The Wrong Influences
Anyone who has read this blog at one point or another can probably concede that I enjoy music. And that I sometimes like to write things. But what I really, really love is ﬁnding ways to let music inﬂuence my writing. I’m the most tone deaf person you’ll ever meet, and any hope of me becoming a musician is laughable. But any art that I end up making is always inspired by music in one way or another. I take themes and feelings and vibes from my favorite songs, and try to write scripts and make ﬁlms that elicit the same feelings in people.
Right now, I’m getting ready to ﬁlm a very strange web-series. It’s an Adult Swim style show, full of bizarre alternative humor (that’s hopefully hilarious). A few weeks ago, I had a realization that the show is similar to bebop jazz. The episodes are short, and packed with jokes and creative shots. It’s the kind of show that is going to interest somebody who is really interested in comedy, but not a casual TV viewer. I view the show as an attempt to demonstrate as many cool techniques as possible without worrying about ﬂow, in the same way that bebop musicians prioritized technical virtuosity over “danceability.” That realization made my writing better, and I immediately added a jazz soundtrack to the show, which tied the whole thing together.
Of course, the biggest inﬂuence on my writing will always be Grateful Dead music. The positivity, the shufﬂing pace, the bizarre folksiness, the characters who are all losers but always think their luck is about to change…I try to work all of this stuff into most of my scripts. But sometimes, your favorite band just isn’t the right ﬁt. For the past year I’ve been working on a road trip comedy that I think could be a huge movie someday. I was ﬁnishing a draft of it over the weekend, but something just wasn’t right. I was disappointed, but fortunately I was listening to an Allman Brothers Band album as I read through it. The pairing of this music and the script made me realize what it was missing. The script had too much Grateful Dead inﬂuence, too much American weirdness and cosmic magic. What it needed was a healthy dose of Allman Brothers. It needed some grit, some emphasis on family and brotherhood, some beer- soaked Americana that felt real, unlike the campﬁre story aesthetic that you ﬁnd in Grateful Dead songs. Time to start another draft…
I think this knowledge will ﬁx a lot of the script’s problems, but I’m even more certain that new problems will arise along the way. But the real takeaway here is that music will always be there to get me through these creative jams. Odds are this movie won’t be the script that punches my ticket into Hollywood. But when I do write that one, I know something in my music library will help me out.
Music Lover Avoiding Being Pigeonholed