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I've been asked to score an indie film.....
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Fumblefingers
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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I've been asked to score an indie film.....

......... and I have never done this work before.

The director is a friend and we have worked in the industry a long time in a different capacity in production . This is his directorial debut and he knows me well, what I can do as a musician etc and he feels my style would be good for this.

Okay great! Uh.........

My question to you expert folks has to do with format/surround etc. I have a Pro Tools studio and will be running PT10 with the Complete Production Toolkit. I know my way around Pro Tools well enough but have never worked in surround. I've asked to have a meeting with the editor when he is chosen so I can run my lack of experience by him and ask him how he wants stuff and what he is going to give me to work with. Hopefully we will work well together. Wherever I can I will ask to sit in on editing sessions etc so I can learn.....and I can get on set anytime to get a feel for the scenes.

But what should I plan on doing as far as what format I go with for the mix? The director wants the sound design and music to blend, weave in and out of each other etc.....non-traditional, no orchestral necessarily......it's going to be guitar heavy and sample library/soft synth/big low tuned percussion heavy as the film is very dark.....this is the best I can describe the initial concept. Sorry to be vague.

But should I go to a surround setup and purchase rear and center monitors? I have read here that no sub channel should be used for music. Okay so maybe I don't need that....although what about sound design? I'll be doing that also.

Or is it done where I give stems of the mix to the editor and he does all the surround mixing to his own liking?

I suppose the simpler question is......once I have recorded the music, how should I mix it? Stereo, Surround, Stereo and stems of instrument groups....?

Also, should I get some sort of software like Izotope Insight Essential Mastering Suite so I can make sure my submissions "meet current loudness standards?"

I am sorry to be such a noob and if these are really stupid questions, but any help and advice will be greatly appreciated. This is a freebie and I see it as a way to get my feet wet......but of course I want to do the very best I can for my friend. He has some very good actors and investors are coming in. He wants to get this in the can before pilot season starts and actors/crew need to go do better paid gigs. I have offered my services for free, the only thing I want is for him to consider me on the back end if this thing makes some money ....... and since it's a freebie essentially, to let me retain all the rights to my music. That has not been nailed down yet.

Thank you.
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#2
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Your doing the music only yeah?

Okay - well you can get away with a 4.0 mix. Most mixes I do I'm asked to supply in 4.0 plus separate stems for any extra that might bleed into the LFE.

Mix into stems - not too many just obvious ones. Percussion, Deep percussion, guitars, synths, bass sounds....

Might be a nice idea to mix according to loudness BUT as you're not doing the final mix it's not SOOO important.

Sound design - are you doing the premix as well as the sound design?

Where are you based?
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Quote:
Your doing the music only yeah?
Music and sound design....if that is the right term, narco. There won't be licensed music.... at least he has expressed he wants to avoid it.

Quote:
Okay - well you can get away with a 4.0 mix. Most mixes I do I'm asked to supply in 4.0 plus separate stems for any extra that might bleed into the LFE.
So I have to get two more powered monitors....I was hoping to not have to but okay.

Quote:
Mix into stems - not too many just obvious ones.
Okay I will do that.

Quote:
Might be a nice idea to mix according to loudness BUT as you're not doing the final mix it's not SOOO important.
So no real need to get additional finalizing or metering software? Nice to have though right, so I send stuff that is right in the ballpark?

Quote:
Sound design - are you doing the premix as well as the sound design?
I don't know. To be totally honest I did not know the term before now-as relates to sound design. But thanks for turning me on to it. This is how one learns.

Look, I know that real, professional sound designers are a special breed and the good ones have years of experience, are extremely talented and are considered way up there in the Post team, in terms of input etc for the final mix and what is used or not used. So I don't consider myself anywhere near even the bottom of that level and don't want to represent myself as something I am not.

But since this project is on a tight budget, I might be filling different shoes and helping in any way I can with the music and anything as far as "sounds" and effects. And with the combined talent and experience....we will make it work I am certain. No foley, SFX or dialog for me though. In fact all I want to do is make music and cool "sounds" for them.

So I hope I am not representing myself incorrectly...I am not a "Sound Designer". I will just be using programs like Omnisphere and other soft synth/sample libraries etc, probably will get Symphobia..... I have Izotope Iris.... and I'll be coming up with these synth and guitarish/percussion/sound effect type non musical parts, just to create dark moody cues mostly, perhaps lighter stuff as is needed. I can also sample sounds from anywhere and run them in the Iris soft sampler, mash them up and map them across the keyboard and create my own sound effects etc.

Just so you know......I am a guitarist/musician. I don't even play keys.....I use various guitar synths and I have keyboard controllers I use and an M-Audio Venom I just got. The director has heard some of my stuff and likes it, thinks it will be great for his project. But traditional or "classical" composer I am not. The music part will be bluesy, rock, swampy etc...kinda Stonesy in a sense. Attitude. But not really traditional vocals, guitar, bass and drums song type cues. This I am sure I can handle as blues, rock and jazz-fusion is what I do. If I need vocals or other instruments I will bring people in for that....call in some favors.


I know my inexperience and lack of knowledge is sticking out like a sore thumb here and I know I am running the risk of looking like a complete bozo here. But I am going to make this work.

Quote:
Where are you based?
I am in Los Angeles.

Thank you so very much for the help so far. Anything will help greatly, trust me.
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Well I've done a few films...music .foley and adr.and mixing.....if your doing music...u will get each scene that needs music and there will be time code on the clip . What I do is setup up ur timeline to match the code and deliver files as broadcast wavs or aiff...this will embed the timestamp in the file so when they mix the movie ur music lines up....that's if u have cues and hits that match the pic......if u are doing music and the mix...I would do it scene by scene then assemble a new session for the entire mix...its a lot easier then putting tempo changes everyware.. sometimes well. Some mixes I've done may have over 150 tracks..so do each song mix seperate....foley and adr can be fun and as long as u are creative u will be fine....I once had a book that showed what to use that would sound like different things....like celery for bones cracking and more veggies.... once did a real nice 5.1 mix but could not deliver cause the movie was for vcr relese....I also had a crash course when I started from a few friends at ilm...lucas's place...that helped me lots.....good luck
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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If the director likes your stuff you are going to do fine. Thats most of the battle. The rest is just "doing the job". I'll be back later - on a trailer mix today
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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On a "tight budget" film, you should just do stereo. Surround means more time and therefore expense at the dub stage to mix the film. Ditto for fewer rather than more stems.
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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On a cheap budget - do a duplicate of your "big room" reverb send to another similar reverb and pan that to the back. Turn it down a little and then you have a cheap and quick surround reverb setup. You can also turn the rears down in the dub so it'll be easy.
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Whilst I don't totally agree on working for free, I think in this situation, if the film is good you'll hopefully get more work from this guy and it'll be paid and the music budgets might go up.

One thing I'd do is do some sort of contract about the rights to the music. I did music for a doc 4 years ago and there was no contract, just an agreement about me retaining all rights/publishing to the music. Thing is our agreement kind of contradicted a couple of contracts the film makers were offered when it came to worldwide broadcast distribution and this in turn made them hesitant to sign anything as they didn't own the publishing and were worried I'd sue either the distributors or the film makers when all I really wanted was all my music on the cue sheet and to hopefully get some backend royalties.

And also, I don't come from a classical background but I've done a bunch of low budget orchestral type stuff.
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16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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First, unless this is a 5 minute short, FREE = BAD idea. If the director won't/can"t pay out for quality music what does he do? He will go to someone he knows that will do it for free. What will he do in the future when he has a budget? Move further up the food chain and hire a known composer. Seen that happen dozens of times. But that's your call.

As for your mix delivery, give him these 3 options :

1. Stereo Mix
2. He buys you a 5.1 surround setup and you get to learn how to use it.
3. He pays someone with a 5.1 setup to mix it for you.

He will choose #1. And that's fine. Tell him it can be remixed 5.1 when he sells the film and has a budget for it.

Do not spend your own money to make his music. Also, as said above, have a contract stating you will retain/own all the publishing and sync rights for the music you compose, but will negotiate turning them over to him for a reasonable composers fee in the future. This will handcuff him from selling the film, and will necessitate him treating you fairly in the future. It also shows him that you're an intelligent businessman and not a wannabe dumbazz.

Composing for your first film and learning how to mix 5.1 at the same time is a stressful combination and you don't need that. You should be focusing on the motion of the film, how to make it build, how to develop the music for the characters, when to push, when to hold back, etc.. Not how to use a surround panner.....

My $.02.
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17th December 2012
Old 17th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Do not spend your own money to make his music. Also, as said above, have a contract stating you will retain/own all the publishing and sync rights for the music you compose, but will negotiate turning them over to him for a reasonable composers fee in the future. This will handcuff him from selling the film, and will necessitate him treating you fairly in the future. It also shows him that you're an intelligent businessman and not a wannabe dumbazz.

Composing for your first film and learning how to mix 5.1 at the same time is a stressful combination and you don't need that. You should be focusing on the motion of the film, how to make it build, how to develop the music for the characters, when to push, when to hold back, etc.. Not how to use a surround panner.....

My $.02.
+1 Really good advice!
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18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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This is great info and advice, thanks. Dr Bill, good stuff....appreciate it.

Yes, when I wrote my OP I forgot that the working for free thing might annoy or be disagreeable those who do this for a living......the whole concept of undercutting etc or taking work away from someone.

For us personally, in film production...grips, electricians, carpenters, propmakers, set decoration etc etc .......this is something that comes up quite a lot.....we get asked to do favors in return for maybe getting a lot of work in the past from someone.

In the beginning, this is often how you learn the basics of the craft. Everybody has to start somewhere.

But even so, I am sorry if this is an insult to those who do this for a living and I really appreciate that you would still take the time to help me.

Should I make it into the fold and continue to do this work.....you have my word I will uphold the traditions and discipline of the craft and not continue to work for free or super low budget...thereby screwing or undercutting other composers. If this movie flies, I will hopefully have got a clue by the end of it and will be in a much stronger position to at least command the "going rate" or better for the next one.

You folks are all great, thank you.
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18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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Originally Posted by Fumblefingers View Post
But even so, I am sorry if this is an insult to those who do this for a living and I really appreciate that you would still take the time to help me.
It doesn't "insult" me or make me feel threatened if you work for free. I'm sure most of the others here feel the same way. I took 5 minutes to write down my thoughts because I thought they might help you. The music biz is really quite different than being a grip or a set designer. Perception is everything here. The score takes place at the very end of a film, when it's becoming obvious to the powers that be that the film no doubt has weaknesses along with it's strengths. The producer and director are looking for a magic potion. They are not just hiring someone to do a job like drive a truck, etc., they are looking for a magical fix-all potion. Something that will kick the film over the top, fix weakness that developed during the production process and make them money. They are also looking for recognition so they can ride a bit on it's coat tails.

Doing a favor for someone in the past does not meet those criteria. Honestly, it doesn't. If you work for FREE, they will move up the composer food chain away from you as soon as they can afford to. It may not even be in their control. Once you establish that you are "free", it's a black mark around your name.

Take it for what it cost ya & good luck.
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18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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From past experience as well, the clients who pay the least or nothing seem to expect more than those who pay well. I guess they think that because you're working for free, they can expect you to do anything.
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18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
First, unless this is a 5 minute short, FREE = BAD idea. If the director won't/can"t pay out for quality music what does he do? He will go to someone he knows that will do it for free. What will he do in the future when he has a budget? Move further up the food chain and hire a known composer. Seen that happen dozens of times. But that's your call.

As for your mix delivery, give him these 3 options :

1. Stereo Mix
2. He buys you a 5.1 surround setup and you get to learn how to use it.
3. He pays someone with a 5.1 setup to mix it for you.

He will choose #1. And that's fine. Tell him it can be remixed 5.1 when he sells the film and has a budget for it.

Do not spend your own money to make his music. Also, as said above, have a contract stating you will retain/own all the publishing and sync rights for the music you compose, but will negotiate turning them over to him for a reasonable composers fee in the future. This will handcuff him from selling the film, and will necessitate him treating you fairly in the future. It also shows him that you're an intelligent businessman and not a wannabe dumbazz.

Composing for your first film and learning how to mix 5.1 at the same time is a stressful combination and you don't need that. You should be focusing on the motion of the film, how to make it build, how to develop the music for the characters, when to push, when to hold back, etc.. Not how to use a surround panner.....

My $.02.
+2! I also agree this is really good advice, as is all the other stuff posted...I just wanted to add that I've been in the same exact position, though it was 10 years ago, bascially this chic I was banging in college was a film major and for one of her final projects she had to have an original soundtrack/score. It was really frustrating cuz she kept changing her mind on what she actually wanted...she went from solo piano stuff to orchestral to choral to hip hop, no joke...Finally she ended up wanting me to base everything upon a DJ Shadow song!

I guess what I'm trying to say is be prepared to have the director or whoever want you to change things, and be prepared to have him want you to re-do certain parts differently, etc. etc., also, since you've never done it before, be prepared to hit some serious writers block and trying many different things and compositions, as once you sit down with the vid and watch it, you may find that nothing is coming to mind about what the music should be, and then you'll be thinking of several different things!

Also I agree that how the final mix is formatted isn't really your problem, I agree that you should just give him a stereo mix. Good luck!
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19th December 2012
Old 19th December 2012
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I've had to change comm's songs with players in other studios and me adding the new parts mixing and delivering in a matter of hours
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19th December 2012
Old 19th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastWest Lurker View Post
On a "tight budget" film, you should just do stereo. Surround means more time and therefore expense at the dub stage to mix the film. Ditto for fewer rather than more stems.
I'm a mixer not a composer but I can confirm this. On the low-budget films I work on, I always check that I'm receiving stereo mixes. Isolating a melody or solo instrument is about the only stem we have time for. If you or your engineer has the time and inclination go ahead and make stems for all of your groups so the mixer can have them as a backup. But more often than not I just use the stereo mix.

This advice obviously doesn't apply to anyone working in Hollywood or a film that can afford a decent amount of mix time.
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21st December 2012
Old 21st December 2012
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Ah, thanks folks. Dr Bill, yeah I was not insinuating anything my friend, I really wasn't....just trying to be polite. And yes, as mentioned...I got a great deal of help from all the posts. Thank you. I do appreciate all of it.

Yeah....as well as I know the director and producer, I'm not expecting a cakewalk and I also would guess that if they did well with the film that next time when they did one with a decent budget, they would go for a name composer....... for the fact the person will be better than I am and also for the NAME factor.

I don't doubt this. I don't mind, because just maybe this one at least get's my feet wet, I hopefully learn more about the craft along the way....and hopefully if I am able to do good work, it get's my foot in the door......if even just a toenail's worth.
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21st December 2012
Old 21st December 2012
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One thing you could agree here is that you own all rights/publishing to the music so you can re-use it for future gigs.

I did a film with a budget of around $130k and whilst I got paid to do the music, because it wasn't enough, it was agreed that I would own all rights/publishing and could re use music in the future (non exclusive). The movie was a hit at a certain film festival all over the world, selling out twice here in London and over the last 4 years, I still sell at least few copies of the soundtrack every week through Tunecore which is nice pocket money for what feels like no work. Not to mention the sales I had when I first released it on iTunes etc.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Yeah Amber that's great. I am going to have to nail that down because I was thinking of using some tunes I have worked out grooves and motifs for etc ....nice hooks but are unfinished. If I cannot retain all rights and publishing, I'm definitely not going to want to do it.

Also in your case since the movie did well......you had nailed down the publishing. I am sure they are kicking themselves now over that.

Like Dr Bill said........that while I will not be putting and financial pressure on them......by asking for the rights etc I will be grinding them on something and I think it will perhaps at least make them respect me on the business end level.

The Director did say that if there was something I had to have, we could discuss them paying for it. We'll see........I don't really need anything.....but there is a ton of stuff I want!

Thanks.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Know that withholding the rights to the music will tie their hands, and they will NOT be able to sell the film until they procure those rights. Most film studio's will not even talk to them if they do not have releases for everything. If your producer has ever done this before, he is well aware of this.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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I have some reading up I have to do because I'm not knowledgeable as to what all those rights are, especially "sync rights". I am mainly concerned about being able to write complete songs, down the road, using some of my music written into the film. You see.....he does not want (can't afford) licensed music so my idea was to have some generic cues that mimic the rock songs or tunes we all know....ie in the same vein/genre. So in lieu of dropping in "Highway To Hell" for example....write a hard driving groove along those lines, without getting too close.

Say I have a groove/hook/motif and chord progression to an original song, just no lyric yet. Take the intro and chord progression for the Stones' "Satisfaction" for example......let's assume I have written that groove today...it's mine but unfinished.

If I used that in a film, just the music and perhaps the melody (or close to the melody I use later) played by an instrument(s). Under normal composer agreements/film music contract etc......would a composer later be able to take that and marry words to it and release it somehow, "sell" it to a publishing company for an artist they have? Maybe the composer uses it him/herself as artist etc, let's a band use it for their demo... etc etc?

Am I right to say I kinda doubt it?

It's my understanding the composer even has to get permission from the producers just to perform the music he wrote for their film, let alone use it..... as they usually own everything related to the compositions/cues etc ....lock stock and barrel.

If that is the case, the most simple thing to do I suppose, is just not give the film any music I intend to try and do stuff with later.

If you have anything enlightening you can say about this Dr Bill, or anyone else also.......I would love to hear it. Hopefully it will answer questions for other newbies browsing these pages, as well.

Thanks.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fumblefingers View Post
Am I right to say I kinda doubt it?
You are right. A STANDARD (your situation doesn't sound standard) Composer contract will have the production company owning the sync rights, the master recordings and the publishing for all music they commissioned (and paid for). The composer retains the composer performance PRO royalties paid by ASCAP, BMI, etc.. That's all.

So, if you plan on doing anything with these "songs" somewhere down the line, best to tell the producer that you will ALWAYS retain the ownership and lease them to him or don't put them in the film. This is for Score / Underscore.

If you write a song and act like a publisher / music library and license the sync rights to the producer to "use in the film" - but not own - that would be a "normal" situation as well. (Think of a Beatles song or Creedence Clearwater song in a film. You have heard the same song in many films, and on the radio and performed live. The Publishing company owns the music copyright, and the record company owns the master use rights. Film producers / music supers must get permission from both to put the song in.) This type of useage generally falls into the category of "source music" instead of underscore, although the lines do blur dependiing on directorial preference. You can license them to him for $1 if you want and retain ownership to do whatever you want. Source and Underscore are generally quite different. Sounds almost like you're being asked to provide "songs" not to score the film. The director can of course "score" the film with songs, but although it happens, I wouldn't call it the normal way things get done.

Producers MUST sell the film somewhere down the line, and the people who want to BUY the film will demand that there are no encumbrances to them purchasing it. The last thing they want is a composer who owns everything and can hold them hostage to negotiate a better fee than if the producer had just pair you fairly up front. They could (and have done in many instances) ask that all your music be removed from the film before they will purchase it. They do not want to be held hostage. You could ask $50,000 per song. And GET it. IF the movie studio wants the film bad enough.

So.....for the producer to allow you to retain ownership of the music is pretty foolish from HIS perspective.

One other thing, you have referred to working with the director. Directors get all kinds of goofy ideas. Producers are the ones who set them straight....

As far as these types of issues go, you will ultimately be dealing with the producer - not the director. Best to keep both of them happy.... Good luck with that.
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#23
23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Thanks Dr Bill. The producer is the directors wife. Knowledgeable woman, been around the block a few times.

He does not want songs per se....he wants a score. My idea was that in lieu of him not getting licensed songs as source music etc......to compose short pieces that "sound like that". It is just that I was going to use unfinished ideas I have kicking around that I really like.

Now I won't.

I will just try and do a good job for the film with new pieces.

Thanks man, I really appreciate it.
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