Low Budget Provisions Extended to Television Film Agreement

Volume C, No. 10October, 2000

Recording musicians recently voted, 569 to 60, to ratify a modification to the TV agreement that will extend the low-budget provisions of the AFM’s film agreement to pilots and freshman episodic TV shows. The goal is to make it less expensive for producers of pilots and new series to use live orchestras, and reverse a situation in which almost all musical scores for such shows are being supplied by synthesizers or prerecorded source music.

The standard TV scale requires episodic producers to pay each orchestra member $233 for a three-hour session. The low-budget rate is $150, a 36 percent discount. To qualify, shows must employ at least 25 orchestra members.

There are also special TV pilot rates of $115 for a three-hour session if producers use between eight and 25 musicians, and $90 if more than 25 musicians are used. If the pilot airs, the producer must make an additional payment to the musicians equal to 100 percent of the special rate.

The new provision was worked out in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. “This agreement will allow composers to utilize larger ensembles that enhance the score for a production without having to rely on electronic replacement of musicians’ instruments,” said AFM President Steve Young. “We are pleased that we have reached an agreement that provides for better artistic content as well as the economics that make it work.”

The low-budget agreement “will bring employment to a lot more musicians and provide an opportunity for producers to have the impact of orchestral scoring for their first-year series or their pilot, which we believe will help those shows be more successful,” said David Ewart, a board member of the Recording Musicians Association, which helped negotiate the deal. Ewart said he believes the price reduction “was a necessary step so that producers can take advantage of this musical option,” and that it “makes us squarely competitive with what’s being paid by producers for electronic scores.”

“This agreement gives us a new handle to bring television work that is currently being done nonunion under contract,” said Jay Schaffner, Supervisor of the 802 Recording Department. “The West Coast used this very effectively with West Wing.”

The AFM gave NBC’s West Wing the low-budget discount on an experimental basis during its freshman year, and the experiment worked so well that the Federation decided to offer the deal to all new shows and pilots.