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Shooting Music, Part I: Good Machine Makes Music and Film Mix

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 5, 1998 at 2:0AM

Mix
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Mix

by Amanda N. Nanawa




With films such as "Walking and Talking", "The Brothers McMullen", and "The
Ice Storm
", Good Machine has proven to be an important thread in the
striving independent filmmaking community of New York City. They took it
one step further this past June when the company established Good Machine
Music
-- an in-house music division. GMM will oversee music supervision and
consulting for films, manage music copyrights, and produce soundtrack
albums. Talks on distribution, first-look, publishing, and imprint are
still pending.


"Controlling the music allows us to approach music early on in the process
as opposed to just on a case by case basis," says Anthony Bregman, Good
Machine's Head of Production. "We're still in our infancy. Signing up
artists is gonna be a phase two to the master plan. I think the first
master plan is to release a lot of really good soundtracks and make a name
for Good Machine Music."


On a brisk, rainy evening, indieWIRE sat down and spoke with the newest
member of the Good Machine family, Tracy McKnight, Co-Executive Director of
GMM, who recently supervised four Good Machine feature films: Frank Grow's
"Love God", John O'Hagan's "Wonderland", Bart Freundlich's "The Myth Of
Fingerprints
", and Hillary Brougher's "The Sticky Fingers Of Time".


"Good Machine Music is a full service music division," says McKnight. "The
long term goal is to establish a publishing deal, to bring on new writers,
supervise films outside the Good Machine realm. There's so many films going
on in New York and so many independent filmmakers who need help. There's no
concept of how it's done, how it's organized, how it's negotiated."


indieWIRE: How different will GMM be compared to a soundtrack department by
a major record label? How will you treat the artists?


Tracy McKnight: I come from a film mind and I think they'll be courted in a
different way, nurtured in a different way. They'll work through it with
me, the director, and producer. They'll have the creative input but
ultimately, it would have to serve the need of the film. I think that
process is something that artists are really intrigued about and every
artist I've contacted wants to work in film.


iW: There seems to be a misconception among first-time filmmakers about
using music for "free".


McKnight: You do have to set aside some money for music because you truly
have to pay for music no matter what. Nothing is free. The only time that
really happens is when you have a very solid relationship with an
independent artist. You are unsigned and you come to me, and you write
music and you say "okay, you can use my songs for free", the exchange of
money still has to happen even if it's a dollar; whether it being a valid
business deal. But, if I know Sting and he's my friend, he doesn't own his
masters. The (record) company owns his masters.


The other thing is, independent film should be showcasing independent music
when they can. I think that's a really wonderful marriage. I always
encourage hiring a music supervisor early on in the process, especially if
you don't have a lot of money.


When you bring someone in on post-production level and you got five weeks,
it's really hard to organize lots of inexpensive music at a short period of
time. It's possible, but it's really hard. The earlier you bring someone on
before you start to shoot will make the life of the production, musically,
so much easier.


iW: What is GMM's fee for helping on projects that are non-Good Machine
produced?


McKnight: Fees are determined by the size of the project, the budget of the
project, and what the music fees are. I'm currently working on the
soundtrack to the film "High Art" starring Ally Sheedy and a Miramax film
called "Little City" on Mercury Records (the film stars Jon Bon Jovi).


iW: What warning do you give to first-time filmmakers?


McKnight: Every director is different. What I try to do first off is speak
to them musically. What are your tastes? What do you like? What do you see
for the vision, musically, for the film? From there, you establish what the
pitfalls would be. For example, you have an independent film and it's a
period piece. It's a really, really difficult thing to do with no money or
a very limited budget. It's much harder than doing something contemporary,
East Village, New York so to speak. Let's say I've written a script and
people are going to a Doors concert. It's crucial to the film and those are
the kinds of things that happen all the time. And then you have to go in
and explain why this will not happen, it's a very famous song, or what a
copyright is, why it's so expensive.


When you go home, you take your CD off the shelf, put it in your radio -
you're not thinking "Oh my God, it's going to cost me $75,000." You're
writing your screenplay with your vision in mind and that is one of the
hardest things to overcome because people become very attached to those
things because they're crucial. And the difference between paying; you can
have a Prince song and you can have like the Joe X song on the same plot of
your film is very hard for some people to swallow. And you have to come up
with some really great alternative.


I think there's going to be a change - major corporations, major companies
need to embrace independent film. The biggest risk for a major corporation
right now is that they don't want to take a chance on an independent film
without distribution attached.


iW: Alright. Let's go over jargon that filmmakers should be concerned about.


McKnight: "Mechanical Royalty" is a royalty that is paid per record at a
statutory rate by the copyright office in Washington, D.C. But, what it is,
is a rate that every time your song is pressed on an album, you get paid.
And the statutory rate is 6.7 cents or 6.8 cents. What it is that x-record
company goes out and print 10,000, you would get 7 cents per record
regardless if the record was sold or not. It's for publishing. "Master
Right" is the physical recording of a song, of a performance. It's like the
record company owns the performance. "Synchronization License" also refers
to publishing and that's for the songwriter who wrote the song. If I sang
and wrote a song, you would come to me for a performance and publishing
right.


iW: Is it always cheaper for musicians to re-record songs by a major artist?


McKnight: People do that all the time. You still pay for publishing,
though. Copyright, publishing are the real estate of music. That's how
people make their living.


iW: Music supervisors are sometimes correlated to legal supervisors.


McKnight: Music supervising is definitely the wearing of many hats because
you're the liaison. So many people have to be kept in the loop: producers,
the post-production supervisor, the director, the artists, the publishers,
labels, soundtrack label; especially when this one is not agreeing with
that one. And the music supervisor's job is to make the life of the
director easier. To make sure that everybody is happy. Someone always has
to follow-up.