We caught up with Michelle de Vries, music supervisor, who talked about her latest work 'Bros: After the Screaming Stops'.
Working on films is an intense process and when I talk to fellow supervisors you don’t know the number of times I hear at the end of a project “I’m never putting myself through that again!” , “I’ve been tearing my hair out, can’t do this anymore”, etc etc (Until the next script arrives of course and it’s all forgotten :-)
However, I had a project last year called “After The Screaming Stops” about the 80’s boy band Bros- it was one of those few projects I walked away from feeling really happy with the results, knowing we had done a good job and sad that the project ended. The premiere was a huge success, and the film has received incredible reviews since it has aired on the BBC including some saying it is the best music documentary since “This Is Spinal Tap”! For those who haven’t seen it yet, the film is definitely NOT your average boy band or reunion doc!
The film was a fantastic project to work on from beginning to end, probably because I've worked with the Directors, Joe Pearlman and David Soutar aka “Souts” and Editor, Will Gilbey before and so we knew each other well enough to all be on the same wavelength and trust each other’s taste in music. Also, the production company, Fulwell 73, left a good amount of time post edit for the music and score so that we could really think about music choices rather than be under intense pressure time wise and have to throw things in last minute which is what is so often (sadly) the case.
I’m so glad the film is being taken seriously and receiving such positive reviews and I’m really delighted people are enjoying the soundtrack so much. Believe it or not there are actually very few songs in it by the band Bros themselves. I think the Directors were keen for the film to be about their relationship rather than focus on the Band’s music.
Choosing tracks for the film was an enormously rewarding process. To tell you the truth I was never a Bros fan but I became very quickly emotionally involved and fascinated by Matt and Luke Goss. I was hearing reports of intense rehearsals and at times I was concerned that the band weren’t doing warm up shows or anything before undertaking such a massive first show reunion in the O2, so I held my breath for them on several occasions. The Brothers do not hold back on feelings and it’s easy for them to get under your skin. Very quickly into the process I found myself caring deeply about the characters who were clearly at times in a fragile state and had gone through very troubling moments in their lives. I just hoped that the O2 show would go down well, for them and of course their loyal fans who had waited several years to see them again.
Their relationship is complex and during the editing process sometimes it was hard for me to smile for a day or two. Often after watching clips for a few hours I would feel quite dark and sad for them, but then a scene would come in that was joyous and would make us laugh and smile again- they can be very funny too, mostly unintentionally, which makes it even funnier! But I won’t deny it, I felt quite drained a lot of the time, I wanted so badly for them to succeed and so working on the film was definitely what you would call “an emotional experience”.
Licensing wise it would have been easy to do an 80’s soundtrack but the film itself isn’t easy and the directors were keen to surprise viewers. There are actually only a few Bros songs in the film, and the eclectic soundtrack includes Dion’s “The Wanderer” and “Funky Broadway Pt 1 and 2” by Dyke And The Blazers , and an old Rock classic, “Rock N Roll Hoochie Koo” by Rick Derringer. We took little snippets from the guys’ personalities and their history to make these choices - Joe Pearlman, one of the Directors, knew they’d grown up listening to funk and soul and used that as a tone to start with, but each song was then carefully chosen because of something that was hinted at in the film or from the feel we got from their body language etc - we didn't want to make our references too obvious. Perhaps it’s not our job and as a supervisor, you should usually be neutral, but the characters drew us in so much we chose a couple of songs that had lyrics which we wanted the boys to relate to, maybe even learn something from...
We’ve had lots of really positive social media comments about the end credit choice “Brother” by Kodaline. I wish I could say how clever a choice it was on my part but I knew the end credit had to be about them, and in all honesty I thought I am being too obvious, but regardless let's just google “songs about brothers“.
"Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straights came up and I loved the sentiment but it felt too heavy and not quite lyrically correct, I also of course loved the idea of “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother”, but when I heard the Kodaline track I actually burst in to tears as it was just perfect lyrically. We used the acoustic version which was even better tonally, so finding the end credit took in total all of about ten minutes!
The film is quite dark and sad in places and the score needed to reflect that but it needed to take the viewer on an emotional journey without being too heavy or clichéd. Watching it is a roller coaster, so the score needed to remain in the back ground enough not to overshadow but supportive enough to let Matt and Luke tell their very honest story. (Don't believe those media reports which have suggested the film was scripted- it is 100% real). The Directors wanted a score that hinted very slightly at the 80’s, but with a modern twist. I put together a “mood board” playlist for the Composers with tracks that contained modular synth sounds as well as some 80’s Korg and Fairlight sounds. We thought it would be important to also use live drums throughout as Luke is a drummer and I wanted to use some old 80's reverb sounds on them like the Lexicon 224X and so when it came to choosing composers I didn’t have to look far from home.
My partner, David Rowntree is the drummer in the band Blur and has recently been writing some excellent scores and I saw many parallels between his story and Luke’s . Drummers are often overshadowed in bands by stronger characters and can sometimes have confidence issues and have frustrations over getting their voices heard. I wanted someone who would highlight Luke’s story too, as well as Matt’s. We asked David to co-score it with Ian Arber as he writes the most beautiful haunting string based melodies which were definitely needed for some of the more emotional scenes - I love the score they did which was superbly mixed by Richard Addis at Halo Post.
I wish all projects could be this easy to work on and be so rewarding, but life is never quite so predictable and who would want it to be? I’m starting a new film this week - let’s see what happens.
If you’re interested in the licensed tracks we chose for the film, I’ve made a Spotify playlist here - one track is missing called “Move” by Jesse and James as it's not available to stream, but all the other tracks are here.
The Score Soundtrack is availaible on Lakeshore Records
“BROS: AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS”
Directed by David Soutar and Joe Pearlman
Produced by Fulwell 73 Ltd