Friday, September 16, 2011

The Soundtrack of My Universe

Well, The Tolltaker has been online for about a day now, and already has 26 viewings. Not bad, and I mean it in the most heart-felt way imaginable when I say that I am grateful to each and every one of the people who took time out of their day to watch my movie.

The only other thing I ask of people is to spread the link around, re-post it in chat rooms that they frequent, send it to friends. Let people know about it and, importantly, "Like" it on its Facebook page.

Once again, here is the link to watch the film on Vimeo:

I have a little "Tolltaker" playlist that I listen to on iTunes and, in fact, am listening to as I write this. It consists of the tracks from the movie, as well as others that I group into the Tolltaker "universe." Mostly, these are tracks I remember from the early to mid-70's - which means that they were what my parents would have been listening to at the time.

One artist on the playlist is Linda Ronstadt. There have often been times I have day-dreamed about a "Tolltaker" sequel (listen to me talking about a sequel before the full-length film itself is even made!) that features Bobby's mother as single and on the dating scene (meaning, I guess, that the thing with Nick didn't work out). I picture a montage where she goes out on dates with one C&W after another. What's a "C&W?" It's a term my mom invented when she was on the dating scene herself back in the 1970's. It's short for "creeps & weirdos," which is all my mom said she ever encountered on these dates.

Anyway, Bobby's mother in the movie (whose name happens to be, like my mom's, Judy - although that's a coincidence we have Jim Sneddon to thank for) would go through this compressed odyssey among the C&W's of the day, and the soundtrack for this would be Linda Ronstadt's song "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me." I remember that my mom liked that song a lot in its day.

I have similar sequences set to other hit songs of the period (pity the poor music supervisor who would have to clear these songs!). There's a scene in the screenplay where Bobby is playing a game of hand ball with his best friend in the school yard. The song playing on my internal soundtrack? "Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard," by Paul Simon.

It's no secret that music is a powerful influence on the overall movie-going experience, but one thing that I remain fascinated by is how much influence music can exert. It works, in films like this one, as a powerful cue for the time period. It's indisputable that for many, if not most people, music really does serve as a soundtrack for their lives, and a particular song can have super powerful associations.

But there's also a piece of music's intrinsic qualities to consider. I've been told that I use music for emotional effect, and I suppose that's true. My own response to music is primarily intuitive: I'll know if I like it, and most likely will not be able to articulate why. Hopefully a viewer will see (and hear) things the same way.

I think, also, on a deeper level that music provides a useful model for structuring a movie. If you sit and think about the dynamics at play in a piece of music, how one section builds tension that's released and channeled into new directions by the following section, how it all adds up to a unified whole: it's possible to find corollaries to these things in a story and, particularly, a movie.

There are definitely plastic, formal affinities between movies and music. Both take place over time, and create rhythms through repetition or counterpoint. In one, the medium is images; the other, sound. Both have beats. And these rhythms can be layered, one supporting the other, for tremendous impact. Martin Scorsese in particular, I believe, has a a sense for the kinetic potential of music and images.

It is for this reason that a big point of contention between me and collaborators is the use of music. Others seem to think that the choice of music is almost an afterthought, and you can swap one piece out for another with no ill effect. Not true, not true.

Put that in your book of proverbs.

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