Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CHAPTEr #38: MUSIC-SCORE (6/17/2008)

Chapter #38

“Hire a Composer”

THE $1,000,000 FEATURE

1. Producer $10,000-$16,000
2. Writer/Script $5,000-$10,000
3. Director $10,000-$15,000
4. Cast/Actors $6,000-$9,000 (+$25,000)
ABOVE-THE-LINE.......................................................$31,000-$50,000 (+$25,000)
5. Film Stock $20,000-$40,000
6. Film Lab I (Shoot) $15,000-$30,000
7. Camera $12,000-$36,000
8. Expendables $2,000-$5,000
9. Sound Equipment $6,000-$11,000
10. Sound Transfer $3,000-$5,000
11. Light/Grip $6,000-$24,000
12. Dolly $2,000-$3,000
13. DP $10,000-$15,000
14. PM & AD $14,500-$21,000
15. Production Designer $6,000-$8,500
16. Crew $23,000-$35,500
17. Art & Props $5,000-$9,000
18. Wardrobe & Makeup $3,000-$5,000
19. Permits $2,000-$6,000
20. Insurance $3,000-$10,000
21. Dailies $4,000-$6,000
22. FX/Stunts/Car $0-$0
23. Locations $2,000-$10,000
24. Office & Paperwork $1,500-$6,000
25. Publicity $2,000-$10,000
26. Food $6,000-$9,000
IN-THE-CAN................................................................... $148,500-$305,000
THE SHOOT (Total Above & Below)…………..……………… $179,500-$355,000
27. Film Edit $12,000-$18,500
28. Film Lab II (Edit) $2,000-$3,000
29. Sound Edit $7,500-$12,000
30. ADR
31. Foley
32. MUSIC/SCORE $5,000-$7,000
33. Mix
34. Optical Transfers
35. M&E
THE EDIT............................................................................
36. Titles
37. Negative Cutting
38. Lab III (Answer Print)
TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS…...............................................

Music sets the dramatic tone. What is a kiss without the violins? A Cavalry charge without a bugle? Music establishes moods, intensifies emotions and maintains the story by connecting scenes and shots. Music is especially important on low-budget productions because it disguises imperfections in the dialogue and effects tracks. Be careful! Be very careful! Most first-timers make big mistakes when approaching music for their film. Permit me to explain how to obtain your music/score inexpensively by first explaining what not to do.

First, don’t use “prerecorded” songs. I know you think it’s a great idea. A Moody Blues album, a couple of Grateful Dead songs, a Metallica cut, a 50’s Frankie Avalon beach song. Studio features use them. Why not you? Simple, they’re outrageously expensive. Popular tunes that pop up during films cost $25,000-$200,000 each - And that’s for only 10-15 seconds. Using any Beatles song for 5-10 seconds will cost at least $200,000. The cheapest licensing fee I ever heard of for a popular song was $6,000.

Now consider 12-15 songs for 10-15 second segments at $6,000-$50,000 each, and your music budget skyrockets to $60,000-$750,000. You can’t afford that. “Almost Famous”, the Cameron Crowe film about his escapades as a 15-year old reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine had a music budget of over $3.5 Million for pre-recorded songs of the 60s.

WARNING: If you don’t license these songs properly (technically called “music clearance”), you won’t get an E&O Insurance policy. And, remember, without E&O insurance you won’t get a distributor.

Second, don’t use “pre-cleared” (canned or stock) music from those CDs advertised for $99 in the back of filmmaker magazines. They’re actually okay, but do you really want something that's just "okay" for your film’s score?

Next, don’t use “public domain” (free) music. Public domain is basically anything that was recorded or written over 75 years ago. Do you know of any music written in the early ‘20s or before that, that you want for your score?

Now don’t get smart and say “classical.” Although Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is public domain, what you can’t use is a 1986 recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic, of a rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth. This recording will not be public domain for 60 years. You can purchase ($3) the sheet music of Beethoven’s Fifth, rent a music hall ($10,000+), hire an orchestra ($20,000-$100,000/day), a conductor ($10,000-$30,000), project the work print ($2,000+) and have the conductor, with the $3 sheet music, conduct the orchestra. It just got expensive, didn’t it?

Now that you know what you aren’t going to do, what you are going to do is hire a composer. (SECRET) Every city has hundreds, if not, thousands of unemployed musicians and every one of them would love an opening title credit on a feature film that says “Composed By”, “Music By” or “Orchestrated By”. Hire a composer/musician/arranger, just like you hired a writer. It is a composer-for-hire. It’s that simple, and you own everything.

· Beware of musicians who quote inflated rates when they've never scored a film. Don’t be intimidated --They’re employees.
· With studio features, the producer or studio owns all rights. Treat your low-budget composer just like a studio would treat him. Pay him a salary and keep all “licensing & publishing rights”. You pay. You own.
· Most music publishers allow you to use their songs inexpensively, sometimes even for free, if all you intend to do is showcase at a festival. They do this hoping that if a distributor buys the film, they’ll want the music also. Then the music gets expensive.
· Although not legal, many first-time filmmakers just put (aka: steal) popular music, without proper licensing, in their film for festival screenings. If a distributor buys the film, they dump the illegal music and license songs (possibly the same ones) after the fact.

Of course, first check your local film directory. Next, all post-production facilities have bulletin boards loaded with composer/musician’s business cards. Also, there are talent agencies and associations that specialize in music composers. You can browse through record stores for local bands (contact numbers are always on those CDs), and check out acts in your local lounges, clubs and rock venues. Make your calls and you will have dozens of composers/musicians competing to create music for you.

Your Composer views the final cut and conducts “spotting sessions” with the director, where each scenes mood and theme are discussed, and makes a list of "music cues." From these cues, he compiles a music "timing sheet" listing the (frames and seconds) footage and time where the music is to be placed. The Composer now creates the score, working with the director, and fitting music into the footage and time allotted within each cue. Finally, the Composer records the score at his studio with his synthesizer and several additional musicians, and delivers the final product, with the cue sheets, for approval.

A $500,000-$1 million feature film can easily allocate $25,000-$50,000 for music. This allows for 8-15 studio musicians, two to three recording sessions, a day or two of mixing time, the contracted fees for composing and orchestrating, stock costs, licensing fees (music clearance for two or three songs) and studio and equipment rental fees.

With your budget, this is not affordable. Thus, looking for a composer whom needs his first feature credit, but who has his own recording studio (2nd bedroom or garage) is your best choice. Negotiate a flat fee of $5,000-$7,000 to include the Composer’s fee, recording studio time, additional musicians, tape stock and transfer costs. Don't pay more.

1. Get composer referrals and ask for demo tapes.