Filmmaking / Directing : Songs that are integral to the script by Michael Wearing

Michael Wearing

Songs that are integral to the script

I've always avoiding writing specific songs into a script. Because I know there may be issues over acquiring the rights. However am about to start righting a film based on true life where some tunes are an intricate and essential part of the script.

Michael Wearing

Often the tune has new lyrics, has anyone got suggestions on how I can source the rights owners of the tunes. So that I can concentrate my writing on those that I have cleared the copyright issue. Obviously I don't want to go into the films details but in essence I don't need all the songs but the ones I choose will dictate the story I tell. Any suggestions great fully received...

Regina Lee

First, this is not my area of expertise, and there's not enough info here to really help you. What I do know is that the methodology you illustrated might not work out. The reason is that licensors may want to see the script (or other representation of the project) before granting you a license, especially since the songs will play such a prominent role in the script and since you want to rewrite the lyrics. If you reach out now, and if the licensor wants the license fee, they may very well say, "come back to me for licensing consideration when you're farther along." Or put another way, does the project have the budget to pay thousands of dollars now when you don't even have a script? General Info: Hire a music supervisor: Some of these music experts might be able to help further.

Michael Wearing

Thanks Regina your advice is top drawer yet again. The story is true life and the songs have already being sung spontaneously with different lyrics. I'm sure some right owners will not want their material used at all. The "new" lyrics are often about individual people and certainly represent moments in time, which is why I need to clarify what will be useable or not. As for raising the cash. I am confident the film has a significant identifiable audience and whatever needs to be raised within reason can be raised. A. Music supervisor sounds like a good starting place...

D Marcus

I have a question for you, Michael; What if the song (or songs) that are an intricate and essential part of the script are not available?

Elisabeth Meier

Some directors like if you mention a song as they could listen to it and get a feeling for what you meant when describing a situation. Hence, it's also welcome. As always, it depends on the producer and director. There was an article about this in the blog section I think. Will see if I can find it again. ... found it: You see, rules are rules because we think we need rules, but as soon as you know how to work with the rules there actually are no rules anymore and you can play with your all your knowledge, your experience, your craft.

Allan Lines

I dont understand the problem,the writers own the copyright,if used in film a contract is drawn with the producers and the writers giving permision to use the songs or music

Michael Wearing

Just to clarify so that you can see my dilemma. I am about to write a true story about some sporting fans. They use their own lyrics to various tunes, many of the tunes will still be in copyright. The lyrics were often written for specific games about specific people. Now I don't need to use all the songs indeed there are far too many to do that, but it would be an impossible story to tell with out using a significant amount of them. Clearly it will help me tell the story to know what ones will be useable in advance of writing. Regina's advice about attaching a musical supervisor seems a sensible way forward. Thanks guys....

Michael Wearing

D Marcus and that is exactly the point. The Beetles' Yesterday' may prove usable but Logan's 'My Old Man's a Dustman' might not, although I fear it is likely to be the other way round.... However once I know which ones I can use, I can steer the script accordingly.....

D Marcus

So then the song isn't an intricate and essential part of the script. You can steer the script according to a song that you know you can use. In that case I feel it's best not to use songs as an intricate and essential part of the script.

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