The D+CFilm social network added a discussion about tips on how to get music for you film. Here’s the entry from Exeter-based filmmaker Martin Lejeune. There was also a response from Graham Sclater, of Tabitha Music in Exeter, who recently did a deal with Disney/Miramax for supplying music, and one from new composer Paul Abrey. Pop over to the D+CFilm social network for Graham’s, and Paul’s comments -now over to Martin.
Music can seem a big obstacle for the not necessarily financially burdened filmmaker but I’ve never had a problem finding composers for my stuff, I guess I’ve been lucky.
There are a number of composers out there who will work for less than their usual fee if they find a project different or exciting, as with actors, VFX artists or anyone else giving their time. They enjoy what they do and want to see their names on good films.
‘On micro-budget projects, there’s really very little to attract a score writer other than the ability to add the film to their showreel. On that basis, the production value needs to be high enough that the musician can actually use the footage to promote themselves.
“If you do have a budget, offer some to the muso. If you can’t afford what the job would be worth professionally, even a token goes a long way towards showing that you take their role seriously in the process. And if you’re paying other people, you can’t not pay your score writer without making the statement that you don’t value their work.
“Typically my workflow involves reading the script and watching the rough cut, if it’s available. I’ll be making notes as I go about what I think it needs. Then I’ll chat with the producer, over the phone or via skype, to compare notes and get their feelings about what needs to be there. A lot hinges on this interaction, because music is such a subjective thing that you need to work at establishing a common dialogue so that you all wind up on the same page.
“Then I’ll write up a cue sheet, which is a kind of spreadsheet that describes every piece of music that I’m going to write, including the SMPTE timecode of where the music comes in and how long it is. Once the producer has signed off on it (ie agreed), work begins.
“This enables me to deliver, via email attachments (if we’re working with mp3) or server download (if we’re staying with WAV), each piece of music on its own. The mix engineer can just drop them in at the required timecode. It saves having to export huge long chunks of the entire soundtrack, and it means that little cues can be changed around without it affecting everything else.’
Often filmmakers have certain music in mind which they use for a temp mix for rough edits for pacing reasons, which they can grow attached too.
‘Temp tracks are tricky things because people tend to edit their films to them, and then you, as composer, wind up having to produce something that’s exactly like it so that the picture sits, only completely different so that no one gets sued,” said David.
“Having said that, it’s great to work with someone who already has some ideas about what they want musically, because music is an integral part of the film. It’s a highly emotive tool that can make or break scenes, so as much as it’s fun to be given free reign, you kind of want to be reassured that the producer/director has actually thought about this a bit.
“The danger of working with someone who hasn’t really thought about it, particularly where budget isn’t unlimited, is that they don’t specify what they want, and then wind up asking for a lot of changes because it isn’t what they wanted. This falls under the category of Pissing People About, and is totally fine, even desirable, when you’re being paid per hour, but never otherwise. Great friendships have ended over things like this.’
So when should a filmmaker start looking for someone to score their films?
‘Film makers should just go ahead and contact composers. We don’t bite. If you don’t have a significant budget, a copy of a compelling script can go a long way towards getting someone interested in your project. Definitely contact your composer earlier in the process rather than later, because this helps with scheduling, for both of you.’
If you do not want an original music composed and just want something that fits there are of course other options.
Famous music obviously costs a lot of money in rights. Kevin Smith’s 1994 film Clerks spent more than it’s shooting budget on the rights to the soundtrack and the more famous the piece the more expensive the rights. Bubba Hotep, an Elvis biography* had to skirt around the music issue and not feature any Elvis music or scenes from his films.
The alternative is to find unsigned or independent bands, which is of course easier said then done, but if a smaller band thinks that having their music used in your film will get them more exposure they will jump at the opportunity.
It can also work out as a cheaper middle ground to commissioning an original score and If you get build a large audience it will certainly help the bands shift some mp3s. Buffy The Vampire Slayer went out of its way to feature unsigned bands in it’s episodes for just this reason.
We’ve talked about copyright but more recently a lot of artists and filmmakers have been releasing under Creative Commons licenses, this means the music comes with a licence agreement in some cases allows filmmakers (amongst others) to use the music. This music can be found on sites such as the podsafe music network.
Martin Lejeune is an Exeter- based filmmaker and effects artist. He also enjoys deep conversations and shallow depths of field.
â€¢ If you’ve got any tips on copyright for music in films, comment below, please. Or join the discussion on the D+CFilm social network
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