Moving In: This Is How Music Makes It into German Films


21. Sept. 2017 @ Angie's Nightclub

Speaker: Milena Fessmann (Music Supervisor, Managing Director, Cinesong, Germany), Charlotte Goltermann (Partner, Music Consulting and Management, Musique Couture, Germany), Pia Hoffmann (Music Supervisor & Right Clearance, www.musicsupervising.com, Germany), Uli Kleppi (Music Supervisor, CookiesForAll, Germany)

Moderator: Johnny Haeusler (Owner/Founder, Spreeblick/re:publica/TINCON, Germany)

Go to the programme here.

During a panel discussing the ins and outs of the music supervisor’s trade, Milena Fessmann (music supervisor & MD Cinesong), Charlotte Goltermann (Partner Music Consulting and Management Musique Couture), Pia Hoffmann (music supervisor & rights clearance) and Uli Kleppi (music supervisor CookiesForAll) described the challenges they face with moderator Johnny Haeusler (Founder Spreeblick/re:publica/TINCON).

All panelists work in film, as there has been hardly any money available for music, let alone music supervisors, in TV. The advent of subscription video streaming platforms like Netflix, however, might change that situation.

The biggest cost factor is rights clearance. Due to the fact music is in many cases almost an afterthought in German cinema, there’s often no budget available when it comes to soundtracking a film, the whole panel agreed. Kleppi said it’s commonplace to be told that the artists should be grateful to be included in a successful movie and thus not ask for a fee. Which is why it’s a blessing to work with directors who love music, or on a movie in which music plays a vital role. Hoffmann said that the budget is less important than unrealistic requests and expectations. “I can also do something with €20,000, just not as much.”

Directors and film producers only usually seek help from music supervisors when there’s a problem. Like when they find out, for example, that despite having what appears to be musical knowledge—like the amateur instrument playing skills of the cutter’s brother—those working on a film don’t necessarily have a clue about music. As a general rule, however, they try hard to avoid any additional expenditure for music experts.

There are more music supervisors working in Los Angeles alone than in all of Germany, which demonstrates the opposing views on the importance of music in film. Even though LA, of course, has a massively higher output. Budgets also indicate that pop culture simply doesn’t play as important a role in Germany as it does in the US, according to Goltermann.

Hoffmann said music supervising doesn’t have anything to do with good taste. “We’re servants of the picture. The picture is the star, we try and complement that with music. What does the audience think and feel? What do I want to achieve? My personal taste comes last.”

Trying to find a title song that can carry an entire movie is “90s thinking,” said Fessmann. Kleppi agreed that songs don’t usually help increase the number of movie-goers. Still, it is always nice to find something emblematic, said Goltermann, adding that it’s only possible with a previously unknown song.

The entire panel didn’t think much of music libraries that tag songs according to categories including genres and mood as a source for film music. Hoffmann said: “anything that has to do with music, film and emotions cannot be described with a tag.” To which Goltermann added: “Otherwise the cutter’s brother could indeed do the job.”

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