Monday, September 22, 2008

Road Notes & Music Rights

September 21, 2008

Hey Everybody,

Greetings from the road! I was at the Rappahannock Independent Film Festival this weekend and boy was it a good one. This was the first film fest they have done and I was real impressed. I saw lots of good films and met a lot of terrific people. My hat is off to Ryan Poe and Paul Lewis for putting together a quality festival. Everything ran on time, and talk about hospitality, if you were a filmmaker and were there you know what I am talking about.

My work shop went great and I had a lot of people turn out and some great questions. I am looking forward to coming back next year. If you are on the east coast, mark this festival down on your calendar, and submit your film next year. This festival is starting small, but it is going to grow. Get in on this one early, it is run and supported by people who love independent films. It doesn’t get better than that.

A special shout out to my weekend host John Hollinger. Thanks for making Moses and I feel so welcome.

Book news…

I have parted ways with my publisher so my book is going to take a bit longer to get out. I am working on it and hopefully will be making an announcement soon about when it’s going to come out.

Let’s talk music for a minute…

Now I don't know where this rumor got started, but you can NOT use other people's music in your film without permission! I keep hearing of these stories about how you can use a certain amount of music without paying for it. That's bullshit! If you use music someone else has copyrighted, you have to pay for it, or at least get their permission, and the length doesn't matter. Talk to a lawyer and they'll tell you the same thing.

If the music is public domain, that's fine. But if it's been recorded, then the performance is probably NOT in the public domain! You will have to pay for the performance rights. You can rerecord it yourself and then you should be okay.

Now I don't want to get into rights, clearances and all of that stuff here, that's not what this column is about. If you have music questions, talk to a lawyer who specializes in this crap! If you want to know who owns rights to various songs then call BMI or ASCAP. They should be able to tell you not only who wrote a tune, but who owns the rights and how to contact that person or their agent.

There is also a trend now not to clear music for your movie if you're going to send it to film festivals to find a distributor. Then WHEN it's picked up for distribution, you get the distributor to pay for the music rights. If anything, WHEN should read IF, because the odds are, it's not going to happen. A lot of distributors won't pick up a film if the music rights aren't cleared. Music can cost a lot, and some distributors expect you to pay for the music. It's not going to come out of their share.

I think it's a bad practice, because if you don't get a distributor, then what? You can't really sell the movie to video stores, NetFlix, or places like that. You're kind of stuck, unless you go in and change the music and then remix the whole movie. That's not a great idea for a lot of reasons. It costs more money, it takes energy to go back in and redo a finished movie, and the movie sits around on your shelf not doing anything for you until you get it done. And between you and me, most of the time these movies don't get done.

Find a musician who is willing to write music for your movie.

We’ll talk about that later.

Other stuff….

I still have dates available, so if you are interested in having me come to your college, university, media art center, independent book store, or even to your house for dinner, drop me a line ( and let me know.

I am thrilled that Film Baby ( is a sponsor on this tour. If you haven’t checked out their site and their services, you need to do it. They are a great group of people dedicated to helping you get your films out. Also check out my other sponsors, Pollard Design (, Zoom Studio (, The Indy Film Co-op ( and Cheezy Flicks ( All great people and great companies.

The first two Workshop DVDs are up on my site,, (and Film Baby’s) and they are ready to fly off the shelves. They are selling pretty well out here on the road. Also check my site for my Internet Specials.

It’s time to hit the road again.

Talk later.



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