Music has always meant a lot to me. When I first heard “Thunder Road”, I discovered a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed. It sounds cliché, but that song literally changed my life. I have also always been a movie person, dragging my wife to movies both good and bad. The other week, while walking out of a horror movie called As Above, So Below I told her that we should start keeping track of all of the money we spend on bad movies—movies that make Rotten Tomatoes steam with indignation—just because it would be kind of funny.
She didn’t think it would be funny.
Being a movie and music person made the LinkedIn connection request and kind note I received from Scott McLain the other week that much better. Scott, based in Minneapolis, is a regular guy trying to make it big in an irregular business by producing a movie about a black, female record executive who helped bring a white, English band to America in the 1960’s.
After exchanging a few emails Scott was kind enough to discuss his project via Skype with me, and tell me a little more about what it takes to make a movie come to life when you are just a “regular” person.
Vivian, Viola, and The Beatles
Vivian Carter’s story sounds like a movie, and Scott McLain wants to turn it into one. After winning a local DJ contest in Chicago, Carter and her husband founded Vee-Jay Records in 1953. Vee-Jay would become a major independent label, and was the home of several significant rock and R&B acts in the 50′s and 60′s. The label would also be the first American distributor of The Beatles, before they resolved a dispute with Capitol Records that was based in part on Capitol’s belief that there was no American market for the band.
Vivian Carter believed differently.
Scott has been working on bringing Carter’s story to the screen for ten years, and two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis and her company, JuVee Productions, are attached to Vivian. If Scott’s vision becomes reality Davis may star in and/or produce the film.
Vivian is a great story that could make a great movie—but it isn’t Transformers 9. Social relevance isn’t always at the top of Hollywood’s list when studios are looking for potential films. But it is the forgotten or unknown stories like Carter’s that help bind the known parts of history together and create the story of us, of our culture.
That story is also written by people like Scott McLain, who keep pushing until their dream comes true.
Music, books, movies, and other elements of pop culture help create a common social tapestry. They’ve also created much of my personal tapestry. Some of my best afternoons are like the one that happened just this weekend, where my daughters and I sat in the semi-heated warmth of a discount movie theater, eating dollar hotdogs and Sour Patch Kids while watching If I Stay. George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” makes me think of being a little kid and pretending to sleep in the back of my parents Chevrolet Blazer while they delivered newspapers.
Little moments like that matter, and are worth remembering—and sometimes you remember them because of what was on the screen or the radio when the moment occurred.
Vivian is about a person worth remembering, and could itself be a movie worth remembering. I want Scott to succeed because of those reasons, but more than anything I want him to succeed because I like regular people who want to accomplish irregular things.
And sometimes they do.
Like the time a regular person started a record company, and helped bring The Beatles to America.