Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Anyone Can make a music documentary - but it won't be cheap

How To Wake Up

Oxford is mostly known for the University, it's buildings, and Morse - but it has produced some important bands over the years, with probably Radiohead and Supergrass being the most widely known.

Anyone Can Play Guitar is Jon Spira's independent documentary film about 30 years of the Oxford music scene - bands who made it to international stardom, bands who didn't (and why), and the unique music community in Oxford that fostered them. The international impact of (at least) Radiohead warrants a look at Oxford's people, bands, scene - and how they faired with the music industry, so I hope you might see your way to help fund it!

I met Jon through my own small part in the scene, and know him as a scriptwriting teacher, short film and music video director, and owner of the late great Videosyncratic video rental shops - but more importantly here, as a passionate fan of music and film, and I can't imagine anyone better suited to a film about Oxford music than Jon.

Joy Through Work

Around May 2007 local venue The Zodiac closed, prior to AMG converting it into The Carling Academy. The demise of this key fixture of the scene was Jon's prompt to interview band members, film gigs, and collect as much other footage of the diverse bands as possible - so he could tell the story behind it all.

Three and a half years on, the film is yet to be released - even though the main content of the film (sound & video edit, narration) has been finished for a while - it still needs some capital to finish it:

  • a cash injection of £10k for the sound mix and picture grade before it's actually a finished film, and
  • about 30k to legally clear all of the music and footage.
(Initial quotes were £20k for the sound and picture, and up to £60k for music clearance - ouch! Happily, other work Jon completed since finishing putting the film together has attracted interest from people who then saw the film and wanted to help get it finished.)

Jon is pursuing crowdfunding at indiegogo (please visit and contribute some funds!) for the £10k to finish the film ($15k on indiegogo), and once that's done he'll have something he can actually sell to cover the £30k for clearances.

As usual for this sort of crowdfunding there's a range of funding options you can choose from; starting at a credit on the DVD for $15, up to $800 for Executive Producer credit, vip tickets to the premiere, a copy of the dvd, and a poster signed by Jon and some of the bands/artists featured.

Got It Made

Crowdfunding permitting, the film is approaching completion. I would like to have a closer look at the finances but if I spend much longer on it, this post will never be finished. I'll just quickly mention the some key aspects...


A rough breakdown:
  • Jon and others' personal investment
  • Camera, lights bursary from OFVM
  • Sound mix - crowdfunding
  • Picture grading - crowdfunding
  • Rights clearance - to be funded via distribution rights
Of course, at an estimated £30,000 to £60,000, the big cost is music clearance, which has a whole mess of copyright issues to itself.

Not funding:

  • UK Film council
  • Screen South
  • European arts funding
Jon's blog describes some of his less than satisfying experiences with funding of film and TV projects, and the UK Film Council, in particular.

Tango Borracho

To wrap up - I'm really looking forward to seeing the film (and gutted that I didn't see the OX4 preview as I was already busy), and you should support it. Shame I don't have a spare $800 lying around - it'd be nice to have an Executive Producer credit!

This post was all put together from chats with Jon, reading his blog, and general Oxford music stuff on the web. Anything wrong in it is probably due to me mis-remembering - or plain imagining - conversations. If you spot something wrong here, please let me know in the comments.

Finally - it's cheesy I know - but the headings are all names of tracks from some of my favorite Oxford bands; go and listen to some great music!

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