Committee Studies Use of Midi Files In Music Preparation for Film Scores

Volume CI, No. 11November, 2001

The Joint Industry-Federation Cooperative Committee provided for in the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement met in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 to discuss music preparation issues related to the use of midi files in the creation of scores. The committee was convened when an employer disputed the payment of midi-transcription wages invoiced by a Los Angeles orchestrator.

The Federation was represented by Carol Sato, Executive Director/Assistant to the President for Electronic Media Services Division, and Anne Mayerson, as counsel to the AFM members on the committee. Also participating were representatives of Local 47, the RMA, and orchestrators and copyists, as well as members of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, Inc. In attendance from Local 802 was Financial Vice-President Tina Hafemeister, who supervises the Music Preparation Department.

The issue of midi-transcription has arisen as the traditional methods of creating a film score are changing. In the past, a composer would compose music which was then performed for the studio (either by composers themselves or by more proficient keyboard players). Once the studio gave approval, a sketch score was prepared for the orchestrator. When orchestrations were completed, the scores were turned over to the copyist for the preparation of orchestral parts.

Now, a number of film composers are taking advantage of new electronic means of creating a film score. Advancements in synthesizer technology allow a composer to present the studio with a complete “mock-up,” or demo, for approval of each cue. The composer may be required to create a dozen or more versions before the studio approves. It is often the composer’s assistant, using both orchestration and performance skills, who prepares the numerous versions of the cue. The midi files produced during this process are used to finalize the approved cue for preparation by the copyist.

The Joint Committee discussions centered around the work performed by the composer’s assistant and whether those services are bargaining unit work under the current agreement. The Film Alliance and the union will meet at least one more time in preparation for negotiations for a new agreement, beginning in February of 2002.