Tag Archives: film


2020: Fighting For the Right to Make a Living

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

Much has been written in the past several months, by President Hair and others, about the motion picture/TV film negotiations that have commenced once again in Los Angeles; however, it cannot be stressed enough how important this round is. At stake are residuals on New Media, a form of broadcast which has risen above the others as being the choice for consumption in the future. On the one hand, we have the industry, which is loath to give up even the most miniscule amount of their vast profits, simply because corporate greed is a real thing. On the other hand, we have the musicians who do the film and TV work, collectively looking at that future in dismay.

The players have done their research. They can see that diminishing music budgets mean less union work as composers are forced to go dark, record off-shore, or simply produce music “in the box.” Where, then, will sufficient earnings be found to sustain a viable career in music? The simple answer is that fees must be tied to the back end—as the content generates profits through distribution, subscriptions, or advertising revenue, a piece should be carved off for those involved in the music.

While some negotiations prove to be anti-climactic, such is not the case this time. The musicians are engaged—eager to participate in both the bargaining and the garnering of public support. The fact that so many show up with their instruments at rallies is inspiring. The tour bus, carrying musicians to their energetic performances in front of industry executives’ homes on an early Sunday morning, is nothing short of fantastic. While the prize is still not within sight, these dedicated players have certainly gotten the attention of Hollywood money.

Of course, Los Angeles is not the only location where the digital age has wrought devastation. In a recent CBC Sunday Edition, Matt Zimbel of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ), member of the jazz super-group Manteca, had this to say: “The digital age has given us two ‘gifts.’ The technology used for playback sounds terrible and our recorded music no longer has any monetary value.”

Matt then proceeds to plant his tongue firmly in cheek and explain to a friend how the record business is much more profitable than film and television: “I explained that last week I received my royalty statements for a TV series I had created and produced. It cost $1.2 million to make and had been on YouTube for a year. My royalties for 12 months were—are you sitting down?—.01 cent. Cent. Not even plural. No “S” required. .01 cent! On the other hand, I got my music statement for our 11th CD recording and for only three months we got the whopping sum of .01 cent. But it was only for three months. You don’t need an MBA to see how much more profitable music is!”

And then his statement of the reality: “Hey, our chart numbers are off the hook. The shows? Man, standing room only. Likes are in the millions. Hit me on Insta—we’re killing it! But really, truth be known, we’re not killing it, we’re just dying.”

Add that to the fact that over 200 musicians recently signed a letter demanding that the Québécois government take action so that they can receive fair compensation from music streaming services such as Spotify—most of them long-time, prominent members of the musicians’ guild (Local 406)—and the desperation begins to become crystal clear. The US-based market posted profits of $5.4 billion during the first six months alone. Meanwhile, Spotify pays artists $0.004 per stream, on average. As for the non-featured musicians in Canada? Forget about it.

And so, 2020 is shaping up to be a year when disgruntled, unfairly-treated musicians put on their union hats and begin a collective effort to restore to the music industry what has been ripped away by technology and corporations—the right to make a living.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our members in the US and Canada peace and fulfillment during this Holiday season, and the very best for the New Year.


Negotiations Roundup—A Capsule View of Talks in Progress

The Federation’s negotiations with its bargaining partners, whether on an industry-wide, single-, or multi-employer basis, are a never-ending process. Other than contracts with touring producers such as the Broadway League, most of our negotiations seek improvements in compensation and working conditions when musicians are engaged to perform electronic media services either streamed or broadcast live, or captured for analog and digital distribution.

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Advocacy Group Promotes Union to Women Film Workers

Women in Media (WIM) provides networking opportunities, professional development, and advocacy for women in above- and below-the-line positions on film productions. Few studies look at female representation in below-the-line positions, but across the top-grossing 100 films of 2017, women comprised 14% of editors, 2% of cinematographers, and 3% of composers, according to a report from San Diego State University professor Martha Lauzen. On April 27 WIM will hold a panel for union members and nonmembers on “navigating the unions.” Representatives from IATSE, the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild, Directors Guild of America, and other unions will be present.

Dare to Drum

Film Brings Together World Drumming, Rock Star Composer, and Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Dare to DrumOn September 19 the documentary film Dare to Drum, featuring numerous Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth) AFM members, was launched on iTunes and Amazon. The video includes Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) musicians, former Police drummer, turned composer Stewart Copeland of Local 802 (New York City), and features the group D’Drum. It is the story of a group of friends—Local 72-147 musicians Doug Howard (DSO principal percussionist), Ron Snider (DSO assistant principal percussionist, John Bryant (producer, composer, and percussionist), and Ed Smith (University of North Texas professor, percussionist, and vibraphonist)—who traveled the world collecting percussion instruments and created the percussion ensemble D’Drum.

“Eventually, we went to Bali and Balinese/Javanese style gamelan music really caught our attention,” explains Bryant. In 2008, they commissioned Copeland to compose Gamelan D’Drum, a three-movement piece featuring 75 world instruments and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The piece premiered in Dallas, February 2011.

From the start of the project, Bryant, who has more than 20 years of experience in filmmaking, saw the potential for a documentary film. “We had three cameramen shooting throughout the process of meeting, rehearsing, organizing, restructuring, trips to Bali, and finally the concert itself,” he says.

During a 2013 interview, Copeland said one of the purposes of creating the film was to promote orchestral music. “I think this film will increase the awareness that orchestras can really do interesting stuff. There are new things coming out of the orchestra world that are exciting, that pump, that rock, and that are awesome.”

An initial version of Dare to Drum was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign in September 2013. It premiered at the Dallas International Film Festival April 2015, and played a few other film festivals later that same year. “All along, the goal was to find a distributor for the film,” says Bryant.

Kino Lorber expressed interest in late 2015. “I knew they would be the company to go with because their catalog is full of highly artistic films of all genres. Dare to Drum is an unusual film because of the disparate and eclectic elements involved—rock star composer Stewart Copeland meets work percussion group D’Drum to create a work of Indonesian gamelan music within a symphony orchestra setting.”

The original Dare to Drum had only about a four-minute montage of the 2011 premiere. “Although Kino Lorber thought the 85-minute documentary was great on its own, they wanted to add the full 30-minute February 2011 concert performance to the package,” says Bryant.

More money was raised to edit, mix, and finish the concert film. In total, 348 people around the world contributed $95,142 to create the final film.

“The money also paid Dallas Symphony Orchestra musician fees as stipulated in the AFM’s Integrated Media Agreement,” says Bryant. “It took a while, but we successfully raised the additional funds. And with great help from AFM Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark, we signed release agreements with the Dallas Symphony musicians. I am happy to report that we were able to pay nearly $20,000 to the musicians in fees and pension fund contributions.”

As of September 19, the film is available on DVD and for streaming and downloads on iTunes, Amazon, and through KinoLorber.com. It is also available for educational licensing through Estelle Grosso (egrosso@kinolorber.com).

The film is great for students of all ages, says Bryant. “It covers orchestral music, world percussion, world travel in finding and creating old and new instruments, work with Stewart Copeland, and work with Dallas Symphony Orchestra Maestro Jaap van Zweden,” says Bryant.

Motion Picture Soundtrack Options Explored

by Matt Allen, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Contract Administrator

I am often contacted by contractors or composers who are working with independent producers to make film projects go AFM. In addition to discussing the various low budget scale options available to fit a film producer’s budgetary needs, I am regularly asked about the musician costs associated with the release of a soundtrack recording in connection with the motion picture. The release of a motion picture soundtrack is important to both the producer and the composer, so it is worth mentioning the different AFM options available.

Options for Motion Picture Soundtrack Releases

A producer may elect to pay 100% of the applicable Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) scale plus pension to those musicians who rendered services on the original soundtrack at the time of the release of a soundtrack recording. However, this may be cost prohibitive to some independent producers, when factoring in the number of musicians on the score, the number of minutes of music used on the soundtrack, and the projected sales of a particular soundtrack album. So, both the TV Film and Theatrical Motion Picture agreements offer several soundtrack record options. A producer may elect to pay 50% of the applicable SRLA scale plus pension, upon the release of the soundtrack record. When and if sales of the soundtrack reach 50,000 units, the producer will pay an additional 50% of the applicable SRLA scale, for sales up to 100,000 units. For sales beyond 100,000 units, they will make a final SRLA payment of 20%. Basically, the producer pays as they go based on sales.

The motion picture agreements also offer a 25% approach, so long as the producer meets certain conditions. They pay 25% of SRLA scale and pension benefits at the release of the soundtrack, an additional 25% of SRLA scale when sales exceed 25,000 units, an additional 50% of SRLA scale, when sales exceed 50,000 units, and finally 20% of SRLA scale, when sales reach 100,000 units. This latter option is frequently used when a producer does not anticipate large sales.

A common alternative is the option where the producer does not have to pay the applicable SRLA scale and pension benefits until sales exceed 15,000 units. After sales exceed the 15,000-unit threshold, the producer is required to pay 50% of the applicable SRLA scale, plus pension. The producer continues to pay based on sales at the thresholds detailed in the previous paragraph. The producer must inform the AFM of election to compensate musicians in accordance with this option prior to the release of the soundtrack, and must meet other conditions. This option is especially appealing to producers who prefer to wait to pay only after sales of a soundtrack recording have reached a certain level.

The motion picture agreements also offer a special option for digital downloads of soundtrack records, as well as singles released in connection with a motion picture.

Last, but not least, the AFM’s Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement also provides for the release of soundtrack recordings. A producer may release up to 5,000 copies of a soundtrack without payment, so long as the producer meets certain conditions. Sales of the soundtrack album in excess of 5,000 copies will trigger applicable scale and benefit payments under the SRLA as the AFM deems applicable.

This is just a brief overview of different motion picture soundtrack record options. For more in-depth information, and details about how a producer may qualify for additional discounts under certain options, consult the current AFM Motion Picture Agreement or contact the AFM’s Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) or your AFM local’s office.

Filing Motion Picture Session Report Forms

Local officers are reminded to be sure to send copies of any and all AFM motion picture session reports (B7s) and Live Television session reports (B8s) for musician services performed in your jurisdiction to the AFM New York and West Coast offices. They should also be sent to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF) to ensure the FMSMF has the appropriate documentation to credit musicians for their performance(s) in any secondary market distribution. Please contact the EMSD directly for more information on how to submit session reports.

Boston Local Sponsors Hollywood Orchestration Class

On October 4, the Boston Musicians’ Association, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), is co-sponsoring a three-hour Hollywood Orchestration Master Class by Norm Ludwin of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). Ludwin is a well-respected orchestrator from Hollywood, who recently worked on the films Jurassic World, Inside Out, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol, and is also an instructor in the UCLA Extension Film Music Department. The event is being held in conjunction with Northeastern University, October 4, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Northeastern University’s Fenway Center (corner of Gainsborough and St. Stephens St). This master class is free but space is limited so arrive early.

fyler boston

52-Week All Media Cycle Addition in Commercial Announcements Agreement

by Maria Warner-Dowrich, Contract Administrator, AFM Electronic Media Services Division

52-week-media-agreementThere’s a new addition to the AFM Commercial Announcements Agreement. At the end of negotiations of the Commercial Announcements Agreement, June 5, 2014, the American Federation of Musicians and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) agreed to add a new 52-week cycle in the all media initial use cycle and re-use cycle.

Under the new contract, with effective dates June 5, 2014 through June 4, 2017, the advertiser has the option to choose the 52-week cycle in all mediums and is not locked into any one or “sole” medium in any one cycle. These mediums include, but are not limited to television, radio, Internet, nonbroadcast, and foreign use.

Should the money savvy advertiser elect to choose the new all-media 52-week initial use cycle, they will save both monetarily and in terms of paperwork. But the main advantage of choosing this option is, the ability to use the AFM agreement as opposed to using the licensing agreement, and in so doing, the musicians immediately receive large pension and health and welfare contributions. The agreement will also provide a substantial upfront pay scale for musicians.

The all media payments are in addition to the appropriate minimum session fee payments (e.g., the one-hour session rate is $127.20 per side musician, etc.) The rates due arrangers, orchestrators, and copyists may be found in the music preparation section of the Commercial Announcements Agreement. Also applicable to session fee payments are: 16.5% pension fund contribution and $26, plus 6% health and welfare fund contribution. If the 52-week all media cycle is exercised, the additional payments (beyond the session fees) per spot, are $1,245 per side musician and copyist, with double scale for leader, contractor, arranger, and orchestrator, plus 16.5% pension and 6% health and welfare contributions.

If the advertiser elects a second 52-week all media cycle that payment is $933.75 per side musician and copyist, with double scale for leader, contractor arranger, and orchestrator, plus 16.5% pension and 6% health and welfare contributions. It’s the perfect fit for the busy advertiser looking to present a product in all media.

The attractive attribute of the new addition is flexibility to pick and choose, and mix and match the varied mediums covered under the Commercial Announcement Agreement for the applicable 52-week-cycle (one full year), and not three 13-week re-use cycles or 39 weeks in one medium, as provided in the previous agreement that was effective 2009-2012 and extended.

The new 52-week all media cycle agreement is thoroughly a win, win for all. But, it’s your call and we are here to assist!

sideline work

How to Handle Professional Sideline Work

by Matt Allen, Contract Administrator AFM Electronic Media Services Division

sideline workIn recent years, there has been steady sideline work across the US and Canada, in towns and cities, large and small, for television and motion picture production. Because of the diversity of shooting locations, I receive a number of calls from musicians and local officers in various jurisdictions concerning how sideline employment is to be paid and covered. So, I felt this article would be an opportunity to review a few of the basic elements of sideline employment.

Sidelining is when a musician is engaged to mime the playing of a musical instrument on camera. Typically, a musician will perform to a prerecorded track that is played back on the set. The minimum call for a sideline engagement is eight hours. Work hours after the initial eight hours, and during certain nighttime hours (after midnight, for example), entitles a musician an additional amount, based on the musician’s rate.

In some instances, a musician is required to record while being filmed. In these cases, the musician is entitled to a recording scale, in addition to their sideline scale. Also, a special Silent Bit rate is provided in the Theatrical Motion Picture and TV Film Agreements when a sideline musician is directed to perform special business.

There are many motion picture and TV film productions taking place across North America, so if you are ever contacted by a producer (or, if you are a local officer, and a musician or group of musicians in your jurisdiction is contacted by a producer) for a sideline engagement, you first need to confirm that the film is covered by the AFM. It is important that a producer’s signatory status be confirmed before you accept the call, otherwise you risk working on a non-AFM production and will lose the protection and benefits of AFM-covered employment. You may either contact your local to verify whether or not a producer is signatory to the appropriate agreement, or you may contact the AFM directly.

After you have completed the sideline engagement, it is important that you make certain a copy of the session report is filed with the local in the jurisdiction where the work was done. The local will, in turn, send a copy of the session report to the AFM, who will file a copy with the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF). Providing this session report will help ensure the FMSMF will have the appropriate documentation to credit you for your performance in any secondary markets distribution.

Current Motion Picture and TV Film sideline scale information can be found on afm.org, or for more information on sideline work in general, you may contact either track AFM headquarters or your local office.

new use department looking for help

New Use Department Has a Cubicle for You

by Peter Marroquin, AFM EMSD West Coast Office, TV/Theatrical Film New Use

new use department looking for helpIt takes a special group of people to create an effective and productive New Use Department, and that includes you. I have been a part of the Motion Picture/Television Film New Use Department since 1995. The department has consistently improved its billing and collection power every year, for the past two decades. This is the result of a constant effort to improve our data systems, identification of new sources of new use, partnerships with AFM locals, and the gathering of B-4 sound recording contracts from wherever they may roam. The goal of our department is to have every B-4 in existence in our archives, readily accessible for the billing and collection of new uses as they are found. AFM members are crucial to making this happen through their assistance in spotting new uses and locating B-4s.

The TV/Theatrical Film New Use department is part of the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) of the AFM West Coast Office. We monitor the industry to capture the use of AFM sound recordings in films. The department does this through viewer/researcher Alisa Childs, who records and watches TV shows and theatrical motion pictures to spot the new use of recordings. Our two full-time researchers, Bryan Vasquez and Andrew Morris, assist in the daily viewing to catch as many new uses as possible.

In addition to in-house recording and viewing, we have access to music-in-films information through DVD rentals, record company licensing reports, and the Internet. We are always looking for additional reliable ways to identify new uses in films because we have a four-year statute of limitations. This means we have four years to spot a new use, find a B-4, and bill a producer. Catching all new uses has become more challenging for our three researchers because the number of channels and services (e.g., Netflix and Amazon Prime) has grown.

This is where our members can help by reporting the new uses they spot in films. The information we need to start the billing process is: film name, tune title, artist name, production company, and year of film’s release (or air date in the case of TV films.) This information can be sent to me at e-mail pmarroquin@afm.org or faxed to (323) 461-5410. Unfortunately, the billing process sometimes stops because we do not have a copy of the AFM sound recording session contract for the tune(s).

When a sound recording session takes place, a B-4 form is filed with the AFM locals. The B-4 itemizes for our department the list of musicians who performed in the session. It also confirms that the session was done under an AFM contract, and directs us on the appropriate new use fees to bill. We archive sound recording B-4s as they are found. Currently our database includes B-4 forms gathered from various union locals, the pension fund, and members. We are always looking for ways to find more B-4s. Our goal is to have a complete record of all recordings that have been filed with AFM locals. Members can assist by sending us copies of B-4 sound recording forms that they have in their personal files. Please contact me if you would like to send us your collection.

The billing and collection of new uses in films gets better every year. Our team is committed to improving its services through the resources available, and to finding more sources of new uses and B-4s. Join our team effort by reporting new uses and submitting your B-4s.

AFM Sues Paramount for Offshoring Jobs

This week the AFM filed suit against Paramount Pictures, Inc. for recording the score to the film Same Kind of Different As Me in Slovakia. The complaint claims the film studio breached its collective bargaining agreement with musicians that required Paramount films produced in the US or Canada to be scored in the US or Canada.

“Only weeks after we filed suit against Paramount for offshoring jobs in other films, they did it again. This total disrespect for musicians is shameful. It is nothing more than corporate greed,” says AFM President Ray Hair. In May the Federation sued six studios, including Paramount, for offshoring jobs for other films. The AFM is seeking breach of contract damages, including wages and benefits that should have been paid to musicians.

Same Kind of Different As Me, directed by Michael Carney and starring Renée Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, and Jon Voight, was filmed in Mississippi, but scored in Bratislava, Sovakia, last month. It is scheduled for release in April 2016. According to Hair, such offshoring of scores allows film producers to drive profits up at the expense of North American musicians.

You can read the full complaint at: www.afm.org/uploads/file/public_pdf/SKODAM_Complaint-Court-Stamped.pdf.