There are certain filmmakers who make brilliant use of pop music in their movies. Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese all come to mind.
So it’s no accident that they are among the filmmakers whose work has been featured in a stage series called “For the Record.”
The show is a mixture of cabaret and pop concert and it brings the soundtracks from key films to the forefront.
Co-creators Anderson Davis and Shane Scheel started this production in Los Angeles, with just a few friends in a Los Feliz backyard. It went on to some small clubs and theaters, and now it’s grown into a bit of a phenomenon, with shows on cruise ships and in Las Vegas.
Music from Martin Scorsese films is currently the centerpiece of a show at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts. The show is called, "For The Record: Scorsese."
The Frame’s John Horn spoke with Anderson Davis and Shane Scheel about wooing the directors they pay tribute to, the difficulties in securing rights to the songs, and why they chose to put music at the center of “For The Record.”
On how they got Quentin Tarantino's approval:
Shane Scheel: I think originally we just set out to honor a filmmaker. A couple weeks into running the show in Los Feliz at the Vermont Bar, Quentin Tarantino walks in and that began our relationship.
I think we drank tequila till 4 a.m. in the bar and he kept on coming back to his show. We would do it again in a different format. We moved it to West Hollywood last year and he became a regular there.
The same thing happened with Baz Luhrmann. He just showed up one night and gave a curtain speech. That began a relationship with Baz. So we've been able to bait them in with this idea of, We're doing this tribute to you, your work, your choice in music — and then we start a relationship that way.
One song they wished they got the rights to use in the show:
Anderson Davis: For the Baz Luhrmann version of the series, we couldn't get "Lovefool" [by The Cardigans] and it was for the craziest reason.
It wasn't because of the publisher. The band was in a different country so trying to make that connection is difficult sometimes. "Lovefool," in my mind, was the perfect synthesis of Juliet, the character, and the lyrics of this song. It's kind of a he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not kind of a moment.
Luckily, we had some other options. Of course, Baz Luhrmann’s soundtracks are full of options so we were lucky in that regard, but I was sad to lose it.
Scheel: But we also never give up. We keep saying, Are you sure you don’t want this song in here? That’s where we are with [the Scorsese show] right now and we’re hopeful that this production will allow us to bring some skeptical people out to see the show and to understand what it is.
On the importance of the soundtrack and music in films:
Davis: I think about lots of different moments in films when the characters are in the forefront and the soundtrack's in the background. And we're really just flipping that. We're putting the song in the foreground and we're contextualizing that song with the character.
So I think about other filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino. I'll often reference from "Reservoir Dogs" because it's probably one of his that's similar to Scorsese's "Mean Streets," using "Be My Baby." In "Reservoir Dogs," there's the moment where he cuts off the guy's ear.
Horn: Is it "Stuck In The Middle With You?"
Davis: That's exactly right. So you can't imagine that moment without the song. I mean, they're one and the same. In fact, I think there's a story about the band [Stealers Wheel] maybe not being so crazy about the idea that their song will always be connected to this torture scene. But I think it's an amazing quintessential soundtrack-meets-the-cinematic-moment that "For The Record" is all about.
"For The Record: Scorsese" is at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts through Oct. 16.