'Sopranos' creator David Chase chats about his new film 'Not Fade Away'(Read article summary)
'Sopranos' creator David Chase discusses his new movie and the love of rock 'n' roll that inspired it.
Barry Wetcher/Paramount Vantage/AP
You probably know David Chase best as the creative genius behind The Sopranos.Â The showÂ may haveÂ ended, but Chaseâs career not only lives on, he can now add feature film director to his list of credits.Â His new film, Not Fade Away,Â screened at the Paramount Theater inÂ Austin Film Festival Thursday.
The film, aÂ love letterÂ to rock nâ roll âÂ music that Chase says âsaved my lifeâ âÂ follows a group of friends in 1964 surburbanÂ New Jersey whose lives are transformed after seeing the Rolling Stones perform live on television. They form a band and go through the motions of making it big.Â Thanks to the omniscent narrator â the lead characterâs little sister â we know right off the bat theyâre not going to make it, but that doesnât do anything to dampen the journey. The angst, the passion, the tension between bandmembers, the inevitable love storyÂ â and yes the music â drive a sweet and compelling narrative that pays homage to both coming of age in the 60âsÂ and to Chaseâs ownÂ teenage years as a wannabeÂ rock star growing up in New Jersey.Â Â Oh, and it also has James Gandolfini.
David Chase was on hand to introduce the film and take questions after the screening.Â The following are some of the highlights:
Q: What was the inspiration for the film?
A. The inspiration was the music. I was an English major. I learned more from â I probably shouldnât admit this â but I learned more from rock nâ roll than I ever learned from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Music turned me around at ages of 17-21. It changed my life. It was an amazing time to be alive.Â Everytime the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or Bob Dylan put out a new album- which was everyÂ six months â it was like quantum leap forward.Â Between Rubber Soul and Revolver it was like a miracle. It made you feel so good.I thoughtÂ ifÂ thatâs what art was, I could do that. You know you see art as a little kid in museums and itâs beautiful but it feels so remote. This was alive.
Â Q:Â IÂ saw that StevenÂ Van ZandtÂ was the executive producer. How did he contribute? Did he share his own stories?
A: No,Â he didnât share stories, in fact he was was opposed to me doingÂ this.Â He said âWhy donât you do a crime story? This is going to be hard to sell, hard to market.â He doesnât understand why these guys [in the film]Â are scared to play and scared to make it, but heâs one of the ones who made it.
Q: When you introduced the film you said it was semi-autobiographical. The kids inÂ bandÂ spend a lot of timeÂ spouting quasi-intellectual riffs. Were you and your friends like that?
A:Â Yeah,Â kind of. I mean we were so pretentious that we never played for anyone becauseÂ we were âtoo goodâ. The guys in the movie, they at least played a couple of dates. We just stayed in the basement and practiced. We only played for ourselves.
Q: Can you talk about the budget? You use a lot period stuff âÂ costumes, music, carsâŚ
A: People say itâs a small movie and I guess it is smallÂ but it wasnât cheap.Â I couldnât have gotten an independent production company to make it.Â The music rights aloneâŚParamount did, they screamed bloody murder but they did it. Steven [Van Zandt] wasÂ helpful because he had relationships with labels, so we got a good deal, but it still cost a fortune.
Q: You got the period dead on. How hard was itÂ to get the 60âs artifacts?
A: The cars were a big part- that guy Iâd like to kill, the car guy. It was hard to get stuff and then it never seemed like things worked â the trunk didnât open when you needed it to or the car wouldnât start.
Â We spent a lot of time â a lot of time -Â getting the right instruments, the guitars and the drums. Sometimes I think itâs easier to make a film set in 1863 than 1963.Â In 1863 you donât have the real streets, you have to recreate a set. Here you can use the real streets and dress them, but reality always intrudes somehow.Â You know, all of a sudden,Â a Fed Ex truck drives by. I always say I wonât make another period piece but I donât know of thatâs true.
Q: Can you talkÂ about the music â I saw in the credits you wrote song with Steven Van Zandt â how was the experienceÂ of choosing music for the film?
A: Stevie and I wrote the medicalÂ jingle (audience laughs here â see the film and youâll get it) Steve wrote the song that they use when they master the audition. At one point I was frustrated and wanted to quit writing and Steve sent me a demo with that song and it kept me going.
Â Â Q:Â It was an interesting choice using theÂ sister as a narrative device. Can you talk about why you did that and what point inÂ the process you decided to use her?
A: I decided to do itÂ in post production. I had shown the film to some people and they didnât get that the band never went anywhere. They spent the whole film trying to figure out who they were. some people thought they were supposed to be the RollingÂ Stones.Â I also got the Byrds. IÂ realized that IÂ needed to state up front that they never became anybody, so that the audience could just relax into it and be with the story.
Q: I noticed you use the holidays to anchor the storyâŚwhy?
A: Thatâs how I remember it going when I was that age, coming home at holidays and life revolving around those times. I was frustrated with the process at one point and ready toÂ give upÂ Stevie Van ZandtÂ sent aÂ demoof one of the main songsÂ and the progression of theÂ lyrics wentÂ from holiday to holiday â I thought it was a sign.
Chase introduced the film by invoking Buddy Holly:
âI found out earlier that today is Buddy Hollyâs birthday. As you know he wrote the song âDonât Fade Awayâ that the film is named for. I canât even wrap my mind around the fact that this film is having is screening hereÂ on his birthday. So Buddy this is for you, I hope you enjoy the movie.â
Erin Essenmacher blogs at The Film Panel Notetaker.