LivingArts: The Secret About the Secret of My Success

Supercrawl was great.  I wrote my very first blog post for LivingArts in September 2014, titled “How Supercrawl Saved My Baby (And By ‘Baby’ I Mean My Music Career)”.  My thoughts then are the same now, basically that local music gets a huge boost from Supercrawl and this year proved to be no different.

In a Hamilton-centric world where Supercrawl is basically Christmas for the Arts, it’s easy to forget that there is something even bigger happening just a few miles down the road. 

I’m not talking about the Locke Street Festival (although I heard that Locke also had a great day in spite of the rain).  I’m talking about TIFF, with the Toronto International Film Festival turning 40 this year.

I’ve never really been a proper film-fan.  For starters, I call films ‘movies' and my favourite ‘movie’ of all time is The Secret of My Success (look it up), followed by Beverly Hills Cop in close second.  I’m not exactly a critical thinker when it comes to that stuff, because I spend most of my creative energy trying to understand the difference between a French augmented sixth chord and an Italian augmented sixth chord (look that up, too).

But these days, the big money for musicians is not in making records, but in making movies…films.  Somehow, the film industry has found a way to navigate the piracy of the internet age and maintained a steady revenue stream, whereas the record industry is literally grasping at straws in a time machine and reverting to vinyl.  

You hear stories of musical colleagues receiving cheques in the mail for Hollywood film placements, sometimes as much as $30,000.  Not a bad pay-day, given that the work that went into writing and recording that material is exactly the same as any other musical venture.  As word gets around about the big film placement payday, one can imagine the clamouring in the biz for spots, with some artists tailoring their material specifically for cinematic placement.  

My band, Bruce Peninsula, has lucked out twice in the film placement sweepstakes.  The first film that we landed was Ed Gass-Donnelly’s Small Town Murder Songs (featuring an INCREDIBLE Peter Stormare).  I say that we lucked out, because the circumstances that led to us working on this film can only be attributed to luck.  Mr Gass-Donnelly’s sister just happened to be a Bruce Peninsula fan, exactly when he started working on a film that needed a soundtrack filled with Indie-Gospel-Folk-Rock-Blues music (our genre).  He liked our stuff so much that 90% of the soundtrack featured BP.  

That film made its North American premiere at TIFF and we saw a little cash as a result of its success.   Again, we had already made the music, so any extra dough that we made from film placement was a bonus.  To put it in perspective, I funded the entire recording of my Twin Within record with my share of that cash - a project that never would have left the ground otherwise.

The second film that we lucked into had its North American premiere on Tuesday evening at TIFF.  Sleeping Giant, a film directed and written by Dundas-native Andrew Cividino, was given the Bruce Peninsula treatment as well.  In this case, the director was a Ryerson grad and just happened to be a Bruce Peninsula fan.  He used some BP material in a short film of Sleeping Giant, which ulitimately led to Bruce Peninsula being involved in the feature version.  

This time around, the music was tailor-made for the film and the band is adapting the material to release as a new Bruce Peninsula record in the future.  It’s something that we did to a lesser degree on Small Town Murder Songs as well, with a couple tracks from the film ending up on our 2011 release, Open Flames.  It’s not the first time that a soundtrack had a life outside of the film that it was written for, but certainly it’s also not the norm.

But in an industry that tends to lean so heavily on the film industry for revenue, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see this model more and more.  

[Next month: Steve introduces a German augmented sixth chord into the mix…]