Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Song Doesn't Cost The Same

Does the cost of licensing music prevent some filmmakers from finding their audience? Ask Charles Burnett and Abel Ferrara. (Boing Boing)

In 1977, filmmaker Charles Burnett submitted Killer of Sheep as his Master's thesis at UCLA Film School. It's set in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts and filmed in an Italian neorealist style. After a well-received festival run, it languished for 30 years without a theatrical release or distribution because of music rights issues. It wasn't until 2007 that the rights were secured, and the film went on to have a theatrical release. Burnett isn't the only filmmaker who has run afoul of music rights. Abel Ferrara's 1992 film Bad Lieutenant used the song "Signifying Rapper" by Schoolly D, including in a key scene where a nun is sexually assaulted. Schoolly D's record company had not cleared the sample of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir used on "Signifying Rapper." Zep's people sued, and the upshot was that Ferrara had to destroy all unsold copies of the film and change out the track.

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