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Topic: How long do the pros get to score?

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  1. #1

    How long do the pros get to score?

    I was wondering how long do the professional composers in film get to compose the music on the average for a feature film? What are steps that they go through from beginning to the end to the complete the music.

  2. #2

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Great question! I would like to add one or two of my own along those lines.
    What is the arranging process like? I've often thought the arrangers's job to be just as important and powerful as the composer. What is the process? Are themes scored simply by the composer and sent to the arranger?I know that's sound so simplistic but any thoughts on that whole process would be great. Also, if it isn't taboo or PC what are some budgets like and how is the money used for the project? Do you guys make any dough? : )
    Thanks in advance. Kevin

  3. #3

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Big name guys on major movies will get mid to high six figures per film. They don't even have to pay for the orchestra, the studio pays for that. But they do have their own staff expenses (programmers, etc) to deal with.

    Small time guys get anywhere from $0 to $20k or so. I'll guess most guys on this board get around $10k/film.

    Time can be anywhere from two or three weeks to several months, regardless of budget.

    Most big names and a lot of smaller guys (myself included, but I'm strictly TV) have assistants handling orchestrations, programming and even ghostwriting. Unless you've got a lot of time, it's just not possible to pull off a no-excuses score without a support staff.

    Ghostwriting in particular is way more common than you may think. Many of today's name composers did ghostwriting for other composers.

    - Mike Greene

  4. #4

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    what do you mean ghostwriting? I don't speak that kind of jive.

  5. #5

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Ghostwriting means the named composer (the guy who gets the credit) is really busy, so he hires someone else to compose some of the music for him. That way, the actual composer has a little more time to spend on the important themes and scenes.

    Most of the time, the ghostwriter gets no credit for his efforts, but he does get paid. I'll confess to hiring ghostwriters on a few occassions. It's often a necessary evil with deadlines.

    - Mike Greene

  6. #6

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Jaibulu- Ghostwriting I believe is simply writing music for someone and the composer who hired the ghoster puts their name on it. ghost writing is most often done in literature. like the bible. political speeches.

    Thanks, Mike for the response on the money angle. It sounds like my world-just get what you can. How about Jaibulu's question- typical time given for a typical feature? Thanks so much.

  7. #7

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    I've heard of time periods as short as two weeks. That would be VERY short. A few months is a bit of a luxury. The average amount of time is around a month.

    On a big feature, the last few days will be spent recording the orchestra, so subtract that from the number of days to compose.

    - Mike Greene

  8. #8

    Lightbulb Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Honestly, the bit that I've seen (as a guy picking up "feature film table scraps" - bumpers, small cues, etc) the calendar constraints vary with the project. By the time I get a call the primary composer is usually in some form of scheduling bind. However, I'm doing sound design and score for an indie feature, and have the luxury of several months lead time because my wife was the screenwriter and I've worked with the director before. That means that I can start doing the sound map based on the script, and will start with themes and such as soon as I get a chance. I'm also talking with a producer about scoring a slate of films for him, one of which is (again) a script written by my wife.

    So, if you want more time - marry a good screenwriter.

    One other quick note - I don't do ghostwriting, I only write for credit. If I can't be credited on the crawl (i.e. in the production) I at least get the credit on the cue sheet. If neither of those things are an option, I'll take a pass and let someone else work for free (with little chance of advancing).

    As far as pay rates go - I tend to massage it according to budget constraints on the project and my desire to work on it and/or work with the others involved. Sometimes it's worth "deferred" payment (i.e. probably never going to see a cent of money, but perhaps it's worth it anyway due to good exposure/exprience/professional relationship-building) and how much you charge if/when it sells, or you can take a lesser fee if you want to get paid upfront. At the top end of the scale, there are also pay scales you can set up that pay a "bump" of the picture sells a certain amount at the box office. It's like getting a percentage of the gross while letting the producers think of it like they're *not* paying you a percentage of the gross.

    There are lots of ways to slice it. This forum has a lot of history on it - check the search function - lots of pontification that's probably not entirely out of date. Also, check out Jeff Rona's "The Reel World". It was the second book I bought about film scoring (the first being the one from Berklee Press).
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  9. #9

    Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaibulu
    I was wondering how long do the professional composers in film get to compose the music on the average for a feature film? What are steps that they go through from beginning to the end to the complete the music.
    I recommend The Reel Word by Jeff Rona. It gives a good overview of the business and the process. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846

    I also own and enjoy Richard Davis' Complete Guide to Film Scoring
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...=UTF8&v=glance

    -JF

  10. #10

    Thumbs up Re: How long do the pros get to score?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonFairhurst
    I recommend The Reel Word by Jeff Rona. It gives a good overview of the business and the process. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846

    I also own and enjoy Richard Davis' Complete Guide to Film Scoring
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...=UTF8&v=glance

    -JF
    Yup - those are the ones - the first and only two books I have on film scoring. (OK - I hve two books on legal and one on mastering, but they don't really count)

    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

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