The ski movie middle-class is shrinking. As costs for shooting, marketing, and traveling rise, many mid-sized film companies are faced with a downgrade to Vimeoland or absorption by the big boys.
With survival at the mid-level uncertain, companies like Quebec-based New School Films Productions have gotten creative in a hurry. Ready to be profitable but unwilling to pay big bucks for music rights, the 2011 IF3 Best Amateur Video and Best Amateur Cinematography winner cut costs by cutting tracks, producing its very own soundtrack for the 2012 film Moss.
"The easiest way to compensate [for music costs] was to say 'screw it, let's make our own music,'" says NSF director and producer Robert Quinn.
That step had been in the back of Quinn and co-producer J.F. Boutin's minds since the early days of NSF, but didn't come to fruition until they landed a fortunate break.
"I'm a freelance art director and graphic designer that did some work for a sound studio," explains Quinn. "They owed me big time, so as a trade they said they'd produce the sounds for our movie…and they're scoring the whole thing."
Apollo Studio's Music Producer Marc-André Gilbert worked closely with the NSF crew to create a template for each of the segments based on the footage, Quinn says. Gilbert then used that template to go through score the film.
"Robert had a particular vision," says Gilbert. "He gave me some direction, but he gave me 100 percent creative freedom. I wanted the project to shine."
With music companies charging premium rates for rights and cracking down on illegal usage, NSF in-house soundtrack was key to staying operational while putting out a product that could compete with big name, big budget ski movie companies.
"When you're looking at Level 1 or Poor Boyz, they basically get all their money from the sponsors of the athletes in the segments," says Quinn. "Most chunks of [that money] go into buying rights.”
While the Quebec crew's Frozen Yougurt took home IF3 hardware, it didn't have the same success in the marketplace. DVDs were expensive to produce and duplicate, and consignment was always hit or miss according to Quinn.
But, by eliminating excess costs and making sure they're not violating any music rights, NSF is able to ditch DVDs and jump to iTunes with this year's film, reaching a broad audience.
"I think the iTunes platform…will let us put [our movie] up online for cheaper and give a worldwide reach to an amateur film," says Quinn. "It's not often you get to do that."
As far as the music itself, Quinn and Boutin tend to use eccentric selections.. In last year's Frozen Yougurt, a private park session at Mont Saint-Sauveur to Radiohead's eerily tranquil "Nude" caught people's attention, something Quinn wants to repeat with the Moss sound project.
"I try to make people feel like they've heard the song before even though [they haven't]" says Quinn. "It's a challenge, but in the end it will…benefit us."
(if3 is next week. Check back for coverage from the event and reviews of this year’s films.)