Shooting Music, Part IV: From the Producer's P.O.V. -- A Conversation with Jon Cryer
by Amanda N. Nanawa
A producer's job is never done. For Jon Cryer, the co-writer and
co-producer of "Went to Coney Island on a Mission From God... Be Back by
Five" and "The Pompatus of Love", using the best soundtracks at the right
price is a tricky if not frustrating task.
"You really can't underestimate the amount of importance that personal
relationships with artists have," says Cryer. British singer Midge Ure
provided a song for "The Pompatus of Love" and arranged the original score
for "Went to Coney Island...". "Usually, you're dealing with publishing
companies that don't want to give you the rights for the amount of money
you have...but it's their job to get as much money as possible so it's
completely understandable why they hold out for the big sums of money."
indieWIRE: How important is a music supervisor for these projects?
Jon Cryer: Music Supervisors can do very different functions. Sometimes a
music supervisor is the guy who finds that little treasure of a song that's
obscure but shouldn't have been and sometimes they're scrounging the
catalog. Sometimes, they're just the ones dealing with the record company.
The great thing about a music supervisor is usually they know the people at
the record companies. A lot of times, when you approach a record company
straight out as a producer, they don't really take you seriously. They
don't know you, they're not going to give you a favor. They're not going to
let something go your way if they can get more money out of you. I highly
recommend getting a music supervisor.
iW: Most of the songs you used were before 1989. . .
Cryer: Some of them were. We got "Cars" by Gary Numan, "Disco Inferno" by
the Tramps, "My Love is Alive" by Gary Wright, "Melt With You" by Modern
English. So, I think there are a lot of fun songs you don't really hear
iW: Actually, "Melt With You" is a fairly popular song. . .
Cryer: That one was really, really tough. They re-released a new version of
it a few years ago that was a hit as well. It was just in a Burger King
commercial for a stunning amount of money. But in the end, they realized
that it's free money at this point. The song has been sold quite a bit. And
so they ended up letting us use it.
iW: How much do you generally spend on soundtrack music?
Cryer: That can vary. The price that a lot of these people sort of quoted
as the lowest that they would possibly go, was $7,000 to $8,000 per song.
For "Melt With You", originally they were talking like $30,000. But they
ended up agreeing to the deal we gave everybody else. We also did a thing
where we offered a favored nations deal, where we give everybody the same
thing. Be prepared for publishing companies to just say "No, sorry".
iW: Was it better to go through the musician than to go through the
Cryer: Invariably, the people at publishing companies and the record
company get insulted when you go straight to the artist. It's a similar
thing to when a producer gets a script to an actor without going through
his agent. It's much easier to get obscure songs. The publishers feel like
that it's a rare opportunity when they think a song will get sold to a
movie, if it's not a popular song.
iW: Besides approaching publishers, should filmmakers approach the band's
management as well?
Cryer: Yeah. I highly recommend it. It's a good idea to talk to the
management even if you're not having problems with the people selling the
mechanical. Generally it's a good idea to go to the management just so they
know what's going on. Once you've created that relationship with them, you
can go to them and say, "Look, the publishers are not willing to budge on
this. Would the artist be willing to?" Sometimes the artists are and
sometimes they're not. It depends on whether they're getting a fair price
for what they're giving. The best thing to do is to find bands that are
really struggling. Go to the local club scenes, find bands that you like.
Meet them, get to know them.
[Jon Cryer is currently starring in a Touchstone Pictures feature called
"The Holy Man" with Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston, and Robert
Loggia. He is also developing another project with "Went to Coney
Island..." partner Richard Schenkman. For more information on "Went to Coney
Island on a Mission From God...Be Back By Five" and "The Pompatus of Love",
check Evenmore Entertainment's web site @ www.evenmore.com.]