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Topic: Short Film

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  1. #1

    Short Film

    Hello,
    I've been contacted to compose the music for a short film, my first one.
    I have some questions:
    First, the producer told me that they have no budget for the music and they need it for free. He told me that I'll own the rights.

    Then secondly, if I accept to compose for free, should they give me a contract of some type? I mean, to be able to use my music?
    And, should I report my work to SACEM/SNAC (ASCAP equivalent in France)?

  2. #2

    Re: Short Film

    Hi,

    You own the rights of your music anyway. This is not related to the SACEM in any way (but to the law). You don't need to be part of it to compose for this short film. You don't need a contract, either -- maybe the film director wants one, to be sure that you won't send him a bill afterwards. Then you can make some kind of contract to "allow" him to use the music in his film. While your at the contract, make sure you'll get payed at least 5-10% if the film is sold.
    See as well the topic -- "career advice", on that matter.

    Markus.

  3. #3

    Re: Short Film

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus S
    Hi,

    You own the rights of your music anyway. This is not related to the SACEM in any way (but to the law). You don't need to be part of it to compose for this short film. You don't need a contract, either -- maybe the film director wants one, to be sure that you won't send him a bill afterwards. Then you can make some kind of contract to "allow" him to use the music in his film. While your at the contract, make sure you'll get payed at least 5-10% if the film is sold.
    See as well the topic -- "career advice", on that matter.

    Markus.
    Preparing a correct cue sheet gives automatic "licence" to use the music. Do make sure that if any money is made out of the film that your studio costs are covered out of the gross before any split. Remember that you hired your equipment to the company in the same way as they will have hired other equipment. This is totally separate from you being hired as composer.

    Daryl

  4. #4

    Re: Short Film

    I don't know French copyright law, but in the U.S., I prefer it when there are no contracts because I'm completely in the driver's seat then.

    As Marcus said, you own your music already without a contract.

    The only good things you'd get with a contract are:

    1. A piece of any money the film makes. Short film? It won't make any money anyway. Short films are directors' versions of demo reels.

    Also, without a contract, they don't technically have permission to be using your music in the first place (even though you knowingly wrote music for the film . . . American copyright law is very weird this way), so you can later sue them for far more than you would have negotiated.

    2. Assurances that they'll submit proper cue sheets and give you copies. This is probably the only good reason for having a contract on a freeebie gig. But again, nobody sells or plays short films, so . . .

    - Mike Greene

  5. #5

    Re: Short Film

    Well, it's worth saying that having a contract is good in that it gives you some experience with contracts. That may sound redundant at first, but the language of contracts is daunting to many folks, and when you learn to recognize standard parts of normal composer's contracts you'll feel more at ease, and that will come in handy when you get into a real paid situation or some job that might require clauses that are out of the norm.

    Also, the negotiation process is something that gets easier the more you do it. So spending some time now talking about how the contract is to be structured may pay off on later gigs when you're talking real money, real deadlines, and real distribution.

    In other words, it's good practice. As musicians, we all know that there's value in that.

  6. #6

    Re: Short Film

    Quote Originally Posted by mmorgaine
    Well, it's worth saying that having a contract is good in that it gives you some experience with contracts.
    I agree with this. The basic rule, at least in the U.S., is don't do anything with anybody, including a spouse and especially with a friend, unless there is a written agreement

    I have always been on the buyers end, and I won't do anything with a musicician without a written contract or letter agreement first.

    In my case, for what I do, the composer owns the compositions, by I own the performances/recordings. There is usually language that limits the composers' future use of the music, etc.

    From a musician's point of view, the short film may go nowhere, but the music may be perfect for some other project. It's not easy, with minimal resources, to go chasing after someone who steals the music this way if there isn't an agreement that limits the use, etc.

    In addition, I would be very susupicious of a producer who doesn't require something in wiriting. (There's a good chance their "guerilla" low-budget manual is telling them to get everything in writing involving other people, from model releases down the line.) I would almost expect future problems if someone doesn't want a written agreement.

    And I agree, contracts are like buying new cars... always a pain in the neck but much painless with practice.

    Finally, thinking about what goes into a contract (and reviewing others' contracts) gets your mind ready to know what to consider and to watch out for in the future.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

  7. #7

    Re: Short Film

    Don't worry about contract. I just did a feature with pay and I didn't even have a contract until I was ready to deliver. And you know what, the producer is much more friendly when you have the score to his film complete and ready to go.

    Also, try to get some pay. Even if it's just production cost. Tell them that you need at least a couple of hundred to cover your cost. Even if you only get $50 they'll respect you more in the morning.

    As far as royalties, just make sure you have a cue sheet submitted. They're screening shorts on TV these days.

    Cheers,

    Jose

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Re: Short Film

    But be carefull working without a contract!

    I orchestrated a pop song, and worked with the producer till it was perfect, BUT the "artist" decided it didnt fit the piece, even though I did exactly what the producer asked for.

    They told me I'd get half of my paymnet($500) even if they didn't use it,, but since I didn't have a contract...They more or less told me to go eff myself

    But since you're not dealing with money you shouldn't have to worry

  9. #9

    Re: Short Film

    I will leave this thread after this, but I must say once more, it is totally foolish to work without a written agreement of some kind, even if it is minimal.

  10. #10

    Re: Short Film

    Hi all,
    Thank you for all your great advices.
    What left after reading is:
    I should try to get a least 1$ for payment, just symbolic.
    I should tell them to make at least a written agreement or much better a contract.
    I have to send a cue sheet of the work done to my rights organization.
    Another thing, if I have to make the written agreement/contract by myself,
    what should it contain?
    Do you know good places over the web with examples?

    Thanks

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