Maleficent: Mistress of Evil!

First look at Angelina Jolie in Disney’s second outing for Maleficent.

Classical Vision provided lots of on-camera musicians for this production. Kathleen also came in to coach extras that were required to mime unusual historical instruments.

We can’t wait to see the results!

New Premises to Boost UK Film Production

With Brexit rightly dominating conversations between music industry colleagues, any positive announcements are increasingly welcome.

So it’s great to hear that there is a growing demand for film studio space in the UK. A case in point; one of the largest studio conglomerates, The Pinewood Group, is currently expanding, as major production companies are being forced to take their business elsewhere. The recent planning application from Shepperton Studios, has a wealth of information about the benefits of increased studio space to the UK creative industry.

Although the major West London studios remain first choice for many, productions are being forced to shoot overseas due to the lack of space. Therefore, It makes sense to expand existing studios if possible. The impact that the legacy of these studios brings can’t be underestimated; a proven track record leading to a substantial variety of employment. The major new studio complex for in East London in Dagenham, given the go-ahead earlier this year, is certain to create hundreds of new jobs. 

In light of this, those of you with an entrepreneurial spirit will identify a time of genuine opportunity. I recently went for a costume fitting at a repurposed carpet warehouse in North London. The owners have utilised the space, now named Neasden Studios, to include production offices. 

Great if you’ve got a warehouse to convert (no, me neither), but what does this expanding market mean for the rest of us? 

I was surprised to learn that the UK produced more blockbusters (defined as movies with a budget upwards of $100 m.) than anywhere else in the world, during the period 2015-2017. That’s eighteen more than the next leading studio figures, throughout Los Angeles (they have more studio space, but it’s weighted towards TV/online productions).

This, in turn, gives the UK a boost when it comes to employment opportunities for creatives, and more specifically, musicians. With West London playing catch-up in a climate where there is increasing demand for space, I can imagine more session work (we already know that London has the best session orchestras in the world), music supervision roles, and of course, background performance gigs. 

To compound this, global consumer and advertising spend on TV and cinema increased by 3.6% between 2013-2018, with further growth expected to continue at 2.5% until at least 2022. This will further expand the possibilities of employment, not to mention increased scope for brand syncing, which I feel the classical music world is yet to utilise fully (but that’s for another post!).

This could be a really beneficial revenue stream, which I’m especially keen to pursue in this precarious economic environment (and let’s face it, reduced funding has been affecting musicians substantially since 2009 due to the financial crash). Yes, film work focuses on a pretty commercial area of the industry, but realistically, these jobs open up the possibility of space and time for artists to carry out their passion projects. 

Steady expansion of these studios will certainly be a boost once we arrive at a post-Brexit era, whatever the outcome. 

A Note on Supporting Artists

Last week I received a call from a frazzled extras agent. They needed advice regarding an artist that was demanding Musicians’ Union rates after they had already been paid. Of course, I will generally sympathise with the performer, but in this case, they hadn’t been upfront about their union membership and expectations. With this in mind, I hope that the overview below of background musician rates, proves helpful.

Yes, casting musicians for background roles is a pretty niche area. But, ask a member of a production team, and they may not be aware that there is actually a dedicated union agreement for musicians that are miming.

The Musicians’ Union has an agreement with PACT (for those of you not in the know, PACT is the trade association for the independent production sector), which provides a guide to suitable minimum rates for this kind of work.

Through my experience in this field, I believe that, in the majority of cases, productions pleading ignorance are genuinely unaware of these proposed rates (the MU might beg to differ).

Why? It’s mainly down to confusion caused by the PACT agreement with BECTU, which has terms relating to the work of supporting artists.

The Film Artistes Association (FAA) is a division of BECTU, and is part of this larger union body which looks after background artistes. It’s safe to say that these rates are used in almost every major film and TV production. Add-on rates can then be used for special categories of performance, such as body doubling, driving or specialised dancing. However, although an add-on rate is often used, there is not a provision within this document for musicians.

At Classical Vision, I make every effort to raise awareness of the Musicians’ Union/PACT agreement. There are real benefits of being informed about these terms, and how they can impact a musician’s approach to the shoot day. I’ve seen production teams caught out when musicians turn up on a shoot day, and understandably, want to stick to these terms.

Production teams might ask why they would want a specialist musician, when they can source an extra from a pool of thousands in the UK? Firstly; attention to detail. The sight of an inexperienced performer feels completely incongruous to the high standards you expect of other aspects of your project.

Secondly, reliability. A 2nd AD needs reassurance that the performer they have booked can actually deliver as promised. It’s reassuring not to have to rely on the word of a supporting artist that, from prior experience, may have an unrealistic idea of their abilities on the violin.

Lastly, booking a group of professionals just makes sense. Particularly if you’re considering booking a mixture of abilities- it’s not worth it on the shoot day, when time constraints are always a factor.

The Musicians’ Union offers advice regarding their various agreements. However, it can be useful to have specific guidance related to your production. For consultations and guidance on any of the above issues, please get in touch, and I’d be happy to walk you through it.