The Power Of The Arts Through Film & Music
When I was in high school all I wanted to do was history yet the way the class timetable fell meant I ended up in Music class instead. It wasn’t as if I disliked music; to end up in the class it had to be on my preference list in the first place but it was never a burning passion of mine. This week’s featured film director Jenn Page has been drawn to music even from a young age, and her most recent work is all about bringing music and film together in the same space to deliver an important message about the power of the arts on people with different backgrounds.
“It’s funny, I remember failing the band test in Jr. High and I’ve never been able to hold a tune, but yes I’ve always been drawn to music” Jenn said, “I honestly believe music is the most powerful art form. We can get chills from the first note of a song. Music makes movies better. And since I can’t be a rock star it seems being a director who directs music projects is the closest I’ll ever get.”
It is clear that the arts have been a big part of Jenn’s life from filming lip syncing and dance performances of her siblings and cousins on VHS to years of acting all the way through to graduating University with a theatre degree. But soon her passions shifted nudging her behind the camera. “After moving to L.A. a few years later, and struggling to even get an audition, I started my first production company with some friends.” Jenn explained, “We made short films for ourselves to star in long before the digital revolution. Finally, after a couple years of that, I picked up a camera and never looked back. I found that I just didn’t care about being in the film moments as much as I loved creating the moments.”
Her most recent film Playing With Beethoven comes around the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven and is all round a celebration of music and the arts. “Our writer, Catherine Shefski, a Philedelphia local, actually reached out to me on Twitter. She had written a script for a Philly screenplay contest and was a finalist. I read her script and just fell in love” Jenn said. The story follows dedicated classical piano student Josh, who rarely leaves the practice room, as he falls under the spell of a free-spirited beauty, Charlotte. On the day before a life-changing competition, Josh goes against his better judgement, and the wishes of his stern teacher Victor Zabov, and joins Charlotte for a night of music and adventure. Josh’s experiences on the journey teach him that life, like music, is all about taking risks.
The production of the film also took a page from the book of it’s main character’s journey taking risks in order to get made. “We tried to figure out how to get it made for years, but never could crack the code on how to finance your own film. Finally, a very kind woman and friend of Catherine’s gave us a little money. Not near enough to make it, but we were tired of waiting so we forged ahead,” Jenn explained. “Of course, not having enough money was tricky, especially when this was a music movie that needed so many types of instruments played on screen. To complicate it more, I decided I wanted all the music to be played live on set. It took some convincing to get my composer (and producing partner) Chris Edgar on board, but once he was working with the actors he was just as excited as me.”
The live music aspect, whilst seen as risky at first, quickly became a highlight of the production process. “I was so excited at the prospect of working with real musician/actors and to give the audience a closer feeling to being at a live concert. Every time we were pulling off a song live would make us all giddy; but the kid jazz/rock band was such a happy day. Everyone on the cast and crew were smiling and have such a great time,” Jenn said. “For me a personal highlight was the day we had Kadeem Hardison on set. I was a huge fan of “A Different World,’ especially his character Dwayne Wayne. He was such a kind soul and was really there to dig into the work. Not only was he open to direction, but he wanted it. What a dream for both my teenage self and my director self.“
The film also delivers a really powerful message about the importance of the arts to people of all backgrounds. Living in a country that has just had their federal Arts department absolved by the transport department it’s clear that a message like this is one that is important to many people across the world. “Sadly, arts education is always first on the chopping block when it comes to cutting costs. Kids who grow up in underfunded schools are often not even exposed to music education at all.” Jenn said, “If more people (and particularly young people) understand, because of this film, that music can serve as a way of communicating when words feel difficult or inadequate, I’ll feel like it’s done its work.”
Playing With Beethoven has just started the distribution process to festivals having just recently been accepted by The Women’s Festival Festival in Philadelphia. To stay up to date with where the film will screen next you can sign up to receive email updates via the website or follow the film on Facebook. Check out the trailer below: