I finally was able to get The Good Soldier, the film I made in 2009, online.
So this is it! It’s been a long road to get to this point but the premiere of The Good Soldier is Friday, June 11 at 10 pm at the IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City, OK. It is part of the deadCenter Film Festival.
If you can make it please come on down and check it out.
If you wish to buy a complete festival pass they are $75. Or you can by a single ticket the day of the show for $10 at the door.
Go to the deadCenter schedule and scroll to Friday, June 11th at 10 pm. The Good Soldier is showing as part of “The X-Files” program. Here you can click on the film link, create an account for a calendar, and rate the film after you see it.
Today I wrapped up the art work for The Good Soldier DVD. It took a bit longer than expected but I think it looks pretty good. Also, I came up with a special “Featuring Super 8 Film Technology” logo that I’m going to put on my future projects – and hope others will too – to identify the choice to shoot in Super 8.
So the next step will be to get my master DVD and art to the duplicating company. After that it will just be a matter of time before seeing the final product. The DVD contains English subtitles, chapter index, behind-the-scene slideshow, the theatrical trailer, and a link to online interactive content. And while I would have liked to include French and Spanish (and by recommendation, Portuguese) I unfortunately couldn’t get all of that done by my deadline. So instead, I will have to make some alternate versions in the future.
I will be hosting a special screening of the film later this month for cast and crew – it will be their first viewing of the film. Then on June 11th the film will premiere to the US at deadCENTER Film Festival.
Following that, who knows what?
I have another project that I’ve begun, relative to my experience with this film – it’s a writing project. Ok, I’ll be real, it’s book about Super 8 filmmaking. At this point it’s a young project which could fall off a cliff at any time…but we’ll see where it goes.
Also, I have a couple of other Super 8 film projects I’m working on. One I’ve entitle the “Physics Philm” project – it’s a project I started years ago but I’m hoping to breathe some new life into it.
Yesterday was a busy day. It began with an English breakfast at our youth hostel where we are staying. English breakfast: egg over-easy, fruit, hash brown, cereal, croissant, and some sort of really good sausage.
From there it was off to meet up with some others including our French tour-guide, I believe her name is Hanault. Because she is a graduate student, we were able to explore a couple of colleges within the Cambridge University system. Unlike American schools, Cambridge is like a fortress. Only students are allowed within the college walls. Things are very traditional here – and when I say traditional, I’m talking about 15th century traditional. Proctors dressed in bowler hats monitored the entrances and the yards. Only professors are allowed to walk on the grass. And every effort is made to preserve a way of education and life that has proved to produce some of the world’s most noteworthy thinkers. People like Darwin, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Sasha Baron Cohen, studied here. Probably the most amazing thing I saw was the copy – the one and only copy – of Isaac Newton‘s first edition of his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which introduce and describe Newton’s laws of motion.
The only problem with our tour guide was the she was trying to sneak us into areas that were off limits. There were 5 of us total, including her; Adam and I, a Brazilian director named Filipie and a girl named Carolina. So when Hanault stepped over a chain clearly restricting the back side of King’s College, and we were expected to follow without question – I wondered if it was a good idea. She was yards ahead of us when Adam and I made the decision to follow. But the Brazilians, with their better judgment, lagged behind, wary of crossing the chain. As we started to turn the corner I heard a yell from a guard, “King’s members ONLY!” We stopped immediately and made our way back to the entrance. It made for an exciting outing.
After our grand tour and lunch at one of the College’s, Adam and I headed across town to meet up with a French film director, named Remy Batteault. He is working on a documentary about Super 8 film making and filmmakers for a French TV show. I spent about an hour at his hotel answering questions about my experiences with Super 8, how I started in film, and The Good Soldier. It was the first time I’ve given any sort of interview about film and particularly about how personal it is to me. The only trouble I had was when he asked me to look into the camera and pretend to be speaking to an animated Super 8 film camera, and ask “it” a question. I think I asked something really stupid like, why aren’t your film cartridges longer? I don’t know. All I could think was that this sounds very French. It was pretty funny.
After the interview we headed back across town to our room. We got dressed up and took a taxi to the Murray Edwards College on the opposite side of the city. By now, it was raining off and on in typical English fashion.
We arrived at the college and met with the organizers of the festival and several “fellows” of various Colleges within the University that have supported the festival. We had a formal dinner – Adam just handed me the actual menu from the dinner – consisting of: “Roasted Loin of ‘Suffolk’ Free Range Pork with Bramley Apple Sauce, Grilled Herb Crusted Fillet of Trout with Lemon & Parsley Pesto, New Season Asparagus, Ricotta, & Basil Bruschetta, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli and Carrots, Pear & Blackberry Crumble with Vanilla Cream, Classic British Cheeseboard with Celery & Grapes, and Fresh Fairtrade Filter Coffee with Chocolate Truffles.” Oh, and of course we had wine.
The festival itself followed dinner. The venue was great – just what I had hoped. A stadium-style seating arrangement that was spacious and comfortable. My film was the final in the series of films so I got to see all these other fantastic Super 8 films. I was so amazed and impressed by the quality and the craftsmanship of the films. There were documentaries about immigrant life in America and there were experimental films told through a series of colors, time-lapse elements and methods that still I’m not sure how they produced.
I spoke with the festival’s organizer about hosting a Super 8 festival using the films from the program at the Renegade Picture Show and I think we’re going to make it happen.
My film showed last. When it began I felt my heart begin to race. It was such an indescribable moment to be there among an international audience of people that had never seen my film. I had no idea what the reaction would be. And again, here I was watching the film – this time in a completely different way. It felt really good.
After the film there were some director interviews. The first was with Felipe Cataldo, the Brazilian director of Monocelular. His film was one that stood out in terms of it’s art, it’s music, it’s development…and it’s craziness. It was pretty wacky…but I enjoyed it because of that.
He did a good job answering the interviewer’s questions and a couple of questions from the audience.
Next up was me. The festival director, Thierry, asked me questions about my start in film, and various aspects of the making of the film. I felt like I did pretty well…I wasn’t too nervous…but later as I thought about it, I might have said a couple of things differently. But that’s probably a common feeling when you’re answering on the spot questions in front of an audience. I answered a few questions from the audience…all gave the impression that people must have like the film.
The feedback I received after the show all had to do with how professional it appeared, and how well produced it was. I think people were drawn into the story as well because there was some discussion with people about the themes of the story and what certain things meant. And there were some questions about the music and how it was crafted and applied.
Overall, it was another great experience that the making of this film has brought me to. Again, I have so many people to thank for helping make this possible. I wish everyone on the cast and crew, my friends and family could have been here to share in the experience. Perhaps that is one thing that I wish I had expressed while standing on stage – that it is not just me – it is important that everyone gets credit for this because everyone involved put a little bit of themselves into this as well. And I appreciate that.
So today should be a relaxed day as we enjoy exploring Cambridge, the shops and historical places. Later we’ll go to an afternoon festival viewing to watch a Super 8 feature film.
(Videos and pictures to be posted later…)
This is a perfect venue for this film as it will be among others that are shot on Super 8.
The film is scheduled as part of the “Panorama 2” on April 30th at Buckingham House (Murray Edwards College). That’s all I know right now.
They have extended an invitation to me but at this point, I’m not sure if I will be able to make it out there or not.
Check out their website.
This is kind of a dead period right now. It’s a waiting game to see which festivals select the film as part of their show.
Good news bad news: got the word from Sundance – no go. Got the word from Slamdance, also no go. That’s the bad news, I guess. But it was such a LONG shot. I mean, Sundance had 9800 submissions in the short film category alone and they selected 200. Slamdance had 5400 short film entries and selected only 100. Those are some sucky odds. But I’m not sweating it. This is a Super 8 film – I don’t think either of those festivals are really the market for this type of film. I’m really hoping for a more artsy type festival – something a little more underground. With that in mind I submitted to a few more festivals.
I sent the film to a film festival in Brooklyn that screens films on rooftops – cool idea and right up my alley (see RPS). It’s also going to the Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City, Nevada. Sent it to the U.S. Super 8 Film and Digital Video Festival at Rutgers University in New Jersey; The Method Fest Independent Film Festival in El Segundo, CA; The United Film Festival series which includes several major cities.
And of course I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to send it to South-by-Southwest Film Festival in Austin and last but not least the deadCENTER film festival here in OKC. I’m saving the big OKC metro debut for deadCENTER, that is, if they’ll have me.
I am still having some issues with the music licensing side of things. They sure make it difficult to do business. I think the only organization with more hoops to jump through would have to be the U.S. government. Seriously. Do these people want to be paid for songs or not? I’m getting pretty discouraged with getting the licensing lined up. Seems like I’ve made all the right contacts and have some agreements here and there but each entity makes their agreement contingent upon someone elses concurrence. Frankly, it is probably good that things are still up in the air. Nothing needs to go into effect until I have a scheduled festival to show.
I have some other content I am working on and have even been encouraged to write or include as a DVD commentary some information about the process of making the film – sort of an educational look at doing a narrative short in Super 8.
Finally, I have plans to host an exclusive cast and crew showing very soon. Stay tuned.
I am in the midst of yet another educational opportunity. Little did I know at the outset of this project, the nuances of music licensing for film. Sure, I knew a few things – generalities really – but what I am experiencing now is a crash-course in “How To License Music For Film.”
The Good Soldier has an original score (beautifully composed by Anne-Vale Brittan, I might add) that I have permission to use, so there is no issue there. In fact, I will say up-front that creating your own music or finding/hiring someone outright to do an original piece is probably easier than all this licensing stuff. But even that has it’s host of issues.
There are two songs in the film, both from the 1940s, and both require licensing. At first when I downloaded them from http://archive.org (my favorite website), I thought – AWESOME – free music! Wrong. Just because they were found for free does not necessarily make them free. Be careful in making those kind of assumptions.
I want this post to serve as a primer, of sorts, to those trying to do the same thing I am doing; license music for film festivals and possible distribution. Please keep in mind that this is something I am going through right now and I am still learning – so there may be some adjustments made to the post later depending on what happens.
There were some things that I was forewarned about early on: 1) the music industry has been known to take their time – your deadlines are not their deadlines. To a large extent I have found this to be true – with one exception, which I will get to later. 2) Customer service (i.e. being nice) is not what the music industry is known for – so don’t be surprised if people get pissy with you. 3) Don’t expect to get ANYTHING for free – if you think something is public domain – you’re probably wrong – in fact, you probably owe someone money for the song you are about to use and you just don’t know it. Do your research, make some calls, find out what you don’t know and you’ll be better off for it. Information is out there you just have to be willing to learn about it.
Here’s the deal with public domain – “There are no sound recordings in the Public Domain in the USA. If you need a music recording – even a recording of a public domain song – you will either have to record it yourself or license a Royalty Free Music recording.” (Source: Public Domain Info Project)
So where do you begin?
Take a song, any song. If you have the album you already have a lot of information about it. There are two things you need to know: who the publisher is (or sometimes songwriter) and who did the recording. The publisher/songwriter and performer can be looked up on the ASCAP website using their ACE search tool. If you can’t find it there you may look at SESAC or BMI. On the ASCAP website (which is where I found my film’s songs) it will give you the contact information of the publisher. Use this information to contact the publisher by phone or find them on the internet and contact them through their online form or email. Publishers want things in writing so even if you call them they will still ask you to submit a form in writing to them.
If you know the recording company – great – you’re one step ahead of where I am. I am still searching for the original recording of both of my songs. I think they are owned now by Sony-BMG (which purchased the original Columbia recordings) – but I don’t know for sure yet. You will need to contact the record company too, same as the publishing company.
Who am I paying for the licensing?
You pay the publisher for the song rights and the record company for the recording rights. Here’s another kicker: music publishers and record companies act on a “most favored nations basis”. Let’s say you strike a deal with the publisher for $500 for synch rights, worldwide, for festivals. Then you contact the record company and they want to charge you $750 – well, under the most favored nations clause the publisher will raise their price to $750 to match the record company. If my hunch is right, the price always moves up, not down.
What are the licensing terms?
Terms of the license are based on a number of things: how you intend to use the song in the film, where you use the song, how many times, the duration of the song. It’s also based on if you want the film to tour in the US or take it to international festivals. Price seems to double if you are going worldwide. It’s also based on the popularity of the song, how it’s been used in the past, and how the song fits with the film. And probably a number of other things they don’t tell us about. If you intend to distribute (sell) the film they’ll want to know how many copies you are going to produce and where (territory) you will be selling them. Then there is an up-front payment based on the number of copies produced.
What do the record companies and publishers need to know about your film?
Just about everything. The title, the story, the duration and how the song fits in with it. If you are using a song on the opening credits or the end credits, expect to pay more.
All this is great info but why would I pay for music?
Because I’ve heard stories of a person sitting in the audience at a film festival, they hear a song on the film and realize – that’s their Great Uncle’s song! And they wonder if Uncle So-And-So knows that his song is in a movie so they give him a call. And amazingly, he had no idea that his song was in that movie – no one ever told him or received permission. And that’s too bad because, by the way, the movie sucked and it really misrepresented the song. So he decides to call up his record company and take action. Next thing you know you’ve paid an attorney $25K for services and reached a settlement.
That’s just one reason. There are others. Bottom line is you are breaking the law if you don’t license music appropriately and risk getting sued big-time.
As far as where I am in the process, I’ve heard from the publisher of one song and received a quote – $250 for one year of licensing within the US for festivals. I’ve had great luck with this particular publisher and they (the company) has been very responsive and helpful. They responded quickly to my inquiry and appear willing to work with me.
I am waiting to hear back from the record company and see what their price is going to be – I’m guessing the $250 range per song. I am also waiting for Warner-Chappell music to call me back with an estimate on the other song. In all, I’m guessing that it’s going to cost me somewhere around $1000 in total to use the songs in the film (for one year in festivals). My experience thus far has been good.
Yes, I had an initial sticker shock.
You always come back to the question: is it worth it? And what are my alternatives?
That’s really a question that you have to weigh for yourself and your project. In terms of this film, I feel it is worth it. Music licensing is something I completely overlooked in my initial film budget – but it was one of those variable that I didn’t know how to quantify so I cast it to the back of my mind, at the time. In the future, I will be better prepared and anticipate the licensing issue.
There are alternatives to licensing the two songs: I could choose to not use the songs at all or I could work the original score into other sections of the film. But the songs are genuine 1940s pieces and they add an authentic element to the film that I really want – I feel that progress the story and the tone. So for me, it is important enough to accept the cost and include them.
On an editorial note, I don’t think many individual filmmakers understand the ins-and-outs of the music industry and licensing. It’s not something we want to deal with or think about. Furthermore, the music industry as a whole makes it difficult to license films. If there were a central clearing-house that was sort of a one-stop-shop it would be much easier and I think filmmakers would be more likely to follow through on licensing. Unfortunately, it is difficult to follow the rules because it’s not clear what they are, communication with the publishers/record companies is lacking, and every company seems to have their own protocol.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful to someone out there in the same boat as I.
Let’s go back to November, 2008 when I posted this. At that time this was nothing more than an idea. That’s it. An idea. I came up with this wild idea to write and produce a film with the ultimate goal of submitting it to Sundance by the deadline for the 2010 exhibition. Yesterday, that goal became a reality when the film was received by Sundance on the final day for short film submissions.
The amount of money I spent pursuing this dream was nothing compared to what I gained from the experience. This was my film school.
People ask me, “Where did you come up with the idea to make a movie?” I don’t know how to answer this. It’s always been there. It’s just something that I have always wanted to do. Those of you who are climbers understand this drive in terms of climbing: what makes you want to climb? It’s just desire. What more can explain it?
I learned more about the process of filmmaking, creating, directing, and cinematography than I have in all of the books and articles I’ve read and classes/seminars I’ve attended. There is no education like experience.
I have to thank everyone that has so generously dedicated their time, their resources, their advice, their insight, their knowledge and their energy into this project. I am indebted to you all and look forward to helping you with your creative endeavors. I sincerely thank you – you deserve an enormous amount of credit for everything you’ve done and I hope that, in some way, this film, this experience, is a means to propel you in the direction of your own goals.
For those of you out there considering making your own movie – either in film or video (I’ve made clear that there is a difference, right?) – I hope that this online journal has provided some idea of what the process is like. I know when I started searching online for information about the day-to-day activities that occur in the making of a film i found it difficult to find much online. Most sites and books cover the bigger picture of shooting a movie – and those are great, as well as necessary – but sometimes you want more on-the-ground nitty-gritty information about what it’s really like and what you can expect. Undoubtedly, every project is going to be slightly different in terms of the experience – this was just my experience – but maybe knowing my experience will make it less like driving in fog when you head out on the road to make your own film (sorry for the corny metaphor).
All of that said….let’s move on.
This is only the beginning. I want people to see this thing!
I’m working on more film festival submissions. And I’m working on securing music rights for a couple of songs in the film. After that is settled I will begin showing the film locally and (hopefully) some indie-distribution. My goal was never to make money on the film – but I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to pay myself back for my efforts! Plus, it could mean the chance to make another film. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves….