From the Archive: Don’t Mess with the Music



Music Supervisor Tanya Sweeney gives essential advice to filmmakers working on modest budgets on how not to ruin a film with shoddy aural afterthoughts.

Films are made in Ireland on a huge range of budgets. On one hand, we have witnessed epic wonders, like Reign of Fire, take over our soundstages and post-production facilities, yet on the other hand, there is an ever increasing presence of low budget gems, made more likely with a smaller yet perfectly formed audience in mind. These films, among them Disco Pigs or The Crooked Mile, while arguably produced with slightly more care and affection than the Hollywood blockbuster, are made with an eye firmly on the purse strings. Often, problems and glitches are solved ‘creatively’, without the luxury of being able to spend money, thus creating the stuff of production legend. Furthermore, low budget productions and the crews that work on them seem to be more spirited and familial.

Having worked as a music supervisor on several low budget features for the past four years, I have seen my fair share of off-camera production dramas, not least in my own department. I have also been fortunate enough to be part of some truly amazing production teams, and in some cases have had a front seat while some truly remarkable films unfolded.

When it comes to low budget filmmaking, there is one particular aspect of production that will cause problems on the music front: the money. When creating a music budget, it is perhaps best to ignore the fables where a huge recording artist ‘believed’ in a film so much that he either did the score for free or allowed use of his signature tune for a nominal fee. Having worked with plenty of these artists, it is fair to say that they can be a pretty mercenary bunch, or at least their representatives are. It’s easier to put a little more into your music budget so that the songs you want can be cleared without too many headaches. On a recent production I worked as music supervisor for Film Four: the music budget on a £1 million feature was roughly £15,000. Furthermore, the director wanted David Bowie, Blondie and lots of chart dance music to be featured in the film. Generally speaking, this can’t be done without a host of miracles.
There are a few rules to getting the music right for a low budget film, and for getting the most out of your meagre budget:

Consider your music as early as possible
Ideally, ideas about music for the film should be brought to the table in pre-production, during budgeting. Many producers and directors tend to leave thoughts about music until post-production, so they can play with songs and match them to scenes during their time in the cutting room. The only problem is that timing becomes an inhibiting factor – often, the right composer might not be available at short notice, some songs take months of negotiation to clear, the composer is given a short window of time with which to create the score, there may not be time to correct oversights or glitches. It’s perhaps a better idea to begin discussing music choices right before the shoot and have someone clear them while shooting is going on. Needless to say, songs that are being used during playback (for example, if an actor is singing a song) will need to be fully cleared by the song’s publisher before the day of shooting.

Another advantage of considering music so early on is that securing the right talent can affect your chances of getting financed. Okay, so having Coldplay score your film won’t get you a greenlight if the script, actors and other elements aren’t attached, but it will go a long way in making your project more memorable to financiers, and will give your project some much-needed kudos. On another project I worked on for Film Four Lab, entitled Body Song, having Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead on board to score the film while searching for finance made a huge difference.

Is your film going to be music-heavy?
Will it need plenty of source music? It will if it’s set in a nightclub, or a hip bar. Often, if the script is contemporary, it helps to envisage that there will be some source music used. On the other hand, there is less, or no need for source music in a period piece, as these films tend to be score-driven. The trick is to budget accordingly in terms of how much music is being used. Generally speaking, on a ¨ 1 million feature, where some score and some source will be used, it is advisable to set aside around ¨60,000 for music.

It is also a good idea to get a rough idea of song/composer prices as you do the budget. While record labels and publishers expect the film’s producers to make an offer with which to start negotiations, often when clearing for film use (that is, clearance for use in all media worldwide, and in perpetuity), a song by a very popular band or artist can cost up to ¨150,000 with little opportunity for negotiation. Artists in this category include Madonna, Van Morrison, Michael Jackson, or Elvis Presley. Songs by Blondie or David Bowie are often quoted by the publisher at around ¨20,000 for the publishing rights alone (there are two sets of rights that need clearing; the master rights and the publishing rights). Once I attempted to clear a Badly Drawn Boy track for use in an ad and was informed that the song would cost around ¨40,000 for 10 seconds of use. Obviously these prices are starting points from which to begin negotiations, but these should give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend if you want to use well-known tracks. Of course, your overall production budget is a determining factor in how much you will pay for a song, and if you are in the low budget category, you will get off much lighter.
For films under ¨500,000, expect to pay ¨4000 per track (¨2000 for master, ¨2000 for publishing) for a mid-sized song. For films from ¨500,000 to ¨1 million, expect to pay ¨8000 per track (¨4000 for master, ¨4000 for publishing) for a mid-sized song. For films from ¨1.5 million – ¨3 million, expect to pay up to ¨16,000 per track (¨8000 for master, ¨8000 for publishing) for a mid-sized song.

Use available talent
One way around this spend is to use up-and-coming artists or local bands to drive your soundtrack. Today’s up-and-coming artists are of course tomorrow’s stars. In addition, many are desperate to add film work to their CV, and will pose very few problems for a filmmaker. When I worked as the music consultant on Goldfish Memory, I was very fortunate insofar as the producer and director (Breda Walsh and Liz Gill, respectively) were very open to this idea. Not only did they get plenty of great quality music within the confines of their music budget, but the highly evocative soundtrack to the film is a perfect reflection of what’s hip and new in vibrant young Dublin, which is of course the backdrop of the film.

With regards to the pricing of actual composers, again, you will pay more for John Barry or Clint Mansell than you will for a novice with a Casio. It’s up to the director to decide whether it is worth paying more for the right composer, while bearing in mind that the composer and score can make or break the film.

Similarly, using production/library music can be a simple way of getting music into the film without too many headaches. Library music doesn’t need artist approval, unlike most source music, and it can be paid for simply by filling out an MCPS order form, and every genre is available in this format. It is particularly useful if a scene needs classical music, as it eliminates the need to record an expensive orchestra or to clear an existing recording from one of the major labels.

The step-deal option
If money is too tight to mention (and it often is on an Irish feature production), another option would be to use step-deals or back-end participation deals with labels or publishers. If your film cannot be made without ‘White Christmas’ but the prospect of spending half the budget doesn’t go down too well with your executive producers try proposing that you pay a certain amount of money on signature of the synchronisation license, then another amount when the film breaks even at the box office, and a separate amount when the film makes ¨1 million producer s net profit. There are several variations on this deal, and it is always worth investigating this possibility with record labels and publishers.

Tricks of the trade
There are several tricks to be mindful of while making films, which make a difference to your music budget. For example, a way of getting around using a lot of music for pub/bar scenes would be to get your sound designer to create plenty of talk and ‘fruit machine’ sounds. In a birthday scene, instead of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ (which costs a lot to clear), it may be an idea to get your actors to sing ‘For (S)He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ (which costs nothing to clear). It is also a good idea to see which classical songs are out of copyright; amazingly, while the general rule is that a song is out of copyright 75 years after the death of the composer, some classical compositions that were composed hundreds of years ago are still in copyright (for example, ‘Nessun Dorma’).

Finally, one word of advice would be to use a music supervisor while doing feature film work. Many Irish producers find this to be a ‘luxury’ or an unnecessary spend in a feature film budget, but generally having one on board your project can be highly effective. Many music supervisors have contacts at all the major record labels and publishers, and this is useful when it comes to difficult negotiations. Furthermore, they are being constantly kept up to date by labels and publishers of the musical stars of the future.

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Magazine, Issue 91 in 2003.



Call for

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Kavaleer Productions are recruiting 2D digital animators for an upcoming TV series. The project will be animated using CelAction 2D software.  We’re working on multiple high profile projects, so this is a great opportunity.

Position Requirements:

–          Must have proven 2D character animation experience. Preferably on broadcast series or film production.

–          Minimum of 2 years experience using CelAction, Flash, After FX, Toon Boom or Anime Studio in a paid position.

–          The ideal candidate will have CelAction experience, but this is not essential as training can be provided.

–          Must have excellent knowledge of traditional animation principles and the ability to apply them to the digital medium.

–          Must be flexible, willing to learn and be a motivated and motivating team player.

–          Able to work within a production schedule.

–          Must have good interpersonal skills.

–          Must be willing to work in house in our Dublin studio.
This position is an excellent opportunity for highly organized and motivated animator who enjoys being part of an exciting, fast paced animation studio.


Please submit your CV and digital showreel to


Cinema Review: No


DIR: Pablo Larraín • WRI: Pedro Peirano • PRO: Daniel Marc Dreifuss, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín • DOP: Sergio Armstrong • ED: Andrea Chignoli •  CAST: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers

¡Viva la revolucion 4:3, amigos! After the dissemination of square televisions necessitated filmmakers to adapt aspect ratios of a wider persuasion, good old Academy Ratio is undergoing a minor artistic resurgence. The Artist re-appropriated it as part of its emulation of silent aesthetics, while Miguel Gomes similarly drew on its classical connotations for his nostalgic and intoxicating Tabu. Kelly Reichardt used it to differentiate her bleak, claustrophobic Meek’s Cutoff from any number of epically Cinemascope Westerns. And now we have No, whose director Pablo Larraín (Post Mortem, Tony Manero) uses 4:3 to make his film look like crap.At least it looks crap for a reason! The film is set in Chile in 1988, and tells the story of the television advertising campaign that was waged against dictator Pinochet’s referendum calling for a further extension to his already fifteen year long reign. Larrain uses the relatively primitive television technology of the time – a camera system called U-matic – with good cause. It does not make for the most beautifully cinematic feature film – there is constant ugly artefacting and the exposure basically freaks the hell out when it has to deal with direct sunlight. And yet it works, predominantly because archive footage is near seamlessly integrated with the ‘new’ footage. The film’s strikingly retro visualisation creates a memorable sense of place and time, and the eccentric format is pretty much completely justified. Not that every period film should suddenly start shooting in U-matic, of course.


The visuals may be non-traditional, but the story being told is a pretty straightforward one. Gael García Bernal plays René Saavedra, a composite of several real-life advertising creatives. After being persuaded to help craft the ‘No’ campaign, he decides to focus on a joyful, optimistic campaign to counter the Pinochet’s camp typically unconvincing propaganda. Initially the idea is met with resistance by the ‘Vote No’ camp, who think the campaign is downplaying the atrocities of the Pinochet regime. But it quickly becomes apparent the positivity is resonating, and it isn’t long before the dictator’s minions take a particular interest in the people behind the increasingly popular campaign.


It’s a fascinating history lesson about one of the few incidences where the language of advertising and selling was utilised to achieve a grander goal than the promotion of soft drinks. Bernal’s protagonist is an interesting one, dealing with the personal and social repercussions of his work. The story is told with the right blend of comedy and drama – examining an intriguing mini-revolution while not forgetting to have a bit of fun. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in the way René’s story plays out, and the film could perhaps have probed the ethical and moral dilemmas of the situation in greater depth (the film does conclude on a satisfactorily bittersweet note). On the whole, though, No is never less than engaging and enjoyable. And those cheesy ‘No’ jingles really are strangely persuasive…


It’s actually somewhat of a shame the film’s  unusual presentation and subtitles will relegate this to small releases in arthouse theatres like the IFI. It’s an accessible and entertaining film that would undoubtedly appeal to those who enjoyed the likes of Argo. If you do happen to stumble across it, No is well worth a look as a distinctive way of telling a great story.




Stephen McNeice

15A (see IFCO website for details)

117 mins

No is released on 8th February 2013

No– Official Website


Cinema Review: I Give It a Year


DIR/WRI: Dan Mazer PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris
Thykier DOP: Ben Davis ED: Tony Cranstoun DES: Simon Elliott Cast:
Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Jason Flemyng, Olivia
Colman, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver

A frequent collaborator of Sacha Baron Cohen (who can currently be
seen flexing his musical muscles in the awards-laden Les Miserables),
Dan Mazer forged his reputation as a producer/writer in both
television and film, with his crowning moment to date being his
Oscar-nominated work on the screenplay for Borat: Cultural Learnings
of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which went
down a storm upon its release Stateside.

He has previously worked on the small screen as a director of certain
segments of Da Ali G Show, as well as the Zach Galifianakis-starring
Dog Bites Man, but I Give It a Year marks his first foray into silver
screen helming.

Featuring an instantly recognisable cast of British and overseas
talent, I Give It a Year focuses on Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne’s
newlywed couple, who find themselves in a real bind just nine months
into their marriage. Mostly told in a series of flashbacks with Olivia
Colman’s marital counselor, we witness the ups and downs of this
initially happy union, and how they are affected by their specific

On hand to complicate the equation are Spall’s former flame Anna
Faris, who has returned from her charitable endeavours overseas, and
the roguishly charming Simon Baker, who is more than willing to mix
business with pleasure in his dealings with Byrne.

Aiming to become a breakaway British comedy success, like Bridget
Jones’s Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral before it, I Give It a
Year is a somewhat uneven comedy, which sometimes tries too hard to
keep the laughter ratio on the right track, but nevertheless has
enough moments to sustain its relatively slender running time.

Key to the film’s sustainability are some fine supporting performances
from reliable faces like Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant and Minnie
Driver, the latter of whom is enjoying a mini-revival on the strength
of roles in the Conviction, Barney’s Version and the underrated Hunky

Her part is that of the bride’s best friend, which so often comes
across as stereotypical or caricatured, but thanks to the chemistry
between Driver and on-screen husband Flemyng, she helps to conjure up
some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Merchant is also entertaining, if a little underused (much like The
Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass) as Spall’s best man, while Colman
displays the comic chops that she honed in Hot Fuzz and Peep Show
before winning widespread acclaim for her extraordinary performance in
Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur.

In terms of the four-way romance at the heart of the film, the
Spall-Faris thread is more effective, as it is easier to symphatise
with with the husband’s predicament, given the warm history that he
shares with his former partner. Byrne, who showed in Get Him to the
Greek and Bridesmaids that she can be a dab hand at comedy, suffers
more when it comes to characterisation, though she does her level best
to make it work, as does Baker, her fellow Aussie co-star.

Spall, who is starting to step away from the shadow of his
highly-respected father Timothy, is a very engaging male lead, while
Faris (who is so often let down by the script in her chosen projects)
is as likeable as ever.

A neat twist on the standard rom-com finale aside, there is little
here that you won’t have seen before, and the jokes are quite often
‘hit and miss’, but Mazer’s film has more than enough going for it to
keep audiences onside.

Daire Walsh

16 (see IFCO website for details)

97 mins

I Give It a Year is released on 8th February 2013

I Give It a Year – Official Website


Call For: Directors


Illustration: Adeline Pericart


Open Call for Directors to get involved in ‘Writer’s Week’. Great opportunity to take part in this prestigious competition. One Script has become available for direction.

‘Writer’s Week’ will run from February 18-23rd. For further information contact us ASAP :


Cinema Review: The Man Inside

DIR: Dan Turner WRI: Dan Turner PRO: Dean Fisher DOP: Richard Swingle
ED: Richard Alderson DES: Mickaela Trodden Cast: Ashley Thomas, David
Harewood, Michelle Ryan, Peter Mullan

A rapper by trade, Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas is, like Plan B (Ben Drew)
and Adam Deacon before him, also a rising British actor, and The Man
Inside sees him taking on lead duty for the first time following
supporting turns in The Veteran and Noel Clarke’s

In writer-director Dan Turner’s third feature film, following
Experiment and Stormhouse, Thomas plays Clayton Murdoch, a young man
who seeks to distance himself from the gangster past of his father
(David Harewood) by channelling his aggression and anger into boxing.

His boxing trainer is Gordon Sinclair (played by the reliably intense
Peter Mullan), who took Clayton under his wing following his father’s
imprisonment, and helped him to avoid falling into the world of crime
and violence that seems particularly prevalent in this area of London.

However, the arrival of Gordon’s daughter, Alexia (Michelle Ryan), an
old schoolmate of his, on top of some threatening behaviour towards
his sister and brother by local thugs, starts to send Clayton
spiralling out of control, and down the same path that his father
travelled many years before. Question is, will he resort to the same
murderous deeds that he witnessed his father engage in or will he see
the light at the end of the tunnel?

Boosted by a strong central performance from Thomas, and good
supporting turns from Mullan and Jenny Jules, as the matriarch of the
Murdoch household, The Man Inside is a well-intentioned and finely
crafted, if not wholly satisfying, urban drama. It is tough and gritty
in all the right places, but the air of familiarity proves to be its
undoing in the end.

The fact that Thomas, as well as Ryan, worked with Noel Clarke on is perhaps not entirely coincidental, as The Man Inside is
similar in ways to the Clarke-scripted Kidulthood and the
Clarke-directed Adulthood, which featured the vocal stylings of Thomas
on its soundtrack.

This in itself is not a major problem, but other contrivances, such as
Ryan’s ‘tart with a heart’ female love interest, take away from some
of the more admirable elements of the film.

There is every possibility that The Man Inside will find a respectable
audience upon its release, and those who do see it will find some form
of emotional resonance in the film’s finale. In his short and
feature-length films to date (as well as in TV series Girl Number 9),
Turner has proven to be an efficient filmmaker, who doesn’t mind
trying his hand at a variety of genres.

Unfortunately, the genre that The Man Inside belongs is one that is in
need of some fresh ideas, and despite the best efforts of all
involved, his film does fall short of providing them.

Daire Walsh 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
99 mins

The Man Inside is released on 27th July 2012

The Man Inside – Official Website


Issue 130 – Living at the Edge, Working at the Centre

Pat Comer

Galway Film Centre manager Declan Gibbons talks to a cross-section of people about working in the film and television sector in the West of Ireland.

The Galway Film Centre celebrates its 21st birthday this year. I remember when we started we had a borrowed Bolex camera and an old Steenbeck editing suite that rté had discarded. For a resource centre we had very few resources! Over time the audiovisual sector in the West has become the largest outside of Dublin. We now have over 25 independent production companies with specializations including drama, documentary and animation and over 200 skilled freelance audiovisual technicians and practitioners. We have state-of-the-art facilities in Telegael and Studio Solas, our own broadcaster (TG4) and even our own soap opera with dedicated studios. We also have the Film Fleadh, two film and television schools at GMIT and the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, and, very importantly, (BSÉ/IFB) have their headquarters in Galway.

In spite of all this progress, working in this industry is always a challenge, so I set off to talk to a cross-section of people working in the West to see how they got started, what keeps them here and what the challenges are that face them.

How did you get started in the industry?

Pat Comer, filmmaker: There was very little if anything happening in the West of Ireland back in the ’80s. I ‘hustled’ it a bit in Dublin, door-stepping different production companies but only got encouragement, not employment. Then, in 1988, the Galway Film Resource Centre started up. You had to be on the dole to qualify, but back in the ’80s that was pretty much everybody. We had a wind-up Bolex camera but little film. Gradually new people became involved – Film West got published, the Film Fleadh started and eventually a network of people with growing levels of expertise and ability began to establish themselves in the West. I didn’t care if I worked in drama or documentary. What was important to me was the chance to work in filmmaking, which is essentially a form of storytelling.

Moe Honan, Head of Animation at Magma Films: One of the first projects I worked on in the television medium saw me buried in a dark studio for nights on end making war documentaries. This was quickly followed by running around like crazy with a crew, filming almost every gig for a documentary about the Galway Arts Festival. This was by Justin McCarthy and called In The Shadow of Galway Cathedral. I knew then I could never grow tired of a job that offered me the privilege of working with so many different kinds of stories and people.

Pierce Boyce, Managing Director at Abú Media: I got my break in this business when Roger Corman opened his Concorde Anois Studios back in 1996 in Tully. I started off as locations assistant on what I think was a Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson film, Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill. I worked 6 days a week, doing 17-hour days for small money but I loved it and got hooked. We set up Abú Media in 2001 and whilst everyday has its challenges, I still love every (well, almost every) day of it!

Ciarán Ó Cofaigh, Managing Director of ROSG: I always had an interest. When I was in University I got the opportunity to work as a trainee with Muiris Mac Conghail on Mórchuid Cloch agus Gannchuid Cré, a feature documentary he directed for RTÉ in 1988. When I graduated from UCD in 1990, I was accepted on a producer/director course funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta and run by the RTÉ training centre. It was a comprehensive nine-month course, which included both single-camera and multi-camera production. At the time we all believed TG4 would be six months down the road as opposed to the six years we had to wait. It was, however, a great display of initiative by Údarás na Gaeltachta, who, through a series of similar courses, had developed a core of trained professionals by the time TG4 was actually established in 1996.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 130.