Music Tip #7: Don't Donate to Films Unless You're Doing Music for Them
The more I tell people I do composing, I hear complaints all going the same way. A man or woman has donated to a film for his/her son/grandson to have a song on the soundtrack or compose the official film score. Their discussion hasn't been so full. These people may donate initially thinking down the road it might happen once they ask when the money lands in the filmmaker's bank account, or they're given an open answer like a maybe. And, always, when they ask the filmmaker(s), the answer becomes a big no. No, he can't contribute a rap track onto our soundtrack. He cannot produce a song. No, he can't write the score. I use the pronoun he because not one person I've met has a daughter or granddaughter seeking composing work. The film score business is almost always male dominated.
People will say anything to take your money. I've gone around asking independent filmmakers, "If I by any means can come up with funding for your movie, can I compose the score for free as a credit and retain rights to its sales and streaming?" All of them say, "We can discuss this later." "It might be a good idea!" "Can we talk about this in six months?" I don't specify amounts of how much I would try to come up with, and nor should you because...
The filmmakers have no intentions of naming their price a la Priceline. Nope. They aren't serious about using you. They would much prefer using an untalented drinking buddy's score, that of someone they date or have a fling with on and off, a BFF, a big agency composer, or, who knows, their ex. Always, it's someone they have a personal relationship with and it doesn't matter if you're the next living person closest to Beethoven. You aren't their friend. Nor are you part of the casting couch. And thus, they will not use you as a guest artist or film score composer.
You need to ask people directly, "Can we talk about this now? I am busy with my career goals and do not have time to wait six months." Demand an answer. If it's a yes, demand it be in a written contract. Most likely, you'll hear a no. Please know someone who wants to hire you or a family member will indeed hire you immediately or they only want your money.
Please don't give these people your money, which you need badly in furthering your career or the career of a loved one. Do you know how many actors I meet who've donated money to indie filmmakers on sites like Indiegogo in the hopes that the filmmakers down the line will cast them — and they never do? Someone who doesn't believe in you now is never going to believe in you. Invite these filmmakers to cookouts. Wish them luck on their filmmaking adventures. Say hi. Don't give them money. Making it in entertainment is expensive. You might be rich. So what? Don't give anyone money who isn't going to help you. Please don't be that person donating $500-75,000 for someone depending on their production costs because they're not going to believe in your talent. And if they do, they won't want your talent anyway.
"Yeah, but," someone always tells me. Dreaming isn't going to make it happen. The case is different if someone tells you to go out and get experience and come back to them. They think your work is promising but want to know you can really bring it. You will find some known filmmakers do this and mean what they say. They might take your score when you have three or more scores to your name. Fine.
Beware of people who skirt around the idea or turn you down. You are doing indie filmmakers a big favor donating money you may not have. Don't get taken advantage of. Really, writing so much on this topic to where it becomes redundant pains me until I hear how some people frankly don't get it the first time. Please, use your money for furthering your own music career! Moral of the story.