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Sorry composer, we blew our budget on vfx and actors

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by Greg, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. Guy Bacos

    Guy Bacos Senior Member

    Apr 2, 2009
    Once I did some basement wiring in a ceiling electrical box which was already pretty loaded with wires. A few years later when a real electrician came across this, he kept saying while cursing every 2 words: "I don't know who did this %#$@? job, but I'd sure like to give him a piece of my mind!!!", and I replied: "Yeah, me to!"

    Honestly, these guys work fast and good and you have piece of mind.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  2. Cowtothesky

    Cowtothesky Senior Member

    Oct 29, 2011
    The Crossroads
    The problem is that music is one of the last things that producers need to worry about. They no longer need it to show the producers while in development - they can just put pre-recorded temp tracks in for that.

    What I think is lost in the whole process is how important music can be to a film and the film's success.

    I watched an old film this weekend called "The Princess Bride". This film is a perfect example of how a score can ruin a film. It was horrible IMO. Others may disagree. It is all subjective anyway. Contrast that score with Jaws or Forest Gump. Bottom line: scores matter.
    Greg likes this.
  3. I think Mark Knopfler did a good job on the score itself, but the actual recordings are downright awful IMO. You can tell they cheaped out and used synths instead of a real orchestra in many sections.
  4. reddognoyz

    reddognoyz Senior Member

    he did such a brillant job on the other films he scored then he discovered the synclavier.
  5. reddognoyz

    reddognoyz Senior Member

    One of the composers at our studio was demoing for a series. We get an email about the exciting news that he is one of two composers that will be awarded the job. The producer sent that exciting news and asked how to get in touch with him because she has "another request" $100 says they want another F"ing free demo so they can decide. BECAUSE COMPOSERS WORK FOR FREE RIGHT??? I didn't actually mean all caps but I'm leaving it. I am soooo sick of this business. I know the job pays crap, the back end will be minimal, what's the point? it's almost "hobby" money. I just don't like this business anymore.
  6. OP

    Greg Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2012
    Los Angeles
    You've got to be batshit crazy to want to be a film composer for a career right now. There is a legion of temp music replacers out there undermining each other in every way possible JUST to add something to their iMDB page. Seems like people have become obsessed with getting the gig and have completely forgotten why they wanted it in the first place... to write beautiful unique music like the scores that inspired so many of us.
  7. dannymc

    dannymc Senior Member

    Jan 10, 2015
    i thought you were a trailer composer man? maybe its better to stay on that road?

  8. fixxer49

    fixxer49 Bouncing Consultant

    Jan 13, 2013
    New York, NY
    what does that have to do with the validity of his observation?
  9. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

    Aug 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Name me some of the most beloved, inspired, talked-about and subsequently imitated film music and at least half the time it's based on a temp to some degree...most times very, very close to the temp. I think it all depends on what the temp IS... Film composers establish themselves (at least in my mind) by being different and often it's about finding a director who has music in mind that isn't part of the normal temp music thing or used in a different way. They come along and ride THAT wave as opposed to what was out there before.
    X-Bassist likes this.
  10. X-Bassist

    X-Bassist Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2015
    Like with most creative people, composers need to practice turning people down. Business people do it all the time, producers do it even more, but every composer I’ve worked with, no matter how talented, says yes to everything. Crazy schedules? Producers unrealistic expectations? Tiny budget? Too many don’t realize the advantages of saying no. This all comes from being a people pleaser and wanting to be creatively successful with everyone. Practicing saying “No” to people will help you realize your value, because people will start coming back to you with money that you’d never expect. And some will never return. But those that do will really value your time and your work.

    Do you think everybody should value your time and your work? Well that’s an unreasonable expectation, so get rid of it. The trick is to weed out the people that don’t value it. You can start with the people that think it’s ok to offer you nothing. Those are the people that will never respect your work or time, especially after you did all this great work for free (and doing mediocre work is just a waste of everybody’s time). So save yourself the hassle and practice saying “No, thank you. All the best on your film”. You’ll be amazing at how many paying gigs come your way, and now you’ll have the time to do them. ;) ... But learn to laugh each time they ask you. Like your Dad did when you asked him to drive his favorite car at 6 years old.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
    Desire Inspires likes this.
  11. I see your point, but it's hard to say no when you don't know where your next pay cheque is coming from. I'm fortunate I have a non-musical career to fall back on, but for those who are struggling to make it solely as a composer, it's dog-eat-dog out there. I have turned down gigs because of the money, but can't say that brought more gigs....and I'm talking for the past 20+ years. Composers (on a whole)are expendable in a sense, until you build long term relationships with clients. If we weeded out all the people that didn't value our time for what it's actually worth, we would all be out of work.
  12. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires Senior Member

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Well if you are not getting paid or paid a low wage, you are already out of work. Well, I guess you can never be out of work if you choose to work for free. But you are not a professional if you do that. You are a hobbyist.

    Ask the real pros out there, not those struggling to make it. The real pros keep getting VALUABLE work because they stick to their guns. Those who fold get the scraps.
  13. Architekton

    Architekton Senior Member

    Jan 18, 2017
    Similar thing happened to me. A developer of one big video game wanted music from me and my cousin in it but, imagine this, they dont have budget for music, but it will be good for us because people will hear our music and someone might hire us in the future. And they are not small studio, they are actually mid to big and they do have money...so, our response was: no, thank you! Anyway, people really disrespect music, everything connected to music, composers, conductors, music (mix/mastering) engineers, musicians, etc. Its not a good time to be in a music business, unless you are Rihanna or Coldplay. :D
    AlexanderSchiborr likes this.
  14. OP

    Greg Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Its WAY better to stay on that road if you just want to make money. But I will always want to score amazing films, like many of us do. That's what inspired me to compose in the first place. I'm implying you gotta be crazy to want to score films & make money.
    dannymc likes this.
  15. Replicant

    Replicant Senior Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    Alberta, Canada
    Allow me to put forth an alternative look at the situation

    "Sorry composer, we blew our budget on VFX and actors"

    Yeah, and why wouldn't they?

    It's a tough pill for composers to swallow, but the reality is we're pretty far down the list of priorities when it comes to making films or games, especially on lower-budget projects.

    99% of people don't give a damn about music in films or games unless it's bad or its absence is jarring.

    and guess what? 9/10 indie films are hipster garbage that most people would NEVER pay to watch and won't even watch for free. If you're going to get asses in those seats to watch that film, it better be well-acted, well-written and LOOK good. No one goes out to the theater to watch the 200th Marvel slugfest of the last 15 minutes for the music so why would anyone think that anybody is going to watch your indie film unless it has an actor maybe someone has actually heard of in it and it is entertaining to watch? The latter usually means it is visually impressive on some level.

    You NEED these things in your movie or game to attract some sort of an audience and if you're a small-time company with meager amounts of cash to work with from the get go, you're probably going to have to cut out non-essential things and *gasp* music often is one of those things. Yes, it's better for them to blow their cash on hiring Matt Damon and some good sets and computer graphics and settle with cheap, free or no score at all because someone might actually watch their damn movie simply because Matt Damon.

    I don't like it anymore than you, but composers are going to have to accept that we're NOT the most important piece of the puzzle and be willing to work within meager budgets until you hit the big time; and most of us never will. Companies that actually COULD afford to pay you but don't are a different story, but most of the time that's not what this conversation is about.

    So by all means, refuse any low-paying or no paying gig and don't accept anything less than whatever you think you're worth (which has no theoretical limit in this case)

    but just be prepared to accept the consequences of turning away opportunities as well — just about everyone started with low-paying or free gigs and the idea that we could all just move past that and be making Johnny Depp level pay by refusing to ever accept such lowly gigs is nothing but a fantasy.
  16. NoamL

    NoamL Senior Member

    Jul 6, 2015
    If you - as the composer! - think that music is unimportant, why are you writing music? You need to be an advocate for your own value.

    My argument to an indie producer would be this: Good acting isn't particularly cheap but it's also not particularly rare. Many indie films also have decent and creative high-concepts.

    The #1 thing indie films struggle to execute is not what's going on directly in the shot: the action and acting.

    Their problem is usually everything BEYOND the camera's immediate focus: that is, production value. Feeling like a real movie. Things like set design, shot composition, editing, sound design, ADR, color grading, special effects, and music.

    Production value is why indie films can have good high concepts, muddle out a half-decent shooting script, have the actors mostly execute on the vision, and yet still feel like an amateur mess.

    Because people can tell SUBCONSCIOUSLY the difference between something that lacks production value, for example a shot that was clearly done on a digital camera with all the settings on default:


    versus something that was actually lit, shot, and graded to look like A DAMN FILM ;)


    There's even a distinction between TV and film in this regard (or, there used to be). Just look at the Star Trek TNG bridge


    Yet when they made the movies:


    Because they knew the production design, lighting, and grading of a television show would look fake, disappointing and underwhelming on a 50 foot screen.

    If a movie really and truly blew its entire post budget on vfx, that's probably a sign that the producers overestimated how much production value they could get for their budget, and you are indeed screwed.

    But if you're actually negotiating for a budget, and you're just being fed the "we don't have money for you" EXCUSE, then you need to riposte with the truth that music is part of the grand illusion of making their hot amateur mess feel like a real Hollywood product. Music will be in every single "frame" of most of the most important scenes of the movie. If a producer skimps on hiring the composer all they'll be doing is spreading a thin layer of crap on each of those important scenes. Constantly reinforcing the audience's subconscious impression that this film is an amateur mess and a waste of their time and why do they even bother watching indie films?

    Whereas by raising the budget a little, for example to encompass a little live recording, your producer can instead have music that elevates the apparent production value of the film, smooths over the bumps and gaps left by the low-rent visual effects and set design, the inconsistent color grading, the editing driven by incomplete coverage, etc., all of which will inevitably be driving them nuts when they're trying to save the film in post. You're not there to be yet another money drain, you're there to save the film!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  17. Replicant

    Replicant Senior Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    Alberta, Canada
    I didn't say it is unimportant; I said it's not the most important and is far down the list of priorities...I fail to see how that's not true. If it weren't, we'd not see this discussion popping up over and over.

    Yeah, but one of the unfortunate things about life in general is that we don't get to decide our value to other people.

    This is true in dating, applying for a job, etc. All you can do is be and your best and hope for the best that can come from that.

    Most people who make crap tons of money composing music — or doing anything, really — didn't just say "I'm worth 500 per minute" when they woke up one day and it was so. They started working on low-paying or even no-paying gigs and eventually attracted the attention of people who DO have the money to burn.

    Hans Zimmer, John Williams, etc. These guys get paid what they do because rich people in the film industry feel that they're so good and worth it that they're willing to pay (probably) whatever they want.

    But people who aren't in that "league" shall we say, always act like it's enough to just "believe" you're worth a million bucks and if you just refuse everyone who refuses to pay you what "you're worth" then it'll happen.

    Nope. Never does. They still have that ONE job that paid them more than ever before fading into distant memory because they never got another gig that paid the same or higher. Meanwhile, some kid is amassing a huge list of credits and attracting the attention of people who are bigger deals and is therefore going places.

    If you don't know and haven't impressed anyone with serious cash to put into their project who wants YOU to be their composer, then you're just wasting precious time by bitching about indie filmmakers blowing their money on assets that they NEED to not only make the film, but ensure that it might actually get some viewers. They'll use licensed music, n00b composers who might not make a great soundtrack but it gives their film a score and gives the musician experience, or no music at all — no shortage of great films without scores.

    We need to stop acting like recent college grads with small government grants shouldn't be expected to prioritize their budget and that they should pay composers whatever arbitrary amount the composer has decided he/she is worth; which will probably exceed the project's stated budget anyway.


    I'd rather not score a film at all than feel like I'm just the guy who is there to polish this turd.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  18. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2017
    Maybe as another perspective on the "low/no paying mud you have to walk through".

    I completely agree on taking low level work to work your way up, but I am against free work. Compensation *has* to be there. Be it an invite as "+1" to a party where you make contacts, where you wouldn't otherwise get access, be it a dinner together with the crew.

    Apart from the considerations of "future work" etc. I wanted to go to that with the perspective of a long-time composer/musician in the metal business. I founded my former band roughly 17 years ago, I just played guitar for three months (yeah, I started late with that). We decied back then on 3 main points: We will not play cover songs, we will not play for free, we will always have fun.

    We never played covers and always had fun - but the point of payment was rough. Until we had a reasonable skill and songwriting level, we played some gigs (in exchange we had our rehearsel room/studio for free) without direct monetary payment. Then was the time where we wanted to go out and about. We played gigs without payment - but we never spend a dime. To everyone we asked to to let us play in his venue, we either made a door-deal (we get entry fee, he gets beverages etc) or simple payment of our costs (gas, hotel, catering backstage). We seldom had somebody turn us down. After a few gigs, we wanted to make some money (to make our own recording studio), so we started to charge - in our vicinity it was cheaper (for a half hour drive we don't charge you gas or hotel), for further away, those expenses were in plus a little extra.
    In the end we played with Stratovarius (2010) - and now we split. Fact is, we never played for free, we didn't want to spend money for playing - and it worked, very few said "nobody knows you, you pay us", most started to bargain or were happy to pay us.

    So, we decided to avoid the "no pay swamp" and didn't have many problems. Were there bands who played for free? Of course. Did they "take our gigs"? Maybe 3-4 times. Did it hurt our career? No, I would say on the contrary. We want money, we know we have value. I agree that you don't ask for Metallica-grade pay when you start out, but have your expenses paid at least. What is your power consumption? How much coffee did you need to create the tracks? what new library did you need (or record) to get the perfect sound for the project? All factors that the client should pay (you get what I mean), so that you don't spend extra.

    In conclusion from my perspective:
    - Do not work for *free*
    - Get something in return - can be little, but *something*
    - Build your price up - get your expenses paid first, and then add "pure revenue" on top of that. I don't mean that they pay your rent directly, but the immediate expenses.

    Working for free != Paying for working. You can work without revenue-positive payment, but get your costs covered - or an equivalent of that. We did once a gig at a small venue for Vouchers in the Restaurant nearby! They got free vouchers and gave them to us as payment. Fair enough, we played for literal food ;) Same (for me) is with film/media composing. Always get something in return, and over time make that "something" larger.
    NoamL likes this.
  19. X-Bassist

    X-Bassist Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2015
    All said, most post production work is a negotiation. Figure out what the minimum is you can afford to do it for
    Really? I’m struggling to think of one GREAT film with no music. Music that comes way into the film, yes, but NO score at all?

    Your going to have to back that statement up with a list of your 10 favorite “no score” films to back up the statement “no shortage...”. Even silent films had a score (that guy playing organ at the theater ;)). Perhaps you only write statements to get people worked up, but this is one instance where I can say put up your list or refrain from spewing nonsense.
  20. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2017
    There are some - that at least don't have a lot of score (none mostly), older movies of course, which sometimes just have an intro theme and outro, but the film itself isn't scored, No Country for Old Men, Blair Witch project...

    I remember that there is a special "style" of film associated with that, but I don't remember how it's called. It was a kind of rebellious director thingy, where they said that "music shouldn't be in the film unless it's coming from the scene" like a radio or singing actor etc. Meaning there have been films that were deliberately produced without music.

    Damn - I need to find the name of this style - I'll edit when I find it....

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