The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 11

11. Editing-part 3

As I said in an earlier post: get the best sound you can when filming, because you won’t have the money for ADR, and even if you do, your actors probably won’t be very good at it.

When editing, make sure to checker-board your sound tracks. It’ll make your life a lot easier when it comes time to mix. Don’t go nuts trying to clean up background sounds and such, because your mixer will most likely start over from scratch. Keep effects to the bare essentials, play with volume, fade in and out. That’s in. Unless you’re a ProTools genius. In that case you probably won’t need a mix. But since I’ve never met a filmmaker who really understood sound, I doubt that’s a possibility.

As for music. First off, if you don’t have the rights to a song, DO NOT USE IT. It makes you a douche. Plain and simple, it’s stealing. And no, on your micro budget film you are never getting the rights to that Rolling Stones classic. No, someone in their camp is not going to read your script and realize they have to give you their song. That is not going to happen. That song is going to cost you $25,000, or more. And on any low budget film, it’s not worth it. (Really, you should be making music videos instead.)

And if you think you can get away with the version recorded by your brother’s band. Wrong. You still need publishing rights. That’s right, you need both publishing rights (basically, from the person who wrote the song) and master sync rights (from the person who owns the actual recording, usually the record label) for every song in your film.

Now, let’s say someone from the Rolling Stones camp actually returns your call. They are probably going to offer you something called “Festival Rights.” Do not EVER buy festival rights for a song. It’s one of the biggest rip-off in the film business.

First off, you don’t need them. No festivals check on whether or not you have clearances for the songs in your film. No one is coming after you, as you made no money from the festival screening. However, personally, as a filmmaker who always gets the rights to everything in his films, it pisses me off when a filmmaker submits a film that can never be released because he’ll never get the rights. It’s lazy, bullshit, filmmaking. It’s makes you a piece of shit in my eyes. You’re a thief. And I’ll have no problem confronting you at a festival. Or calling you out on it on a panel. (Seriously, that would be like someone just copying your film and submitting it as theirs. Might piss you off right?)

Secondly, if you were stupid enough to buy festival rights, and then lucky enough to sell your film, pretty much whatever you sell your film for is going to be the asking price for those songs you never bothered acquiring all rights to. That’s right, all the money you just made is going to music rights.

Feel like an idiot? You should.

And you now why. There are so many truly amazing indie bands out there, in the same boat as we are. Independent artists just wanting to be heard. And one of them will have a song that’s perfect for your film. Many of them will. And they will be more than happy to sell you non-exclusive rights to it for something you can afford. A hundred bucks, and maybe a ¼ of one percent of backend. Be creative. It can work. And you’ll be helping a fellow indie artist.

Look at the soundtracks to either YOU ARE ALONE or FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and you’ll hear over 30 gorgeous tracks from a variety of amazing bands from Crooked Fingers to Matthew Ryan, the Wrens, Sarge, Phosphorescent. Every one of them indie. In every case I negotiated with the artist. In every case it was something I could afford.

It’s something you can afford. Film within your means. Wanting a Rolling Stones song (and obviously I’m just using them as an example, but any major artist would charge similar fees, from Beyonce to the Shins, all the same) is the same as wanting to film a car crash on your $25K budget. It just make you look as if you haven’t a clue. Because, well, you don’t. (Correct, the Shins are not indie. I’m talking someone who releases their own music, on their own, or a very small label.)

You’re indie. Support indie. Don’t be a douche filmmaker.

Next up: the mix

My filmography.

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1 Comment

Filed under directing, editing, filmmaking, indie rock

One response to “The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 11

  1. Great insights !! … from the the experienced indie to gonna be indie 😉

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