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Old October 5th, 2007, 05:31 AM   #1
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How much does a film composer earn?

Hi,

first of all I have to mention that I'm not a composer myself, I'm just a low budget filmmaker/director.
But I *love* filmmusic, and I actually suddenly wondered how much a film composer earns, because that seems so vague.
I know there are different budgets, between what a Hans Zimmer or a John williams or James Horner earns, or someone who works for a little budget film.
But I actually completely have nooo idea, and I'm really curious about this.

Cany anyone chime in?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 11:10 AM   #2
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It's an ever-changing scale.

On big budget projects, studios will always want more money and always pay movie stars millions of dollars!

The trends recently are music budgets are coming way down - not a good sign.

I would put film score budgets into 4 or 5 catagories:

A+ Movies: (composers at the top of their game - Williams, Horner and the like) $750,000+ creative fee

A Movies: (full list of working A-movie guys) $300-750,000 creative

A-B Movies: (smaller budget, smaller studios) $50-300,000 creative

B Low Budget: $20-50,000 creative

C Ultra low budget: under $20,000

But again, I heard budgets were shrinking recently and heard people were working for 1/2 their normal creative fee. This is why many composers are looking to hire orchestras outside Los Angeles, so they can do "Package deals" and role the cost of real orchestra into their creative fee - and hire a cheaper orchestra like Seattle or Prague. Unions are in an uproar about it and with writer's strike being near, Hollywood could grind to a hault!

What if people were paid by their overall contribution to a film instead of only the stars getting most of the big-ticket paystubs!? I bet music and editing and DP's would rise higher on the payscale for sure! Oh well, that's show biz!
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Old October 20th, 2007, 04:56 AM   #3
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Thanks!

Shrinking budgets aren't a good thing indeed...
In a time where many blockbusters cost 200-250 million dollars (yikes! Where is the time that a movie like Dances with Wolves was made for 19 million dollars :-S), and many actors in such movies get 20-25 million dollars to star (which is somewhere fair, considering the TOTAL budget of the film - it's only that those total budgets have risen so much!) it's strange they would give composers less and less...
It's indeed a bit of a shame for composers... don't get me wrong: actor's are VERY VITAL for your movie, they should get a pretty big fee when working with such budgets, because many people go and see a movie for them but... as you said, it would be nice if ALL people were paid accordingly to their contribution to the film. DP, Director, Actors, Composer, Sound Designer, Production Designer and Editor, seem the most important roles in a movie... Although I don't want to dimish clap loaders or gaffers, they are needed as much as anyone to make the film, but ultimately, most of the creative work comes from these people mentioned above.

Pat, if you don't mind me asking, how do you know this?
Are you a composer yourself, or do you work in Hollywood?

Thanks,

p.s.: I did notice that Williams wasn't always working with the London Symphony Orchestra anymore for some soundtracks, is this because of the cheapo-thing too? Or just a preference?
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Old October 22nd, 2007, 02:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Griffin View Post
It's an ever-changing scale.

On big budget projects, studios will always want more money and always pay movie stars millions of dollars!

The trends recently are music budgets are coming way down - not a good sign.

I would put film score budgets into 4 or 5 catagories:

A+ Movies: (composers at the top of their game - Williams, Horner and the like) $750,000+ creative fee

A Movies: (full list of working A-movie guys) $300-750,000 creative

A-B Movies: (smaller budget, smaller studios) $50-300,000 creative

B Low Budget: $20-50,000 creative

C Ultra low budget: under $20,000

But again, I heard budgets were shrinking recently and heard people were working for 1/2 their normal creative fee. This is why many composers are looking to hire orchestras outside Los Angeles, so they can do "Package deals" and role the cost of real orchestra into their creative fee - and hire a cheaper orchestra like Seattle or Prague. Unions are in an uproar about it and with writer's strike being near, Hollywood could grind to a hault!

What if people were paid by their overall contribution to a film instead of only the stars getting most of the big-ticket paystubs!? I bet music and editing and DP's would rise higher on the payscale for sure! Oh well, that's show biz!

I hate to burst the "composer" bubble but not only is the pay scale not nearly what it should be, but to get to the point where your in the pool of people to call...aka Newman, shore, Williams etc..is almost impossible, for movies that is. I work with a composer who has a contract with CBS and has and is doing some really big stuff, and he has enlightened me a bit on the Hollywood Composer path. Is was a great dissapointment to hear that there was only a small pool of composers who have cornered the market. Eventually they will retire and then there #1 guy will take the role..sheesh how does a guy get involved. Fortunatley there is still a living to make as a composer in other markets Heh.
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