How Do You Format Songs - Complications Ensue
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Q. In a screenplay for a musical, how are the songs formatted? Should I send a CD of the soundtrack (with just the musician singing) along with the script?
You probably need to send the artwork for the poster of the stage musical, along with the original cast soundtrack, and maybe box office numbers from the Broadway theater it's playing in. Tickets to the show would be good.

Original movie musicals are rare. Most movie musicals are stage-to-screen adaptations of hit shows: CHICAGO, A CHORUS LINE, CABARET and others that do not begin with C. Woody Allen's musical flopped. I'LL DO ANYTHING flopped so badly in previews -- in previews -- that James Brooks had to delete the songs.

There are all sorts of things that are almost musicals. SOUTH PARK: THE MOVIE had original songs. PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT had original costumes.

TV seems to be different. Shows about people singing seem to do well -- on kids' channels. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL is a successful TV movie franchise. And then there's Hannah Montana, which I understand involves music, in a sense. And there's DR. HORRIBLE'S SING ALONG BLOG, which is a straight ahead musical serial on the Web. (Is it still on?)

But straight-ahead original live action feature movie musicals? Very hard to set up, and extremely hard to set up if you're not wired in.

On the other hand, it is very possible to get a musical produced on stage. Ask DMc, who's had several musicals produced and has made many tens of dollars from them. But if it's a hit, you will have a better shot at getting the movie made. You'll have refined your story, your songs, your characters, etc. And you'll have that poster and soundtrack CD.

(To answer your question, I would format the song lyrics like dialog, in all caps, maybe with slightly wider margins.)

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5 Comments:

You're sending in a spec musical? That's optimism.

By Blogger blogward, at 3:51 AM  

As one of the few childfree adult males with a legitimate excuse for knowing a lot about Hannah Montana (I wrote on a HM video game), I'll add that the show isn't really a musical. It's just about a musician.

I'd say that other than the opening credits, less than 25% of episodes contain any singing, and usually that's just the tail end of a song leading into a scene.

By Blogger Steve, at 5:47 PM  

Dr. Horrible is available over iTunes, but is only 3 acts of a 'TV show'. They might make additional 'episodes' using some of the side characters, but it's all really more like a stand-alone short film or potential set of related short films than a TV show. I think Joss gets away with the musical part because a) the Internet prefers crazy, and a supervillian musical is crazy, but also b) it's Joss, with many fans who feel he may do no wrong.

By Blogger Rich Baldwin, at 1:17 AM  

John Logan used bold for lyrics in the screenplay for Sweeney Todd.

By Blogger OutOfContext, at 11:04 AM  

Doc Horrible was available free online in July. It'll come out on DVD December 19, I believe. I'm hopeful about the commentary.

By Blogger leannet3, at 6:47 PM  

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