Column 246: Lovely, Score…

Category: Blog — @ 7:54 pm November 11, 2009

There were other challenges in making the score and soundtrack to Lovely, Still, including acquiring the rights to use certain Christmas songs throughout the movie. As a result, “We put more money in for that than I thought we would,” Fackler said. In some cases, the price was too high. Jake Bellows and Alessi Laurent-Marke recorded a version of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” that you won’t hear in the film because the cost was simply too steep. Instead, the duo recorded an original Christmas song that sets a similar mood.

I asked Fackler if he ever thought of pulling a John Carpenter and write/compose his own score. “No,” he said, followed by “I mean, I will never say ‘no,’ but who knows what the future holds? Originally I wanted to do some music and have one of my songs in (Lovely, Still), but it was fun collaborating with everyone involved. There’s so much great music out there.”

Go see the movie. It’s playing at the new Marcus Midtown Theater through Thursday night.

Column 246: Lovely, Score
Mogis and Walcott provide the background music…

I’ve been hearing about Lovely, Still for what seems like forever — or at least five years — and last Friday night I got to see the final product.

Lovely, Still is a film by local maverick filmmaker Nik Fackler, who over the years you’ve read about in this column, whether it was about his early days as a music video maker for a plethora of Saddle Creek Records bands or his work creating a video montage that was projected as a backdrop during a Bright Eyes tour or his various music projects, including fronting the band The Family Radio and his work with Derek Pressnall in the revamped Flowers Forever.

Throughout all of that, Lovely, Stillhas provided the ongoing background music to Fackler’s personal symphony. It was (and still is) his day job (though he no longer gets paid for it), the career that his entire life-circle can point toward with pride.

This isn’t going to be a review of the film. Hopefully Ryan Syrek or Ben Coffman will take care of that in the movie section when the film has its “formal release” next spring. Still, I can’t help but add my two cents. The movie, which stars screen legends Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, was much better than I expected based on the film’s early word-of-mouth and chatter from those associated with the production. All I’d heard was that it was an “Alzheimer’s love story,” but it’s much weirder than that. Two days after seeing it, Teresa and I were still talking about it and what certain sequences meant or why Fackler went in the direction that he did. We also conducted the obligatory search for the house used in the film (and found it on 54th St.).

Instead, this is a look at the film’s score. Not the collection of popular songs tied together by a theme — that’s the soundtrack. The score is the orchestral tip-toeing of curiosity or thunderous rise of trumpets when the hero enters the room. The score is the thing you hear but may not notice that is coaxing tears when boy-loses-girl and a smile when boy-gets-girl-again.

Lovely, Still‘s score was created and composed by Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes. As local music insiders know, Mogis, who also plays in Monsters of Folk, is the “secret ingredient” and mad genius arranger that has fueled Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes albums. Walcott, who also played keyboards in the Mystic Valley Band, is a virtuoso who knows how to write sheet music. Fackler’s known both of them for years.

He said the scoring process involved first creating a “temp score” comprised of music from eight different films by composers like Danny Elfman, Jon Brion, Ornette Coleman and Clint Mansell. The temp score, compiled by Fackler, gives the composers an idea of what he has in mind for certain scenes in the film. “We assemble and edit the film, and once we lock the picture, we split it up into five reels, each 15 to 20 minutes long,” Fackler said. “You edit it in portions. You lock reel one, send a DVD of it with the temp score and start scoring the film with keyboards.”

Fackler said Mogis and Walcott would work on themes and he would come in and listen and make suggestions — slower here, faster there, and so on. After that was “locked,” the three entered Mogis’ ARC Studio with a “small orchestra” comprised of members of the Omaha Symphony who brought the score to life. All of the score’s guitar parts were played by Mogis, while the keyboards were played by Walcott.

When it all comes together, it sounds like, well, a motion picture. Like any good score, the music is both subtle and necessary; it quietly tugs the viewer along like a sonic flashlight without getting in the way, and like anything else that these two composers have created, could stand on its own as modern classical music.

Facker said the score was one of his favorite parts of the movie. “I listen to a lot of classical music, and the only place you can go and hear new orchestral music is in film and video games,” he said. “Mike and Nate did an amazing job.”

Of course there also is a soundtrack, comprised of songs written and performed by Saddle Creek Records’ artists who are Fackler’s friends and associates. Since this is a (spoiler alert!) Christmas film, most of those songs are holiday themed or covers of Christmas classics, all picked by Fackler. “For a long time, I gave copies of the screenplay to bands I’ve worked with and asked if they’d be interested in contributing original music,” he said.

Among them, Cursive’s Tim Kasher, Tilly and the Wall, Son, Ambulance, Bright Eyes, Alessi Laurent-Marke, Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Lawrence Kansas singer/songwriter Arthur Dodge. The song that plays during the end credits — Bright Eyes’ “Make a Plan to Love Me,” was written especially for the film and was originally called “Lovely, Still Theme.” Fackler said Oberst changed the name when he included it on his last Bright Eyes’ album, Cassadaga. That’s followed by Son, Ambulance’s “Quand Tu Marches Seul,” which also appeared on that band’s last record, Someone Else’s Deja Vu.

Some of the original songs didn’t make it into the film, but will be included in the Soundtrack to Lovely, Still, which Fackler said Saddle Creek Records will likely release next spring when the film gets its formal national release.

The score, the soundtrack, it all works. Find out for yourself before the film’s special engagement at the new Marcus Midtown Theater ends Thursday night.

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Tomorrow: An interview with Chris Crisci of Old Canes. They’re playing at Slowdown Jr. tomorrow night…

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