After watching and reviewing Stadium Anthems, I was able to interview the director/writer/producer, Scott Douglas Brown, and gain some information about himself and the film. Hope you all enjoy!
When did you get the idea for this film and how long did it take to make?
I’ve always had a voracious appetite for music, specifically the record album as it's most fully realised art form. But the specific premise for Stadium Anthems came after watching the recorded music industry collapse with the advent of Napster and other file-sharing applications, followed by years of unwillingness by major labels to concede the inevitability of declining physical sales.
Their failure to optimise that same file-sharing technology for their own survivals — and those of their artists — was such a brutal misstep. Steve Jobs and Apple were obviously watching that same recorded music industry implosion — I started a script, Jobs created iTunes!
Stadium Anthems was drafted and constantly revised before and after work during my seven-year day job as a Human Resources Manager at a natural gas utility, a role which required that I preemptively mitigate common workplace transgressions, inclusive of The Usually Male Business Leader’s curious habit of straying from selected employment laws.
As is now more universally understood in our post-Weinstein, #MeToo world, corner office types can be the biggest self-entitled offenders of workplace law and interpersonal decorum. Those workforce observations are on blast in Stadium Anthems. Our film is arguably no less a workplace satire than it is a music industry satire.
A decade elapsed between writing the first bits of script and outputting the finished film for theatrical presentation.
Was this your first film or had you done some prior work?
First film. I've been writing this and that for a lifetime, but Stadium Anthems was my first screenplay — my 10,000th, if you weigh revisions. In fact it was my first time bridging my writing over into any visual medium, much less one as inherently collaborative as film. I learned that I really like collaboration.
When was the exact release date?
November 30, 2018, starting with a short theatrical run in Hollywood. Which we’ll forever hold onto experientially, but it sounds more posh than it was.
How much was scripted and how much was improvised from the script?
Fully scripted. But many a pleasant surprise was enjoyed when our talented actors brought an alternative line, cadence, or intention to what I’d long-presumed the words would require. Gotta let actors act!
All due respect to Tarantino and Kevin Smith, but their first films, Reservoir Dogs and Clerks, both show their smaller budget at times. I never noticed that in this film. How much were you able to work while making the film?
Well, thanks a ton for noting that, Blake. The exact financial spend is currently causing some buyer’s remorse, so let’s just stipulate that it cost more than Clerks but less than Reservoir Dogs.
That said, I’d argue the film’s quality is owed more to sound hiring than expenditure. One thing Human Resources taught me that was instantly transferable to filmmaking: Don't make the hire until you find the absolute right person. That started with Denise Strong, our Co-Producer, who would ensure we made our shooting days.
Robert Muratore was our Director of Photography; his work shows up at Sundance most years now, I was elated to have him first set up the camera where he thought it’d best serve the scene. Pamela Chavez was our set designer; we have relatable aesthetics, and she was organised as hell.
Our costumer Stephanie Michas just got it in terms of the very pointed evocations our wardrobe had to have. And in post, I edited with Sundance vet Chad Herschberger from Milkhaus off and on, before then spending three times our allocation doing colour correction with Dave Krahling.
The look and feel of Stadium Anthems is specific, but it came from converging efforts.
Many directors have a playlist they associate with work, so what was it for this film?
The songs in the film credited to Vaderland are songs I wrote. They comprise roughly half of the film’s music, and I started those demos a decade ago. I’ve found that what’s listened to during songwriting can be no less impactful than a cook choosing ingredients to toss in the soup, so music consumption was a constant but carefully considered exercise.
Stadium Anthems champions the DIY work ethic in music creation. I’d argue that the roots of that family tree were first exemplified by Iggy Pop and The Stooges in the late ‘60s, and the branches by late ‘70s, early ‘80s post-punk bands: groups of friends that may have first seen technically elite outfits like Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin before saying, “I can’t do that,” but then they saw the rawness of The Sex Pistols a few years on, and bought guitars the next day. Joy Division, The Psychedelic Furs, Bauhaus, Nick Cave, Siouxsie & The Banshees; those artists brought an attitude and energy over initial technical competence.
There’s a drum machine in Stadium Anthems that’s given a name and a personified identity; that’s a straight-up childhood homage to The Sisters of Mercy and their drum machine, Doktor Avalanche. All the aforementioned stuff was in the playlist as I wrote my share of the music and as I wrote the script. At a bottom-line level, Stadium Anthems is a basic love letter to guitar-driven rock music.
The other half of the film’s music dropped in our laps once we met the film’s female lead, Toddy Walters, who was also the female lead in Cannibal! The Musical. Toddy’s a miraculous singer/songwriter from in and around the Kate Bush space. She immediately became our Music Supervisor, too, and her previous recordings became their own form of playlist in the year before filming. In addition to her own stuff, Toddy also sings on the Vaderland stuff.
7. Who are some favourite filmmakers?
Too many and not enough! I’ll limit scope to those which exert a knowing influence on Stadium Anthems. There’s ample supply of Jim Abrahams' and David Zucker’s Airplane and Naked Gun in our film's raunchy gag-centricity. We relate to Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich in its dark absurdity and prerequisite suspension of disbelief.
This Is Spinal Tap is in the pantheon, as Stadium Anthems is also a mockumentary borne of the music space. In terms of proper rockumentaries, Grant Gee’s Joy Division is top-shelf — our choice to stage character interviews in black attire against a black backdrop before further crushing the blacks in post, that’s directly lifted from Grant’s film.
Do you have any recent movie recommendations? Anything people should watch? (Aside from your own movie, of course!)
Can you handle five hours of subtitles? If so, I’ll stump for Lars Von Trier’s Riget, packaged as The Kingdom in English-speaking territories. It’s a Danish TV series that ran from 1994 through 1997; long before Von Trier became obsessed with provocation over story.
In Riget, increasingly weird haunting-type shit happens at a hospital built on marshes with their own supernatural history. What ensues is darkly fantastical, and it’s just as wry as it gets. Riget is best consumed as a five-hour movie — no sweat in this age of binge-watching.
What other kinds of things have you written? Any secret novels or plays or anything that never saw the light of day?
I went to college for Creative Writing, and took on a poetry emphasis to fine-tune my word choice within tight spaces. I found getting published wasn’t hard; nor did it justify my work, so I soon stopped seeking that as an end result.
I did demo twenty fully-fleshed out songs for Stadium Anthems that the film didn’t end up asking for. But they’re just as good, and I’ll want to get them out there someday — likely under the continuing band imprint “Vaderland” — and with the same musicians, if we all prove up for collaborating on their deconstruction and reassembly. It comes to pass that songwriting is currently my most psychologically rewarding writing vehicle: a great middle ground between the banality and fleetingness of a social media post, and the grueling long-term cycle of filmmaking, which in some ways only offers a final mountain climber’s payoff once the film is “in the can.”
Great songs live forever.
So does that mean you something in the pipeline already? What’s next?
I’ve now written a bible for a workforce-based series that explores the gap between the inherent dark side of human behavioural tendencies and the unattainable ideal of squeaky-clean workforce behaviour (I haven’t gone west to pitch it yet, as I’ve been saddled with marketing Stadium Anthems).
If all that sounds like The Office, it’s not. I’m also sketching out a single-setting film script which takes places at a retirement home, as it’d be ambitious to present the inevitabilities of the ageing process and end-of-life concerns to a younger target audience: it’s fertile ground for layered work — and not without some space for highly unusual humour.
If you write regularly or have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, feel free to let us know!
I often told my friends, “I’ll get on social media when I have something to sell you.” Yeah, I’m “that guy." So I’m on those platforms now, but find myself tragically lonely there, despite their polar opposite pretence of offering human connection. And it’s so difficult to rise above the muck. They’re also a straight-up time suck: I’m quickly concluding I’ll have to step away from their short-term gratifications in favour of larger-scale pursuits. I’d just rather use the moment to write offline and play the long game.
In every interview, I like to ask this at the end: Got anything to share? It can be related or not, and can be anything you have on your mind that we haven’t talked about.
One moment as I climb atop my soapbox: Films and songs are measurably our most treasured art, but since they can be digitised, they offer the artist little compensation and therefore little chance to reload. So don’t just stream a thing; buy it. Then if there’s a show, go to the show. And if there’s a reasonably priced t-shirt at the show, buy that, too. Artists want to make more things that speak to us, but it’s tough as hell out there.
Super Ink Arts would like to thank Scott Douglas Brown for his time. Stadium Anthems can be found on Amazon Video, Google Play, and YouTube.
Written by Blake Preston