For our third interview with the cast and crew of The Beat Beneath My Feet, we talked to the writer/producer Michael Müller. For everything you ever wanted to know about the film, read on.
Well first up you are, of course, the writer of the film as well as the producer. What first inspired you to write this story?
I always wanted to be a rock star ever since I was a teenager! And I don’t know, there’s something immediate about music that lets you plug into it emotionally. And I’ve always loved music, it makes me feel things! And I have two teenage sons now and they’re both really into their music. I guess it somehow subconsciously bubbled up in me with my boys playing guitar around the house. So that’s where the inspiration for the music side of it came from. I had a really good experience on our last film which I wrote and produced. And one of the processes that I really loved was doing the music and I got on so well with the composers… So I said in the next film let’s make music a really sensual thing, and how much more sensual can you get than a teenager that wants to be a rock star?
How did the casting process for Luke Perry work out and what was it like working with him?
We sent him the script and he loved it and came over. I mean, the whole deal was done in 2 weeks, and we were filming. It was crazy but fantastic. And he is really cool. When you have someone like Luke, it’s a big advantage because he has already lived through that… He understood what this character has been through. In the story, the character Max Stone, was say the lead guitarist of Nirvana, that sort of level. He then has a complete breakdown due to his personal circumstances and he has this massive tax fraud that all goes belly-up so he decides, that the best way to do it was to fake his own death and live like an ordinary person. He resurfaces in social housing in south London and that’s where our story begins!
I did love the irony of having a rock star in social housing in London!
And an American one as well! The danger with something like this is that it becomes a kind of kitchen sink-y kind of thing and you need something that just widens it out. In Billy Elliot which is another wonderful movie that I love, for us it was music, for them it was dance. And they set it against a kind of political backdrop of the miners’ strike and that gave it, kind of, scale. So our equivalent to that is that he’s an American and he has got a lot to loose from being discovered when this kid recognises him. Ultimately it’s a story of redemption for Luke’s character and coming of age Nick’s character, the teenager, Tom.
But equally, Tom has a lot to lose if his mother finds out about this…
Tom is being brought up by his Mom and she’s had a bad experience with Tom’s father who wanted to be a rock star, he’s a bit of a a waster character. She doesn’t want that for her son. And do you know what? I have the same conversations with my teenage boys! I say to my son Louis “you see how hard it is! Go to university! Get a degree! ” So in a way there’s a part of me that’s Luke’s character, part of me is Tom’s character and I’m in the middle as well with Mary. But that’s why I love being a writer, I have everybody’s voice. I get inside their emotional skin and that’s when all your characters have an individual voice rather than just a single voice. So you have to be a bit schizophrenic I suppose. But then again we all are… Aren’t we?
And of course alongside Luke we had Nick, at the other end of the spectrum, doing his first feature film. How did that contrast play out for you as you worked with both of them?
Look, it’s a big risk of course when you’re putting a film on the shoulders of someone who has never done a feature film before. Nick had actually never done any screen work at all. But his casting was so fantastic. And he plays the guitar and he sings. He looks great. And he can act as well! That is a hard match to find and believe me we looked at a lot of people! And what I love about Nick that he’s completely unspoiled, you know, he didn’t go to stage school or anything like that. You get a lot of these screen school kids that are terribly sophisticated and they have lost their childish naivety but Nick still had that. So in a way he had that inner nerd that he could plug into.
I heard that there was a quite a good, almost family like atmosphere on set as well. Is that true?
Yes, there was a fantastic atmosphere on set. And one of the reasons for that was we had a very female-centric set. The DOP, the heads of wardrobe and make up and the set designer were all women. And I really like that vibe on set. Film sets can be very hard places, there can be a lot of macho posturing and for some films, yeah, maybe you need that, maybe it’s a gangster flick and you need that guys posing with the guns thing… As a filmmaker I’m not like that and we had a lovely atmosphere on set and it was because it had very much more of a female vibe.
And of course we’re doing the interview at the Crowd Shed HQ.
I understand you’re in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign. How is that going?
It’s going really well! We’re 20% funded out of 75 000 pounds which sounds like a lot of money but in our business it isn’t really. And what we want the money for is this: We have had some very good feedback and reviews, the festivals have been really positive. We’ve got a screening at the Clapham Picturehouse on November the 9th, which is a Sunday at ten o’clock! And we want the word out there that we’ve got this great film. You know, how will people watch a film if they don’t know it’s out there? So it’s a marketing campaign that we’re raising money for.
Lastly any future projects? What are you working on at the moment?
A darkly comic road movie! Starts in Bournemouth and ends in Bradford. It is a younger girl and an older guy who set off in an improbably situation So it’s kind of young and old…
The same dynamic as The Beat Beneath My Feet.
Well it works really well, because you want your characters to have different life perspectives. And these are two very different kinds of characters. Both the characters are running away but through running away they find what it is they have been running away from, so they can continue their lives with a little bit of equilibrium. Thanks, Michael.