen by Florian Baxmeyer, Der Liebeswunsch by Torsten C. Fischer, Der Architekt by Ina Weisse, John Rabe by Florian Gallenberger, Dschungelkind by Roland Suso Richter, Dreiviertelmond by Christian Zübert and Simon by Lisa Ohlin. In 2013, she added the feature films Ostwind by Katja von Garnier and Nachtzug nach Lissabon by Bille August, among others. In 2014 and 2015, Annette Focks composed music for further television films as well as for award-winning international films such as Silent Heart by Bille August and Ostwind 2, Molly Monster by Ted Sieger, which had its world premiere in competition at the Berlinale in 2016, and the feature film by Chris Kraus Die Blumen von gestern. In 2017, she composed the music for the award-winning film The Divine Order by Petra Volpe, which was invited as the Swiss contribution to the Academy Awards, and continued her collaboration with Bille August when she composed the music for the opening film of the Shanghai International Film Festival The Chinese Widow, starring Liu Yifei and Emile Hirsch. She then composed the score for Bille August's film 55 Steps starring Helena Bonham Carter and Hilary Swank.
In addition to film scores, Focks also composes for the concert hall. In 2008, for example, she composed a concerto for cello and orchestra entitled A Musical Letter Without Words. The world premiere of the work, commissioned by the Mozart Festival Augsburg 2008, was on May 31, 2008, with the Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Stern (son of violinist Isaac Stern) and Munich soloist Anja Lechner. In 2011, she composed the music for the Janosch story Onkel Poppoff kann auf Bäume fliegen for narrator and large orchestra, commissioned by the WDR Rundfunkorchester (world premiere February 2012). In 2015, Focks was commissioned by cappella academica to compose Novem for large orchestra op. 28, which premiered in January 2016 under the direction of Christiane Silber at the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin.
For Wunderschön, she was awarded the 2022 German Film Prize in the category of Best Film Score.
Focks is a member of both the German Film Academy and the European Film Academy. In 2019, she was a guest lecturer at the Vienna Film Academy and a member of the jury of the European Film Academy.
In 2019, she became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Academy Awards.