Getting a kick-ass film soundtrack

Thanks to The Aussie for pointing me to this Guardian article about some guys who wanted to get some really good music for their low-budget film,Awaydays. Fortunately these guys both have backgrounds in the music biz, so due to their experience and their chutzpah and some luck they were able to get a lot for a little.

Excerpts follow; the whole article is here.

Typically for a low-budget film, costing less than £1m, it will cost £2,000 each way to clear a specific track – that’s £2,000 to the record company for the soundtrack, and another £2,000 to the song’s publisher for the underlying composition rights. It costs more if you’re after a prime track by an A-list band; more again if you want to use the track over the opening or closing credits, and even more if you want to clear it for use in trailers or other forms of advertising the film. By that slide rule, we could afford two-and-a-half tracks forAwaydays; we’d allowed £10,000 for music clearances…We really wanted to clear a glut of new wave classics for that £10,000. We had our work cut out.

Just before Christmas, I started listening to the CD of bonus tracks that came with the remastered edition of the Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys. Halfway through there’s a stripped-down, home-recorded demo of 10.15, Saturday Night. It features little more than Robert Smith and a guitar, and it’s one of the most devastating and heartbreaking love songs I’ve ever heard. I told Marc Robinson as much, but knew we could never afford the Cure. He agreed, but suggested I wrote a letter to Robert Smith, which he would forward. It was worth a shot. I wrote honestly and passionately about seeing the Cure at [legendary Liverpool underground club] Eric’s in May 1979, then thought nothing more of it. Robert Smith came back and said we could use the song for £500. I fainted.

A routine request to Adidas for permission to feature their brand in the film…[led to] a tip from [their Marketing Director which] led us to the door of Peter Hook in the ultra-posh Cheshire enclave of Alderley Edge. At least we thought it was Hooky’s front door. No one answered. An old colonel type was washing his car next door. “Excuse me mate, do you know which one’s Hooky’s house?” “I beg your pardon?” “Peter Hook. The musician. New Order?” He didn’t answer. Looked suspicious for a second then disappeared. A minute later a loudspeaker ordered me and Dave Hughes to lie down with our hands behind our heads. Two Liverpudlians knocking on doors in Alderley Edge was good enough for the local security patrol to swoop. The mistake was soon explained – we’d got the right street name, but a Close instead of a Drive – but for a second we thought they were going to shoot us. Peter Hook had no choice but give us three Joy Division tracks after that.

Why is science important?

There’s an excellent article in the Guardian about teacher Alom Shaha’s passion for science and the film he’s made to explain to kids why it’s important for them. There are some great clips from that film, including:

  • If you don’t have a grasp of science, how will you stay out of the clutches of charlatans?
  • Dissing science is like dissing your mum.
  • Science will tell us whether we’re alone in the universe.
  • Science forewarns us about the effects we’re having on the environment.
  • Science helps us appreciate how lucky we are to be on this amazing planet.

Or you can watch the whole film right here:

“This is a flight stabilizer and it’s perfectly harmless.”

Iron Man was good, but not that good. It was no Spider Man 2. But it was pretty close, and definitely better than most superhero movies.

All the reviews say that Robert Downey Jr. was a good choice for Tony Stark, and they’re right. He’s good with Gwyneth Paltrow. The scenes where he builds and tests out the stages of his armor are very good. The final battle felt a bit like I’d seen it all before.

It’s a good start to an obviously lucrative franchise.

More films

To take my mind off the shame and despair of new London mayor Boris Johnson, I watched some films this weekend (I need to clean up the PVR; you’ll soon learn why). Here’s what I’ve seen:

Withnail and I – Two unemployed, eccentric, and inebriated actors leave London for a holiday in the country. This a cult classic in Britain. I can see why: Richard E. Grant is very funny, and there are some well-orchestrated scenes. But overall, this film is awful. It’s  been overrated by people who watched it whilst drunk or stoned, and it lives on in Ironic Counterculture Fame.

Brick – Awesome teen noir, as a schoolkid tracks down those who put his ex-girlfriend in trouble. Modern-day update of a Humphrey Bogart detective flick, right down to the rapid-fire reveal by the protagonist to the femme fatale.

Last Night – Nifty little film from Canadian writer and director Don McKellar. The world will end in six hours; what do the people of Toronto do? Interesting, and not too trite. Features Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley, and David Cronenberg.

Tonight, however, comes Iron Man.

An embalmer of what?

Two films I saw on the weekend:

  • In Her Shoes, a Cameron Diaz/Toni Collette film about sisterhood and family and growing up. Better than the rom-com I thought it was going to be, but not that good. I liked Collette in this, though – I like her in everything. But the rest felt like the predictable feel-good novel it reportedly was.
  • Taxidermia, one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It’s a Hungarian film from 2006. IMDb’s plot outline says that it is a “grotesque tale of three generations of men, including an obese speed eater, an embalmer of gigantic cats, and a man who shoots fire out of his penis”. That outline is entirely accurate. It’s incredibly gory, sexual, foul-mouthed, repulsive, and funny. I have absolutely no idea what to make of it. Dino needs to see this film.

Expelled: Exposed

Ben Stein is an idiot.

Sure, I used to think he was a funny guy. He had a wry wit on his TV game show. He made me laugh in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

But he’s also been – more vocally lately – an evolution naysayer, and a proponent of so-called “Intelligent Design”. Now he’s co-written and starred in a documentary film called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, coming out in a few days. In it, Stein rubbishes evolution (which he calls Darwinism), claims that it led to Hitler’s genocide on Jews, explains why he thinks that the universe must have been intelgently designed, and makes the claim that anyone who tries to take that position is hounded out of the scientific community.

Luckily, the science community is having none of it. Stein and his film are under attack left, right and centre on ScienceBlogs. And one web page summarises the intellectual and logical problems with the film better than any other: please read Expelled.

I is for India

I saw an excellent documentary last night called I is for India. It tells the tale of a young Indian doctor who took his new family to the UK in the ’50s to kick-start his career and earn some money. Like many such immigrants he planned to return to India in a few years, but things don’t always turn out the way you want. Unlike most such immigrants, he bought film cameras and recording equipment for himself and his family back in India, and they regularly exchanged home movies, sharing news, wishes, and hopes. Those movies span decades.

This film was put together by the doctor’s youngest daughter, using a great deal of that filmed family communication, plus some modern filming of her own. It tells an incredible powerful tale of family, hope, returning to your roots, and how you eventually become your parents. It’s excellent.