Here's another post from our friend in the UK, Tony Longworth. He's an independent music composer and he's worked on tons of different low-budget horror films and, a lot of the time, for no real monetary gain. If you have any questions on music for your film or anything to do with that whole side of the filmmaking process, send me an email. I'll pass it on to Tony, who will be more than happy to answer. This post is about cutting it as a indie film composer and what he has to say is not only equally relevant to indie-filmmakers, but for almost anyone who is getting into the 'independent arts'...
So, you want to be a composer for independent movies? You think you've got a good ear for music and you’re a big movie geek? That’s all good, but have you got the commitment for working on an independent project?
You think you have? Well, consider these following points:
- You probably won’t get paid for anything you do, now or in the future. Although the filmmaker might offer you a share of the profits, the movie itself might never get any form of distribution & will eventually disappear without making any money whatsoever.
- The movie might never even get screened anywhere, so no one will ever hear your wonderful soundtrack. After getting turned down by several film festivals, the filmmaker could very well give up on this project & move onto something new. Hell, the movie might even fold part way through before it’s even complete.
- You might end up with more work than you can cope with. You’re not getting any money up front & the filmmaker is making all these ridiculous demands from you for the soundtrack – they want an orchestra, they want a choir, they want bloody everything !!
- You might find that the project goes on for months, even years with the possibility of the director popping up from time to time to ask you to either write something new or tweak an existing song that you might have written ages ago & completely forgotten about. In fact, you can’t even remember where that particular track is on your hard disk.
So, do you still want to be a composer for independent movies? Are you still reading this? Haven’t I put you off?
Now, don’t think I’m being negative here, I’m just being totally honest & realistic. All of the above happens to me on a fairly regular basis. Being an independent movie composer has many downsides but going into a project with all the above points in mind will help you a lot. Just remember, you’re not in it for the money; you’re in it for the music & the music alone.
Go into each project with a positive mind. If the filmmaker asks for the impossible, give it your best shot. Make sure you store everything on your hard disk in a logical order so you can find things in the future. Always remember to backup your data.
There are a lot of risks involved with composing for these types of movies, but what's the worst that can happen? You put a lot of your spare time into doing something you really like doing which never sees the light of day? Big deal.
Just think, you’ve spent a lot of time doing something you enjoy & you’ve gained a whole lot of experience doing it & you wrote some amazing music. If the movie hits some film festivals or gets a distribution deal, then treat that as a big bonus. If nothing happens to the movie at all, just be thankful for the enjoyment & the experience, plus you’ll be building up a library of music which can be customised for other projects.
What I’m saying here is: don’t get your hopes up, but at the same time you’ve got to be 100% committed to the project & see it through to its natural (or unnatural) end – if you can’t give that type of commitment, then you’re in the wrong game. That’s the bottom line, if you don’t like it, then don’t do it.
So, by giving this type of commitment you will become known as a reliable composer who can be trusted with anything that’s thrown at you. You’re guaranteed to get more repeat work, as well as new work simply from word of mouth.
It’s worked for me so there’s no reason it won’t work for you as well.