The documentarians behind Mad Hot Ballroom wheedled and cajoled the music industry to lower their prices. Still, 45% of the budget was spent on music rights and some scenes had to be lost:

Sewell: Our typical total cost for a classic was about $15,000-20,000, split between publisher and master rights. It depends on how many entities are attached to it. With the Rocky theme, the publishers didn’t want to overexpose the song.

LINK: “Stay Free! Daily” has the interview. Be sure to also read the follow-up.

UPDATE 10/17/05: New York Times has a belated re-telling of the tale, plus an investigation into rising clearance rights costs on documentaries.