Watchdog Group: Local 47 Pays Thousands to USC For Film Scoring Class Musicians, UCLA Ext. Gets Zero

Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Archives) > Industry News (Archive) > Watchdog Group: Local 47 Pays Thousands to USC For Film Scoring Class Musicians, UCLA Ext. Gets Zero

According to a report from The Committee for a More Responsible Local 47, ( a Los Angeles based watchdog group that regularly reports on issues at AFM Local 47, the Local 47 Executive Board in December approved a $2,500 “donation” to pay for musicians for a USC film scoring orchestration class taught by Bruce Broughton. The donation is in start contrast to the precedent established at UCLA Extension film scoring courses over more than 20 years where students have had to pay 100% of the musician fees with no donations or grants from Local 47.
The benefits of professional musicians in film scoring classes are clear – students’ compositions are performed live and can be recorded for later study, as any problems with the music often become readily apparent when performed by live musicians. In this case, the controversy that has erupted around the donation doesn’t question the benefits of the musicians to students, but involves who is paying for the musicians.
The Committee For A More Responsible Local 47 report points out the extensive financial relationship that Local 47 has with UCLA Extension, resulting in significant financial support to Local 47 from UCLA Extension. The Committee article stated, “In the last year, the UCLA FIlm Scoring have paid our Local in the area of $100,000, including pay for musicians and equipment rental. But the board just OKed a payment of $2,500 to USC, to pay RMAers playing the USC film scoring classes. Our dues going to pay those who caused a majority of the problems here. That’s rich! How often does USC rent our facilities? Try virtually never, but that is who OUR board just gave the money to. Why?”
A veteran film scoring instructor at UCLA Extension was shocked to hear of the Local 47 funding for USC, stating “The union, for years, gave the UCLA film scoring program nothing but roadblocks. They required insurance that no studio requires, and ignored our argument that we were introducing many new composers to the union. And that was when we just wanted to RENT their studio to record in! Finally, for reasons someone else knows, we now rent the facility to run our classes. I find the handout to the rich USC crowd appalling in light of the fact that the union dragged their feet for years enter into even a strictly business agreement with UCLA Extension.”
Film Music Magazine asked Local 47 President Vince Trombetta about who was responsible for selecting which musicians would be paid for the classes, what union contract they were working under, what the musicians would be paid, and how other colleges could apply for “donations” from Local 47. Trombetta responded, “The questions you asked are pretty much personnel issues that are decided by USC, not the Local. The Local cannot respond to personnel questions that are in the purview of USC. Grants are decided by the Executive Board on a case by case basis. Other schools can always apply for a grant and it is in the authority of the Board to approve or disapprove.”
USC film scoring department head Brian King was traveling, but has suggested an interview upon his return to respond to Film Music Magazine’s questions about the specifics of how the grant would be paid to musicians and how the musician hiring and selection process will be conducted when determining which musicians are eligible to be hired for the orchestration class jobs created with the donated funds from Local 47.


  • March 23, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    Interest…and disturbing. I’m curious to see if Mr. King follows through with this interview.

  • March 23, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe anyone is upset with this. It’s an investment in the future. Train student composers and filmmakers how important it is to deal with union musicians. It’s a win-win-win.

  • March 24, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    It is NOT a win-win because LA fim composers are now forbidden, by template contract, to use “musicians belonging to any guild, union, or any similar trade organization”. The Union’s refusal to allow for non-back-end contracts has run all of the major scoring out of town. This is only a means for the current administration to keep power by allowing Members’ dues to pay their cronies, plain and simple. To say otherwise shows a lack of knowledge/denial of reality of what’s really going on here. Or is an RMA (who are responsible for running all the work out of town) shill.

  • Mark Northam
    March 24, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

    David – no one is arguing the clear benefits of pro musicians in film scoring classes – the issue is who pays for them, especially given the precedent established at UCLA Extension over 20 years. If Local 47 is going to be in the business of financing musicians for composing classes, great! But let’s make sure that this new program/policy is rolled out fairly and equitably among all qualifying schools, and let’s make sure the hiring process for those musicians is fair and open.

  • Eric Miller
    March 27, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

    I do have to admit that this looks a little shady, but I don’t ever remember hearing that unions had to dish out “donations” equally amongst those that qualify…

  • Mark Northam
    March 27, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    Good point, Eric. I’m not saying it looks shady, but I do think that once the money of an entire group is being used (the Local) as opposed to just private students, there ought to be some transparency as far as the funding and hiring practices go. And I think UCLA deserves some consideration for funding, especially given the amount of business they already do that benefits Local 47. I’m still waiting for USC’s Brian King to respond to a couple of questions about the process we sent him last Tuesday, hopefully we’ll hear from him shortly.

  • Eric Miller
    March 28, 2011 @ 8:57 am

    Good point Mark. I am curious as to why Local 47 has not had a more favorable disposition towards UCLA given the amount of money and business they help move through the union.
    Keep us posted on any updates

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