PLUGGED IN

I’ve been “on script” since early April – a rewrite assignment that’s turned into a completely new draft.  It’s been going well and nearing deadline in a week’s time.  Writing a screenplay based on someone else’s story concept is always a challenge; you obviously want to meet their expectations, but you don’t want to be nothing more than a glorified typist.  Several times on jobs like this you’ll reach that threshold where all of a sudden you realize you’re being dictated to, and expected to take that dictation.  That’s usually the time you’re let go, or ask to be let go from the project; anyone can take dictation, and by that point they want a secretary, not a writer.

One habit I get into on any writing job, is listen to a lot of music.  I assemble a playlist of bands and albums, and do this deliberately.  Every morning when on the job, you need to pick things up where you left them, and having a playlist helps me enormously in getting back into the head-space I need to be in.

Another thing I do is track the movies I watch while writing.  Those have an influence on what I write, though not in any plot-specific way.  Different films from different areas and different genres all use visual language to tell their story.  And given that screenplays are a visual medium, it always helps to be aware that you’re to show, rather than tell.  And it helps me, at least, to watch a wide variety of films while writing.

So, here’s the music, and the movies that accompanied me on the journey of the last two months.

Music

The Dead Weather
Karen Elson
Jonny Cash
Patti Smith
The Ramones
The Kills
The Pogues
The White Stripes

Movies:

Days of Heaven
Sunrise
Running on Empty
Au Revoir Les Enfants
The White Ribbon
Shoot the Piano Player
Day For Night
My Beautiful Laundrette
The Year of Living Dangerously
Restrepo
The Fog
The Battle of Algiers
Severance
Monsters
Lake Mungo
Matador
Blow-Out
Missisippi Masala
The Boys From Brazil
Waltz With Bashir

Now, anybody want to guess what the movie I’m writing is about?  It’s all there in the above lists.

Random Tracks

Hitting the random button on iTunes the other day generated what ended up being a decent dozen song mix. As some requested to know what it was, I’m posting it below, with links to streaming audio of those songs, where available, and my comments. I only had time to listen to 12 songs, but they’re 12 worth talking about.

ALL APOLOGIES – NIRVANA

Appropriate that my favourite song by Nirvana is the first in the mix. While iTunes selected the studio track from “In Utero” the definitive version in my opinion, is this one from their legendary Unplugged performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWmkuH1k7uA

LITTLE GHOST – THE WHITE STRIPES

First, if you’re a fan and haven’t seen the great tour doc “Under Great White Northern Lights” definitely do it. And even if you’re not a fan, you may like it anyway, as it documents their 2007 Canadian tour, in which they played in every province and territory, including a series of free shows, among them the infamous “one note” performance. Asta watched it and, while not a huge White Stripes fan, found she gained a new appreciation and respect for their “musicality” –Simple, raw, stripped down songs, of which this is one of their best. Who thought anyone outside of Tiny Tim could rock a ukulele like Jack White?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBaEcMmMLTQ

DON’T PANIC – COLDPLAY

After watching their performance on the 2009 Grammys, Asta turned to me and said “we should become fans of Coldplay,” and that’s all it took. She’s more into the dance spectrum of music, while I’m more into rock, and while there’s some carry-over (Metric, Garbage, Feist) It’s nice to have a band we can both listen to. in July of ’09 I scored tickets to the All Points West musical festival, of which Coldplay headlined the final night. It pissed rain all weekend, and after two plus hours of getting to the venue at Liberty State Park, found the ground was saturated with water and stunk of goose droppings. And when Coldplay took the stage, the audience didn’t care. A lot of that show is available on Youtube, including their covers of “Fight For Your Right To Party” (in tribute of Adam “Ad-Rock” Yauch, battling cancer at the time) and “Billie Jean,” and while this opener from their “Parachutes” album wasn’t one of the songs they performed, it was the third in this playlist, and was a nice buffer between the White Stripes and the following.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu0xs_3DT6M

BYE BYE SYMPHONY – FOXY SHAZAM

This is a new-ish band out of Ohio, their first full length album hit stores last year. I found them through a couple free MP3 albums offered through Spin.com, one was a SXSW Sampler, the other was a “Bands to Watch in 2010” sampler. They kind of have a Queen-meets-Fishbone vibe, which works surprisingly well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDfSm-C8U64

IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE CRYING – GARBAGE

I’m surprised that Garbage’s legacy is pretty much limited to their debut album, and to a lesser degree Version 2.0, when their subsequent albums (Beautiful Garbage and Bleed Like Me)have some outstanding tracks on them. I think a lot of it has to do with the shift in music that happened post 1995; with the resurgence of pop music in the wake of the collapse of Alternative Nation as a mainstream movement, they kind of got lost in the shuffle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwS3_B4axn0

HOPE CHILD – FREE ENERGY

Another freebie from SPIN.com, this from the Philadelphia based band. Very reminiscent of The Replacements.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJq-C81aIps

PET SEMETARY – THE RAMONES

How can there be any justice in a world where three of the four Ramones are dead and gone, while Nickleback and Creed are free to assault our ears? This is later period Ramones, and certainly not their best — oh who am I kidding? The Ramones always work no matter your mood.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6GzVCYqoyY

THE LIMIT TO YOUR LOVE – FEIST

One of Asta’s that I listen to a fair bit, though haven’t overdone it yet. You know how sometimes you play an album or a song over and over again to the point you become sick of it? That isn’t the case with the lovely Ms. Feist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyifHsGAwnI

LOVE IS A PLACE – METRIC

Metric is a band we share a common like of, and saw them at Terminal Five last May. I strongly recommend you pick up their latest “Fantasies” as it’s probably their most accessible work. But this track off of their 2003 release “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” is a hidden gem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj77x3soEI8&feature=related

WHEN I’M WITH YOU – BEST COAST

Another track from the SPIN “Austin Power” SXSW sampler, and I’m planning to pick up their full album. Very trippy, haunting , and rocking stuff. These guys could be huge in a very short order of time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trUpIldI3Dg&feature=related

WALK YOU DOWN – BASIA BULAT

Someone who is definitely going to be huge is Basia Bulat, and I’m not just saying that because my pal Lisa is her manager. We just saw her perform at the Mercury Lounge last year and the way she played and held the crowd in the palm of her hand. It was probably the last time I’m going to see her in that small a venue and with good reason.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk3OsOeZZXQ

SKELETONS – YEAH YEAH YEAHS

Haven’t seen them in concert, yet. They’re huge down here in their native NYC and while more of you will be familiar with “Heads Will Roll” and “Zero”, this is a haunting song and haunting video, and a nice finish to a very random mix.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZnIDwnWJtA

If anybody’s had the same experience with random computer Algorithyms mixing your music for you, I’d love to hear about it.