Behind The Music in the Movie


I’m at Williamsburg Music Hall listening to my favorite band in the universe. I should be focused on filming but their music has this way of turning me into a drooling groupie.

Music is such a powerful creative tool for me. When I sat down to write the first draft of a screenplay that would eventually become Hello Lonesome I was listening to a lot of Beatles, especially Eleanor Rigby, and the script itself started to take shape as a triptych about three very different lives with a very similar heartache. I was inspired by the structure of the Beatles song with it’s swelling strings and dovetailing stories, I even named one of the central characters Eleanor and the first draft was titled All The Lonely People.

The script took some time to develop and each successive draft was given a lighter touch and more humor.  I knew the title was going to have to change. All The Lonely People started to feel too depressing and melancholy for what I was creating.

At that point I was addicted to the (bluegrass meets alt rock) magic of Jones Street Station out of Brooklyn. I only knew of Jones Street Station because my amazing wife Nell went to Indiana University with the insanely talented Jon Hull and was herself a huge fan. (That’s Johnny on the vocals  – with the long hair – in the clip below.)

I settled for some time on the title Kingdom Of Gravy. The actors all signed up to make Kingdom of Gravy and we went into production with this somewhat goofy title. The phrase came from a scene where the character of Bill (played by real life voice-over artist Harry Chase) tries to convince his wife not to leave him. (Here is that line from Harry’s marked up script.)

*Dr’s Note: I’m thoroughly in debt to the incredible actress Traci Hovel for her tearful performance as Bill’s wife Trish. This heavy scene was the last melodramatic holdover from the first draft to finally disappear in the edit. With the phrase “kingdom of gravy”  cut from the film the title would have to change (again) since the title makes no sense whatsoever without it and generally seems to make people think of mashed potatoes and thanksgiving.

So began the long lists of possible new names all too embarrassing to list here. I had a movie in the can but no title and I’m certain I tortured everyone in my life with the thankless task of helping me find the films true and final namesake.

All through production and post I was listening to the Jones Street Station albums and when we were cutting the film their heartfelt but hopeful tunes connected perfectly with so many moments.

What most people don’t know is that Jones Street Station actually named the film. The title “Hello Lonesome” is borrowed from a track on their first album, Overcome. We had used the track for a key moment when the character Bill is at the pinnacle of boredom: jumping on his trampoline. Bill’s head floats into frame from below before floating down, his mop of blond hair bouncing in slow motion. Watching this moment – set to a twinkling toy piano – the idea hit me and stuck forevermore. We would call the movie Hello Lonesome. I knew it was perfect. (And thankfully, the band agreed.)

This was only beginning of this very special partnership that I hope never ends. In addition to lending us songs from their first and second album, the band would go on to compose two original pieces including the “Hello Lonesome Theme” and the original score for our six minute climax. They even provided the perfect song for our trailer (Embedded below, the trailer features “Oh, Victoria” from their second albumIn Versus)

As if that’s not enough already, they also provided the utterly pitch perfect track for our opening credits (Which it’s worth noting were singled out by SXSW in the Excellence in Title Design Category) We’ve named this track “Tilt-Shift” after the effect used to create the miniature model look. Check it out…

This show at Williamsburg Music hall is their last before heading back into the studio to record their third album.  (I can hardly wait!) The boys are clearly at the height of their powers and my imagination is running wild.

Must be time to start making another movie.

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