How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

How to Discover the Subtext of a Script

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Subtext is arguably the most important focus for actors to grasp in their acting. The iceberg serves as a simplistic illustration, showing the subtext as the majority of ice which lays underneath the surface or words of the script.

The most common mistake for actors to make is to cling onto the top portion and go off the words alone. As soon as we read a script we figure out how the words should sound, instead of finding out the “why” behind the words. The “why” behind our actions.

This is how you find the why, and why it is so important.

There’s a million ways to say “hello”

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An example of subtext and not reading it comes from the classic line in a ton of scripts: “Hello”. Now here’s the scene: Jim meets Pamela at a train station and says the greeting.

Without digging and looking into the subtext of the scene, I would say hello like a greeting. That would naturally be the first thought most people have when they see the word. However, oops! plot twist. The “Hello” line was really a code to signal the sniper to hold their fire and spare the life of Pamela.

Thing is I would never know this just reading the line, I would need to do some digging to find the juicy piece of subtext meat. Here’s how.

Do some digging and ask the tough questions

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The best thing you can do in order to find subtext is by asking a bunch of questions. Ask questions about your character, about the circumstance, the relationships between the characters, and your motivations and goals.

To find out what’s really going on underneath the scene you need to comprehend how things actually work in life.

Using substitution will aid you in understanding the subtext of a scene. How would you personally react in this scene, or in these particular circumstances? Have you ever experienced something like this?

For example, I was workshopping a scene from the movie Wall Street, as part of a university project, and the subtext of the scene included the themes of betrayal and hurt between the characters. The girl and guy were previously in a relationship but now they differ when it comes to their work.

I thought about how I reacted when I felt betrayed by someone, similar to the guy in the scene, and it really helped me.

The hidden gem is your foundation

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From my personal experiences, I learned when you study the subtext and marry it with the physical action in the scene, you will remember your lines like there’s no tomorrow.

Here’s another thing to remember: when you’re in the scene you must trust the subtext you studied will remain with you during the scene. Let your focus be on the other people in the scene and what you’re doing and let go of the subtext. It’ll stay with you as you practice living in the moment.

The subtext, once learned, will be your foundation. Once you know the why, everything else will start to piece together.

Subtext is vital to learn. Don’t rush the process of studying your script, but ask the hard questions. It’ll take time to figure out what’s going on in a particular scene, it’ll take a little digging.

But the digging is worth it when you find out the precious subtext in the end. To me, finding the subtext in a scene is like finding buried treasure. It’s a precious gem just waiting to be discovered.

Subtext should act as your support. Don’t look to your words for your support. When you focus on the lines, they will try their hardest to escape you. But when you focus on the why of the scene, and everything that’s going on underneath the surface, you’ll find your anchor, and it will make a world of difference.

Actors, I cannot stress it enough: discover the subtext!

 

How To Dirty Your Actors Without Using Dirt

Written by Keaton J. Evans.

Across popular movies there have been teams of make-up artists getting the right look for characters who seem to never take showers. I’m talking Sam Neill in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Matthew McConaughey in Mud, and Jack Sparrow.

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You get the point. Whenever a character rolls in the mud or falls off a pirate ship, there needs to be an authentic dirty look for the character.

I researched different ways to get the dirty look for any upcoming short films where I would need to portray a character who skips on the washing.

Here’s what I found.

Before I get into the steps of applying make-up, you’ll need to find these supplies:

Supplies needed:

  • coffee grounds
  • loose tea leaves
  • lotion (sunscreen)
  • brown eye shadow (I used Vino colour)
  • wet sponge
  • willing victim…er, helper

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After acquiring these supplies you’ll be ready to start with step one.

Step 1: apply eyeshadow

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In this step, you’ll use your index finger to apply the eyeshadow to the parts of the face where you think someone might get dirty. I noticed that the forehead and the upper parts of the cheekbones get dirty more than other parts, also the nose.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then you can choose to use a small make-up sponge.

Gently rub the eyeshadow back and forth over the surfaces you think is best. After doing this in all of the appropriate areas you’ll be ready to move onto the second step.

Step 2: mix lotion with coffee grounds

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For this step, first ground the coffee beans, preferably of a darker variety, and then mix with the lotion. I used sunscreen in this step, and it worked well. This step is quite messy.

You don’t need to use much of either. Small chunks of coffee and a bit of lotion should do the trick. After mixing the lotion with the coffee grounds, then move onto the next step of applying.

Step 3: apply the mixture

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As far as applying the coffee/tea and lotion to the person’s face, you’ll need to do step 2 a few times, as there may be a few spots to cover.

Do a little mixing, then a little applying. A little mixing, a little applying, you get the drift. Apply the coffee and lotion to the same places which you touch in step 1, to have those layers.

Add to any place where you think dirt would be, say if the victim fell down face first into the dirt. With the coffee grounds, you don’t need to apply heavily, just a few small chunks here and there, unless you really want you character to look like dirt was just caked on.

After doing this enough times you should get a result similar to this one. (For me, I was trying to get a “stuck-on-a-deserted-island-for-years” look).

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After you’ve gotten all the shots you need with your actor, wash the makeup and coffee off with warm soap and water. Once you’ve washed the coffee and lotion off as well as the make-up, be sure to dry with a clean towel.

And there you have it! You now know how to make your characters look as dirty as ever, and best part is, you don’t even need to use dirt!

What is nice is you can also apply the make-up in a variety of places on the face as well as a variety of thickness, to get a unique look for each character in your film.

Hope this makeup tip helps all you independent filmmakers out there who are trying to get that professional look.

How to Promote Your Acting Career for Success

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

Actors need to get creative and build a community around their career. In other words, they need to promote themselves to become more successful.

This is not success in the manner of earning the bigger bucks, or becoming famous. Those can be byproducts of your success, BUT they should never be the reason to promote your acting career.

The success you’ll find in promoting your career come more in the community you build. The more you relate to your fan base and fellow dreamers, the more likely they’ll want to watch you in a film.

Here’s a couple tips to get you started on the path to success.

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CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM

Create your own Facebook page, start an instagram account, jump on Twitter, and build your own website. This can be a huge help to boost your career.

I’ve heard rumors of some agencies who won’t even look at you as a potential client unless you have a certain amount of followers on Instagram and Facebook. While I can’t confirm or deny this, I can understand the principle behind why an agency would do this.

If they can find someone who’s already showing themselves to be a bit of an “X-factor” then they are more likely to want to work with you. In some ways it means less work for them too, but it can also show them you mean business and acting isn’t just a hobby, but your life.

I would recommend you start with building your own Facebook page, but don’t do this unless you know you’re ready for the hard work of pursuing your dream. Acting is fun, but it is a lot of hard work and takes incredible tenacity to stick to it in the long haul.

If this sounds like you, then you should create a Facebook page. Invite everyone on your friends list if you can. The more personal the invite, the better. Send it to them in a message versus just clicking the invite button.

Then start your own Twitter and Instagram accounts. Follow other budding actors you know and hopefully they’ll return the favor. Follow casting companies like Backstage to get updates on potential auditions and jobs.

Having your own website can be helpful too. With platforms like Weebly, who do most of the hard work for you, it’s really easy to build your own site. If it’s done well, then it will aid your professional appearance, making it more likely for agencies and films to hire you.

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BE CONSISTENT WITH THE CONTENT YOU SHARE

An important key with your social media platform is to be consistent with what you produce. Set aside some time to figure out what you can realistically produce in a week, then create a schedule for yourself.

Research when each site’s high traffic times are and schedule posts for those times. Take advantage of the almighty hashtags on Twitter and Instagram especially. Ask questions, take pictures of the projects you’re a part of and be real with people.

The more real you are with your growing fan base, the more fans you’ll acquire.

For example, look at Robert Downey Jr. If anyone had the excuse to not promote themselves, it would be him, but if you’re like me and follow him on facebook, you know he’s always active with his fans and more than that, he’s real with them.

Zachary Levi is another actor I’ve noticed who is incredibly active with his fans. Almost daily, he’s responding to fans on Twitter, being real, sometimes even cheeky, but he’s still taking the time to see them as individuals versus a whole.

This is something I wish more actors would do as they build platforms to promote their careers.

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“Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.”

(author unknown)

I know it can be a bit scary to think about promoting yourself. Maybe you’re afraid it’ll look a bit pompous or narcissistic. Think of it more as you inviting them on the adventure, make them feel like they’re part of your inside team. Build a community of dreamers and creatives.

Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” Marvel’s Second Best Film?

BY KEATON J. EVANS

*Warning: Huuuuge Spoilers!*

Guardians of the Galaxy is considered to be one of the greatest creative achievements by Marvel and also the favourite of many fans. But is it the best Marvel film? Or has the new Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 surpassed it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the film when I watched it a few days ago, and I wondered how it stacks up to the first one. I made three rounds for both movies to compete in and we shall see who the winner is at the end of the article.

These three points are the ones I considered to be the most important differences between the two.

ROUND 1: THE PLOT

Guardians Vol. 1: Peter Quill embarks on an adventure to escape Ronan and everyone else out to get him and the infinity stone he carries. Along the way he’s forced to work with other convicts. They all learn to work as a family and end up saving Xandar, a planet that Ronan was bent on destroying. Only by uniting as a team do they stop Ronan and take-back the infinity stone. Overall, the plot establishes the theme that family is what is most important. To read more about this, read Brenden’s piece here.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second installment we see the team working together to protect a superior race of people and then fleeing said people when Rocket steals one of the batteries they were hired to protect. Their ship crashes on an alien planet where they meet Peter’s father, Ego. We then follow father and son and the plot between Gamora’s sister Nebula, who’s out to take her revenge of Gamora. It’s a bit slow in some areas, which is understandable because the movie is character-focused. Both films are. But overall, the plot drags in some areas, being sacrificed to the jokes and humor, which are good, but take away from making the plot stronger.

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The first film brought the charm of family and bringing together a ragtag team to win this round over vol. 2.

WINNER: Vol. 1

ROUND 2: THE VILLAIN

Guardians Vol. 1: In the first volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy our heroes face Ronan, a leader of the Cree people who’s out for the infinity stone and couldn’t care less about Thanos. He’s about as flat as a villain could be, but still intimidating and powerful. He’s defeated by the Guardians rather easily, though that hammer of his sure was crazy good with an infinity stone strapped inside of it. Overall, he’s about as typical as Marvel villains come.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second volume of the Guardians’ adventure, we face a whole new kind of villain: a father gone bad. His reveal is dynamic, a twist to many fans and a highlight of the film, to be sure. I know I was shocked and I feared for Star-lord, a reaction I haven’t felt for many characters. But when Star-lord literally went starry-eyed, I was concerned. And the horror of all the children Ego killed and buried was also uncomfortable to realize. And, being a planet is something we haven’t seen yet, which adds to the originality of the character. Admittedly it feels like they’re fighting the Death Star at the end, but that’s for another round. The thing about Ego is his motives sound grand, but they too appear a bit murky.

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With Ego being the more original and surprising twist of the two, the winner of this round belongs to Star-lord’s dad.

WINNER: Vol. 2

So far the two are tied, which is good. It’s what makes fights interesting. Good thing there’s a third and final round to settle which one’s better!

ROUND 3: THE CLIMAX

Guardians Vol. 1: The climax of the first film included an epic space battle above Xandar, the planet the heroes are desperate to save. After trying to stop a giant ship from crashing into the city, the ship is able to break the blockade and crash into the city. But before Ronan can slap his infinity stone-infused hammer into the ground and wipe out the world, he is challenged to a dance-off by Peter. After distracting Ronan he takes ahold of the infinity stone and defeats Ronan with the help of the other Guardians. The dance-off is completely unexpected and hilarious and the moment they unite is a powerful one.

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Guardians Vol. 2: At times the climax reminded me of people trying to blow up the Death Star, and I’m still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or not. It was unique that they had to fight a being which was a planet, and it added a strange dynamic to the fight. I think Ego being essentially invincible (until you destroyed the core) made the fighting seem superfluous, but what was thrilling was seeing each member of the team having to fight Ego in their own way. There was a good deal at stake too, with the earth being in danger of Ego’s take-over.

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With both movies having excellent final clashes, this one is probably the closest of the three rounds. But….

WINNER: Vol. 1

With two out of three wins, the original Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of the best films in the Marvel cinematic universe. I enjoyed both quite a bit, and think the second one is good, but the first one remains the better of the two. Do you agree with the results, or do you think I’m crazy?

Whatever you may think, James Gunn knows how to make popular movies, no doubt about it!

What A Stunt Person Needs In A Director

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

When it comes to knowing how to make movies, there’s one area independent filmmakers can not ignore. Stunts.

Pretty much everything else, you can “fake it, ‘til you make it”, but when it comes to stunts, you need to know what you’re doing. They’re dangerous and if you don’t have professional training, you’re creating an incredibly unsafe set.

A happy set is a safe set.

I love stunts. Watching Tom Cruise perform death-defying stunts in the Mission Impossible franchise are always a highlight. I mean, come on guys! The man hung off the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world. And, he held on to the side of a plane as it took off!

It’s inspiring to see stunt performers in action. They’re one of the most tight-knit community in film. Which, honestly, is no surprise because they have to trust each other with their lives.

As an aspiring director, I wanted to know what stunt professionals look for in a director. I reached out to a few and here’s what they had to say…

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Kyal Scott, SAP

The Tempus Elixer (2015) & Out of the Woods (2017)

Kyal is an incredible actor and stunt professional. He’s performed death-defying stunts as several iconic characters at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia.

“What I look for is trust. A stunt person doesn’t want to risk injury or death for the sake of a slightly better camera angle or perform a stunt that is deliberately difficult because an alternative action doesn’t adhere to the storyboard. 

“If a stunt person knows that their safety is the main concern then they will push their fear to the limit and risk their lives to create something incredible for the director to capture.

“Trust also helps both director and stunt person be far more efficient. Time is money after all.”

I think he’s hit the nail on the head. The biggest thing a stunt performer needs from their director is trust. They are putting their very lives on the line to serve the vision of the story. If they can trust they’re working with a director who will think outside the box to ensure their stunt performer is safe, the performer will work harder for them too.

It’s a mutual road.

Daniel Nelson, SAP

Deadline Gallipoli (2015) & Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Daniel currently works at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia and already has an impressive list of films under his belt as a qualified stunt performer.

“Sometimes directors don’t always have the same eye for action that stuntmen do. So having access to playback footage of each take and seeing what it looks like on camera is very handy. Particularly in a fight sequence.

“Directors can also spend too much time on the actors’ dialog that there is no time in the day for the stunt sequence. So a director who is aware of his time is definitely beneficial.”

This is great advice for the aspiring director. Keep an eye on the time. Stunts require a lot of work and time. The crazier the stunt, the longer it’ll take to make sure everything is set up and safe for the performer. The more a director honours this, the more a stunt person wants to make things work to serve the story.

Daniel Weaver, SAP/ Stunt Rigger

Bleeding Steel (2017) & The Shallows (2016)

As well as working for Movie World, Weaver is also a Stunt Rigger and most recently worked on Thor Ragnarok as a SPX Rigger.

“One of the things I look for in a director is being easy to communicate with. [There’s] nothing worse than trying to understand what someone wants to see if they are not clear. Some directors climb all over the ground and grab performers to show what they mean prior to shooting, so a director who is clear and not afraid to get their hands dirty is great!”

“Another is a director that understands action filmmaking. It’s awesome when you get a director that knows the value in seeing the stunts rather than a director that will just cheat the stunts to speed things up. A good director knows the time it takes to provide quality performance and maintain safety.”

I think Daniel makes an excellent point about being clear with what you want from a stunt person. The more concise and articulate you can be as a director the better. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say, learn their lingo. Find out what different stunts are called, it will save you time on set and I think it’ll make your stunt professional’s day.

Jason O’Halloran, SAP

Goldstone (2015) & The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Jason also works for Movie World and has had an impressive career, working on shows like Sea Patrol and Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner.

“I like to see a director that’s excited about action. If you get on set and the director is pumped about the scene then everything just naturally goes up a notch.”

Jason gives some great advice here. At the heart of what I hear in this is, have passion for the action you’re creating. The more passion you have, the more your entire crew will want to get behind what you’re doing. Passion is a huge support to creativity. It gets the juices flowing, so to speak, and you may find your stunt professional coming up with even better takes for what you want to create.

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“All of the stunt men – these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks.” – Jason Statham

The next time you work on a set with stunt professionals, I hope you keep this advice in mind. What Jason Statham says above is so true. They really are the unsung heroes on set.

While it takes extreme effort for every crew member to serve a project, keep in mind these guys and gals are going the extra effort. Support and honor this community and listen well to this incredible filmmaking advice.