Last week I was invited to the private advanced screening of Beat Girl at W Hotel at Leicester Square just next to the M&M World (don’t know why I mentioned that, but I passed the hotel so many times before but never got in). After screening of the movie there was Q&A with the casts, writer, and producer — probably the first kind of press event that I went to. I’m no stranger to Indie cinemas though, as I love my indies as much as I love my blockbusters.
Beat Girl tells the story of Heather, a classical piano student in a mission to get to her dream school. Life is tough though. With the death of mother, Heather needs to move in with her estranged father and half-brother, both of whom aren’t emotionally supportive, and half-bro is especially not welcoming. After a shoplifting rescue of the brother, Heather meets Toby, the owner of a CD store who happens to be cute and a rather successful DJ. Short of money and hearing how much a good DJ could earn in one night (that’s £1000), she starts taking DJ lessons with him.
Here the two worlds start to clash. The late nights prove to be disruptive to morning classes. And classical piano student does DJ-ing? Outrageous! How dare she! How will Heather handle the tension and pressure between her day and night world? The question whether to follow what one loves against the expectation bestowed upon one is hanging throughout the movie.
Afterwards we had Q&A with Louise Dylan (Heather), Craig Daniel Adams (Toby), Melanie Martinez (writer), and Nuno Bernado (producer). First thing I noticed was that the girl and boy playing Heather and Toby are both so much more good looking in real life! — they almost looked completely different for some reason. Very odd. And Craig Daniel Adams talks in Scottish accent in real life which sounds so cute (what’s so irresistible about Scottish and Irish accent?), that is suppressed in the movie.
I threw question about the inception of the story, and it was soon obvious that the story is the brainchild of the producer Nuno Bernado based on his personal experience when he was young. Melanie Martinez the writer came over when the story was pretty much set, then she wrote it and probably fleshed it out more.
I always have great interest in the making of a movie — Indie or otherwise, probably more so for Indie. To be able to come up with a full length movie with small budget is such an achievement. Also working so close to the movie industry, I do have quite a few friends who try to and actually make small films. It is something quite close to my heart.
There was some talk about comparison with Save the Last Dance (the movie which I absolutely loved back when I was in high school!), but Beat Girl is probably targeted for a younger audience. It is a gentle coming-of-age movie about following your heart.
Beat Girl also reminded me a bit of a Certain Indie Movie that also has music as its majority theme — Once. Once is Irish, made with even smaller budget (Once – €130K, Beat Girl – €500K), it has gone to win Oscar for Best Original Song and be critically and commercially successful. It’s just recently made into a musical that has taken Broadway and West End by storm.
Compared with the two older movies (both of which I loved very much), Beat Girl admittedly falls a bit short. For a music theme movie, I thought the soundtrack isn’t strong enough. And for an Indie movie, it is not edgy enough — it is all a bit too gentle and too safe.
Another point of interest is the promotion of the movie. Beat Girl uses all kinds of social media channels, including Pinterest (Beat Girl Pinterest page) which they started even before the movie was out. I thought this one was particularly brilliant. You can use Pinterest to make some kind of story board, flesh out your story ideas, and gauge the audience, before going to make the real thing. There are also book written after the screenplay and game based on the movie. The last two I’m not so sure of. It seems like the energy could’ve been spread a bit too thin for something that wouldn’t work at all if not done properly. (I know, I am a reader and a gamer :)
We do need more Indie cinemas and people making more movies. All the gadgets available to everyone now are already better than the professional gadgets 10 years ago. Technically everybody can make movies and what with the Internet leveling the playing field. In the future we would be able to sell movie anywhere around the world via the Internet.
Lower barrier. More people. Wider market. Exciting time.
Beat Girl coming out in the UK on the 10th of May 2013 and 29th of May in the US.