& MICK FLEETWOOD
When Jerry became President of Programming at Showtime in 1994, he told me he was going to change the look of the Network. He asked me if I would be interested in helping to change its sound. I told him that I wanted to re-invent myself, graduate out my music anchor and make movies where music was an integral and organic component. Given my active participation in all phases of the video making process which accompanied the many records that I had arranged and produced over the years, (in addition to all of my music production experience), I thought the skills would transfer. Jerry advised me that I needed to truly learn my way around the cinematic campus, and if I helped quarterback the music for the Network I would be right in the heart of it. I would meet and work with all levels of directors, writers and producers - from the most stellar to the most lame. If I absorbed and participated in the process - from a music vantagepoint at first - I would gain knowledge and experience along the way. I might even be able to work with people who were making higher budgeted theatrical films who would stop at Showtime to make their projects of artistic passion. I could also do this "off campus" and non-exclusively, so that I could pursue other endeavors as well.
Jerry Offsay was 100% right on the money. After Morling and I worked on a multitude of Showtime films where I was the Supervising Music Producer and many times songwriter, I felt that my skill sets were ready to tackle being in charge of all aspects of the production process. With Jerry's support and guidance, I got involved with MR. MUSIC. It was at a stage where Canadian screenwriter Roy Sallows had a clever and very real concept, in the form of a few pages. Both Suzanne (who has great story sense and development ideas) and I got on the ground floor and were given the opportunity to develop, cast and produce the picture.
Since I hadn't taken charge of a complete production on my own before, Jerry and talented Showtime creative executive Lori Kahn teamed me up with veteran film and television producer, Dan Paulson. Dan and I developed a solid working relationship during the making of a very powerful film that Dan produced called "MR. AND MRS. LOVING," starring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon. The film was directed and written by Richard Friedenberg ("The River Runs Through It"). It dealt with the Supreme Court case which overturned the ban on interracial marriages in 1967. I managed to have Curtis Mayfield let use his classic, "People Get Ready," to punctuate the film. Composer Branford Marsalis and I reunited the original Impressions to perform the song for the movie, and it really worked. Dan and I developed a warm respect for one another in the process, thus when Jerry and Lori suggested we team up on MR. MUSIC, I was right there.
MR. MUSIC is about our fictional music guru, Simon Eckstal, played by Fleetwood Mac founder, Mick Fleetwood. He was the owner of a small record company and a former guitarist on albums with the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Paul McCartney. He used his success to start his own label so that he could nurture new talent on his terms. Now, years later, his once thriving business has lost so much money that he’s on the verge of bankruptcy. His studio is relegated to turning out puppy food commercials.
I got to make my acting debut as the sleazy Madison Avenue ad executive who produces a hip, female urban trio singing a song that Steve Plunkett, screenwriter Roy Sallows and I wrote called: "Puppy Munchies." I, of course, was not interested in the commercial but one of the beautiful babes doing the singing!
Mick’s character is so despondent at his plight. While hanging out with his best friend, who is a disc jockey, they figure out that "the kids of today are the ears of tomorrow." The jock is played by a real one - Canadian star, Dan Gallagher. If Mick could hire a 15-year-old kid to run the talent division of his company, (even from a publicity stunt perspective), he might get some better talent and save the label.
That’s what happens. His pal runs a radio contest, and the winner is hired by Mick. A young brilliant talent, Jonathan Tucker, plays Rob Tennant, a 15-year-old who risks his friendships at school to fulfill his musical destiny. He actually discovers a terrific band, (played by a real band, RCA's Treble Charger), and takes what he believes to be their best song and transforms it into a hit. He learns a lot about himself, relationships and dream realization in the process of saving Mick’s company. At the end of the movie, both Jonathan and Mick’s characters are feeling "At the Top Of The World." This of course called for me to produce and arrange an original song with that title to punctuate that sentiment, which I wrote with Steve Plunkett and Andy Curran. Andy is the lead singer of a Geffen Records "real band" called Caramel, who we also cast into the body of the film to play themselves. We built a promo video into the movie, to run over the end credits, featuring the band and bringing the song to life. Fred Gerber did a great job directing the film. I look forward to the opportunity of working with him again.
One of the things I am proudest of in the making of this film is that we utilized real people from music to play music people - not the typical Hollywood caricature and stereotype of this culture. I am also thrilled that my life partner, Suzanne, made such strong creative contributions as the Co - Producer of the movie. Additionally, my close friend Graham Nash let us use his standards "Teach Your Children" and "Our House" to highlight key story points. The movie also featured three dynamic songs by Pat Benatar and Christine McVie’s Fleetwood Mac classic, "Songbird." Dan and I are hoping that our film will serve as a back door pilot for a weekly Network series, a' la, Ferris Bueller in the music business. "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch," now a massive hit ABC Television series, on which I served as the Music Consultant, was originally a Showtime movie that spun into a series. Maybe MR. MUSIC can follow the same path.