Sunday, September 9, 2007

Christians and Lawyers and Integrity Music

I need LEGAL permission to use an Integrity's Hosannah! song in my screenplay. It's "In Him We Live" by Randy Speir. Here's what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

The song itself has a certain place in American church culture. Now, we all know that "Amazing Grace" is considered "the anthem of the Church." But this song -- while not an anthem (nor even a true "hymn") -- is an undeniably iconic song in this generation's current hymnology. While it's true that the words themselves are from the Bible, and therefore the words are in public domain (and therfore I could conceivably whip up my own silly melody to go with the words), the real heart of the matter is that the SONG has a place in our culture that I can't possibly duplicate. And part of the overarching goal of this movie script is that it attempts to "tap into" the more deeply seated elements of current day Christian culture--including our current music. It's sort of like certain films need to tap into the rock music of a specific era. A few of the more famous examples from film history would be

--"The Big Chill" which was an 80's movie that tapped into the iconic music from the 1960's
--"American Grafitti" a 1970's film that tapped into the iconic music from the 1950's and 1960's
--"Moulin Rouge" was a recent film (from the 00's) that took place over 100 years ago, but tapped into the music of the 1960's and 1970's.

So I truly feel that I absolutely MUST have this song. It's got all of the following:

--it's got the absolute and unabashedly correct theology that I so desperately need for this very precise moment of the film
--it's written in a pentatonic scale (which means it's written in a simplified musical scale which children can sing)
--it's very upbeat
--and it's culturally iconic to the America Christian sub-culture

NO OTHER SONG captures ALL of the above! There is NO OTHER SONG that I can possibly use!

Meanwhile, I spent the last six hours reasearching the whole thing on the internet. And here's what I found out:

There are several different licenses one needs to get when seeking to duplicate/use a song, especially in a film. These licenses are generally obtained directly from the publisher.

A Master Use License
A Mechanical Use License
A Synchronization License
A Print License

I originally (and naively) thought if I could just contact Mr. Speir directly, he'd be like "Sure! No problem! I'm honored!" But when I found out today (after searching the US Copyright Office web site, as well as the Christian Copyright License International web site) that Integrity Music (not Mr. Speir) holds the actual copyright, I knew I had to contact THEM and not him. Turns out that Integrity Music has one whole section of their web site devoted specifically to requests for these licenses. And a sub-section for church groups who seek the non-profit usage of their music. I suspect it's probably an entire department of ten or more people who hande this stuff all day long! And I also suspect there's probably more than one in-house lawyer there who specializes in copyright law who is also on staff full time in that department.

So I composed the following e-mail and will be sending it off to them in the next 48 hours (after I get my PDF's set up).

Wish me luck! (or good fortune--or Godspeed --whatever)

Here's the e-mail:


I am an amateur screenwriter who just completed my first feature-length movie script. The script is Christian in nature and in theme. And as far as the "severity" of its storyline and overall content, the script is currently "up to standard" for the requirements of a contest called "The Kairos Prize," which is the most prestigious Christian screenwriting contest to date in the entire film industry.

That contest maintains very high standards of integrity and decency -- in other words, all script submissions must have ZERO instances of profanity, sexuality, nudity, severe violence, cruelty, and innuendo. Also, the purpose of the contest is to promote the writing and producing of scripts which in some way glorify God. The top three winners every year are given the opportunity to pitch their scripts to the big name studios.

Two different scenes in my script depict a small choir of children singing a song during a church service. The song I have chosen is UTTERLY pertinent to a key point of the story's overarching plot line on many levels (thematic, symbolic, cultural, and theological). In other words: without this one song, the entire script is close to useless. The song in question is:

In Him We Live
CCLI Song No. 17274
Author: Randy Speir

Copyright: 1986 Integrity's Hosanna! Music

Catalog: Integrity's Hosanna! Music
Admin: Integrity Music, Inc.

I would like to enter my script in this year's Kairos Prize Contest. However, I will obviously need the permission of Integrity Music and also (I believe) Mr. Speir.

I'm not completely certain, but I think I need some or all of the following before I can move forward with my script:

1) A "Print License" for the electronic and hard copy versions of the script I've written, as well as for permission to make additional electronic and hard copies of the script to distribute amongst any potential producers, cast and crew for any potential film deal that might result
2) A "Mechanical License" for permission to have a team of child actors sing/record the song on camera during the film shoot and/or in a recording studio during post-production of any film deal that might result
3) A "Synchronization License" (not sure about this one because I was under the impression that a Sync License is only needed when a filmmaker wants to use the original recording of the song by the original artist, not an alternate recording made specifically for the film)
4) A "Master Use License" (again -- not sure, for the same reasons as #3 above).
5) Other (?)

In this e-mail, I have attached a PDF copy of the entire script, and also a smaller PDF of just the "page before, page of, and page after" of the two (2) sections in the script where the song is used.

Please let me know if Integrity Music or Mr. Speir will need anything further in their consideration of granting me the necessary permissions.

Thank you so much.

--(My name)

sandwich board room at yahoo dot com


RC said...

huh? That's really interesting. I hope that everything goes alright in order for you to have the rights to use this song.

your process and thought process is great.

i hope that this is easier than you could hope for, although experience shows this types of things end up being strangely complicated.

--RC of

Sheila West said...

Hey RC, thanks for the encouragement.

Hollywood execs take a really really dim view of scripts that incorporate an actual real-life, pre-existing, copyrighted song. So I fear that unless I get the rights to this song of my own volition, no one will touch my script. Not now. Not ever.

I do indeed fear that this will be a VERY complicted process.

Sheila West said...

Oh, and I also came very close in an earleir draft to including a SECOND song into the script. Specifically: the Amy Grant song "Angels Watching Over Me." That song is also very very iconic, and is utterly perfect for the entire film. But Amy Grant is just SOOOO huge that I didn't dare (and that part of the script isn't as dependent upon the precise song being sung as the part with the children is). So the current incarnation of my script very simply and generically mentions that "an angel song" is playing on someone's tape deck, and it never once names Amy Grant's famous angel song. And that's it. So when the blessed day comes where I sell my script, I can "suggest" to the producers that they track down Amy Grant's manger and try to negotiate a deal with him. Or they might want to hire someone to write an original song for them (which wold blow the iconic stuff I'm going for, but I don't care). Her song is nowhere near as important as Randy Speir's song.

jasdye said...

funny enough, i'm familiar with the amy grant song (and i think it ran through my head recently), but not in the least with "In Him We Live.

break a leg!

Sheila West said...

Most people are indeed familar with that Amy Grant song. And as for "In Him We Live" I'm willing to bet that if you HEARD it you'd go "Oh yeah! NOW I remember"

It's based upon the scripture from Acts where Paul gives the Sermon on Mars Hill. Paul was quoting the inscription he saw on a local stone monument there in Athens. The monument was dedicated to "an unknown god," and the inscription said: "In him we live and move and have our being."

Ms. Grant's song is certainly more well-known. But Mr. Speir's song is more plot-critical to my script.

Martin said...

Surely not every Hollywood exec objects to every proposed use of every song. Songs get incorporated into movies all the time. All the songs in Back to the Future, The Wedding Singer, and The Fighting Temptations had to be licensed. Or think Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller singing "Danke Schoen" and "Twist and Shout," Matt Damon as Will Hunting breaking into "Afternoon Delight," even Peter MacNicol and Rowan Atkinson doing "Yesterday" as a duet ... the list goes ever on.

That Amy Grant is "big" shouldn't stop you from pursuing rights to use her song ... in fact, it should probably help, since it means her publisher probably has some staff resources to deal with licensing requests. I don't think it'll cost very much, monetarily speaking, to get permission to just specify the song in a screenplay, although I agree it's probably worth doing. The big bucks would come in later if the film is actually produced.

But, dear Sheila, Moulin Rouge is not a musical tribute to the '60s and '70s. "Roxanne" and "Like a Virgin" belong most definitively to the early 1980s. I think "Come What May" was written for the film, and fortunately for me I can't remember what other songs were used. (I hate Moulin Rouge with an overwhelming passion.)

Mercurie said...

Yes, sadly the whole area of music rights is a complex one. I seem to recall that the release of WKRP in Cincinnati was delayed because of it. It's also the reason why you don't see Beatles songs used too often in film--they're too expensive!

Courtney Joy Speir said...

Hi Sheila,

I know this post is ages old, possibly rendering my inquiries irrelevant, however, I hope this comment makes it to you nonetheless.

My name is Courtney Speir. I am the daughter of Randy Speir who wrote "In Him We Live". I came across this blog post and was wondering if anything ever became of this project. If so, and it includes my father's song, I would very much like to see what you've produced.

Have a wonderful day :)

Sheila West said...

Hi Courtney,

How cool to hear from you!

Your dad actually contacted me 3 whole years ago when I first made this blog post. I had several friendly e-mail exchanges with him and then I sent him only a portion of my completed movie script for his review, specifically I sent him only those parts that dealt directly with his song. (I would have sent him the whole thing but I didn't want to burden him with the entire shooting match.) After he read those parts, he gave me his blessing as far as one artist to another (but he was unable to grant me legal permission because your dad has no legal control of that song).

Anyway, after that entire exchange, I was told by several seasoned screenwriters that trying to secure the licenses ahead of time would only make a script deal more complicated later on, and I should just leave it up to the lawyers at whatever film company that one day might like to buy my script. So I never pursued licensing again. But it was quite an education, and hearing from your dad was a blast.

Meanwhile, I shopped my script around Hollywood for about a year and got a few bites. Roughly 8 different production companies read my script. Half of them never got back to me (that's called a "silent pass" and it's very rude). The other half said "you're a good writer, this is a well-executed script, but it's not for us, would you by any chance have ANOTHER script we could read?" (It's always a good sign if they ask if you have another script. It means they like your writing style and they have faith that you have what it takes to write a real script.) I did have a few other scripts, but they politely passed on those also.

I stopped querying my script around Hollywood when my mother started getting sick. I spent two years taking care of her and then she passed away last year in September. Since then I have been nannying full time, and in my spare time I am working on a novel.

I still have faith that this screenplay is a GREAT script capable of being a memorable (and profitable) Hollywood film. But I had to set it on the back-burner for now.

I modeled the story after the mixed tone of humor and poignancy found in "Bruce Almighty," and I even envisioned Jim Carrey in the lead role of Galvin Reed (although Brendan Fraser could do an equally awesome job instead, if he so desired, hee- hee). I also envisioned Dennis Quaid as the supporting role of David Brown (and it's a supporting role with so much dialogue and so much screen time that he is in danger of upstaging the main character).

I feel it's very original, and makes a non-cliche/unique statement about relating to God, and also about the intimate relationship that believers have with their Bibles.

There's no way I could produce this script myself as an indie project-- way too huge. The cast is sizeable and includes children (kids are expensive to have on a movie set). It needs to be shot on location in the deserts of the American Southwest (location shoots are always expensive). And the special effects alone would involve a low 8-digits. Toss in a few big name stars with their own 8-digit salaries, and the budget is now well into the $90 million range.

If you are interested, I could send you a copy of the latest/final incarnation of the script. One of the absolute hardest things for a writer to accomplish is to just plain get read. So a read from you would be an honor.