misc Dilemma: 'Creative Differences'?

Hi All

I've been in talks with a client to write the soundtrack for their next film. I'm in a dilemma as to whether to get involved and am looking for advice. Although I’m a composer, this isn't just a music-related question; it's relevant to anyone signing on to a project.

The feature itself is 45 minutes. The director intends to create a music video style with rap and to release it as a film, as individual tracks and as an album. This is quite an interesting idea, which is what initially attracted me to this low-budget student project. I've produced samples for them already and I was really looking forward to it, because it presented an interesting and creative challenge for me as a composer.

However, I've just received the plotline (which the director was rather cagey on beforehand) and realised that I don't really like it. Without going into too much detail (I've probably said too much already), it's quite grotty and dissatisfying. I'm inclined to think that if I'm not fully behind the idea, I'm not the right man for the job. That said, I don't want to rule out future opportunities and set a precedent to others that I don't want to work on a project with a taboo theme (done well they can be very powerful).

So the ultimate question: should you attach yourself to a project you have a tendency to dislike in order to further your experience, film credits and creative potential?

If no, what's the polite professional way of saying this? Is it 'creative differences'?
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Staff Member
I haven't had exactly that experience, but I HAVE had situations where the potential client rubbed me the wrong way after a few discussions.

One time I kept going, completed the project, and we were both pretty well happy with it.

The second time, the feeling was stronger and the person was very cagey about the plot (similar to what you said). By this point, I had more clients and I simply said that I had taken on a large project the previous day and would have to pass. This was half true - I HAD taken on a big project but (probably) could have juggled the two. I said that I looked forward to the opportunity to work together in the future.

My experience is that something or someone that is unpleasant to you will only get more so as the project progresses.

But sometimes it just comes down to the money - if it's good and you need it, hold your nose and do it.

Hope that helps a little.
The first thing that I would do is write down all of the reasons you find the project "quite grotty and dissatisfying." Really dig into the details. Is it something personally offensive or is it something that you think would not be marketable? Or is ir something that you just don't understand?

The next thing I would do is write down all of the things I would create for the project that would make it a satisfying project to work on. Strip the plot-line down to its very essence. Are there concepts with which you can work?

Try to reconcile the two perspectives. You mentioned a "taboo theme." Is it the perspective proposed to you that you dislike? Can you improve upon it or change it into something that you find artistically, ethically and/or commercially acceptable?

As mlesemann has posted, there are diplomatic ways to back out of a project that you dislike, even if the are not 100% truthful. I've backed out of really bad projects by making them financially unacceptable to the potential client (partially true, as it would have taken huge amounts of work to make it sonically palatable), on others I have just invoked scheduling conflicts which I could make true. All that said, there are some things that I do not ethically/morally condone and just turn down flat; this has only happened twice over my many years in the entertainment industry, but I do not regret these decisions.

That's the best advice I can give, I hope that it helps.

Good Luck!!!
Thank you all for your extremely helpful responses. I wrote down carefully the ups and downs of the project as you suggested and decided that it just wasn't right for me, even if I used a pen name (that's really cool about Alan Smithee btw, hadn't come across that!).

So here's what I did: I told the director the truth. I said that since the content doesn't sit well with me, I'm probably not right for the job, however interesting and challenging it would have been for me professionally. I said that I looked forward to the opportunity to work together in the future, as you suggest, and hopefully we'll leave things on good terms - I'll let you know.

All three of your thoughts helped me come to my decision. Thank you all so much for your help and quick responses, hugely appreciated. 🙂