I have been mulling over my approach to to defining this crazy life of a indie film composer, I think that I took the wrong angle. My new one is:
What the hell are we doing?
I thought back to a seminar-ish thing where the key speaker was from Without A Box, if you are a composer and work in indie film and don't know what Without A Box is...it is necessary that you understand what they do and how they work in the world of film festivals. Anyway, at the seminar the man asked many of the audience what their goal was for their film. It was a question that seemed so simple but was indeed very sober ... what do you expect? I would say that many had gone through much of their process with the concept that 1. They finish their film 2. It gets into Sundance 3. They are famous with lots of money. This is obviously far from reality.
So, if the filmmakers loose grip on reality, what does that say about us? Were just as bad if not worse?!?!?!
What was interesting and telling about the seminar was that he broke things down a little bit, in regards to expectations. One goal was to have as many people see your film. I loved this! So, much of the time we are talking about dollars and cents that we loose the actual goal. Getting people to see the film (and hopefully enjoying it!) Does this appeal to you as a composer? Does the idea of people hearing your work matter? I fear what I might hear in response! There were obviously other goals, to make enough money to recoup the costs or enough to make another film.
The means of achieving these goals was film festivals and/or distribution. Festivals are a great way to get your film (and score) out there and get seen...by an audience. There is little money in it but you might get travel paid for to attend the screening. And distribution isn't a walk in the park either, lets face it. If your indie lacks star power, legit buzz, and realistic production values on par with the normal theatrical film, a distributor is gong to make a small order run of DVDs. Make sure Netflix has some copies and the rest are shipped to Amazon.
I know I'm supposed to be talking about composers, right? Well, tell me. Is this what you want to be part of? There is very little money in the entire food chain I have shown. Really, if there is a money maker in this scenario please tell me.
I know, it's that distribution deal. How much money do you think distribution companies are offering a direct to DVD film with few bells and whistles. Not much, maybe they turn their $20,000.00 investment into a no money upfront deal with the producers only getting paid after the distributors recoup. Are the distributors making a killing? Well, they have a product that the made 20 copies of, it's available on Amazon? Maybe they've sold a copy or two?
I shouldn't make the picture all that grim but I have to make it at least more realistic than the idea that after scoring an indie it's going to catapult the director to fame. The director, producers and distributors then laugh at you while they roll around in beds piled with $100s.
So, my question is out there, why are composers trolling craigslist for scoring gigs?
I know why I do.