ASCII by Jason Scott

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Argh —

Some time ago, I wanted to license some music. I had plans for that music.

As luck would have it, the artist had heard of what I was doing in terms of a project, and he was excited, and wanted me to use his music too. He’d written it five years previously, for a band that didn’t exist any more, so what a nice way to have the music get used in a new and interesting way.

He told me I should speak to his record company, who he cc’d and told them they should let me use the music.

The record company took months to get back to me. When they did, they asked exactly what I was going to use it for.

I wrote and told them what I wanted to use it for. They took a month or so to get back to me.

They quoted me some theoretical costs for using the music, I said I could pay those.

They then explained to me (a few weeks after that, now putting us roughly six months from when we’d first made contact), that the price they gave me was going to be just for the rights for playing it at festivals, and then they told me how much it was going to be to put it on a set number of copies of DVDs, and then how much it would extend if I happened to make more than that number of DVDs, plus how much extra it would be if it ended up on TV or anywhere else other than the DVDs. The amount was more than the entire production had cost up to that moment. I passed.

Later the thing came out, and the artist asked me why his song wasn’t on the documentary anywhere. I told him, and he was really bummed. And by bummed, I mean on fire. His record company, you see, hadn’t told him they’d given me this massive price to use the music (money, by the way, for them, not for the artist). So his old song didn’t end up on my project, and he wasn’t even told what was going on.

So yeah, fuck record companies.

I mention this because I’ve had a couple similar situations with GET LAMP, where my playing things by the rules are costing me more money than I want, are making me bow and scrape to people to get the privilege of putting my money down and go through the physical effort of filming, and where I was hoping to be a beneficial entity but I am being treated like a dynamite-strapped terrorist running deep into a nursery.

This happens. I have contingency plans in place for all occasions; I never put myself in the position of having anything “completely vital” to the projects I do such that I am utterly and totally beholden to another entity’s whims, especially where it’s obvious I mean as much to that entity as a twist-tie. But people sometimes end up thinking I “forgot” to do something or I “missed out” on a situation, and in fact there’s this whole ugly screaming match or endless looping bullshit parade that represents the dull and lifeless outcome.

I mention all this because sometimes I might paint things as too easy. Way way back in film school, my kick ass film teacher explained to us how he had a friend who worked in the Industry who had a huge woodpile out in back of his house. Not because he particularly needed wood, mind you, but because sometimes, dealing with the brain donors of his daily life, he needed someplace to go and split things in half with an axe.

Everyone, if they work at something that needs the assistance of others, or even the non-obstruction of others, will find themselves stymied with what apparently is even worse than malicious sabotage but in fact in needless complication, done by people who consider inertia their personal gods. It happens. Don’t let it stop you from your stuff, just realize that what comes out the other end is rarely 100% as you dreamed it would be.

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  1. cassiel says:

    Always act the way that the number of your options increasesHeinz v. Foerster

  2. Mark says:

    Soo it sounds like the problem is that “his song” wasnt really “his song”, but the record company’s song! People need to wake up and actually understand what the fuck they are agreeing to when they enter into contracts.

  3. Jason Scott says:

    Oh, I totally agree. He did too, which is why he didn’t just give it to me, but asked his record company to please approve it. And then he found out the hard way how they did business.

    I agree about contracts, which is why I have turned down/walked away from a ton of offers related to my films, and why I won’t do certain things to get them to a wider audience at the cost of ownership. I never want my films to be something I end up hating seeing up there, because they’re not mine anymore.

  4. I enjoyed your BBS Documentary very, very much. I am sort of excited about Get Lamp and I am really excited about Arcade. I am so excited about these that I would do pretty much anything within my power to assist you in any way possible in finishing these films.

    My point here is, isn’t there anyone else out there who feels the same way that I do AND is good at music AND would hook up an amateur (or at least self-funded) filmmaker? Are the days of donating something (like a song) to a project over?

  5. Jason Scott says:

    I have no issue with the record company having the copyright. The band signed this away in return for getting their album sold and distributed.

    But I do think the record company showed how likely they were to be a success. The band has since broken up.