Yesterday, I went to the movies by myself and saw “Begin Again,” with Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It was full of surprises. For one thing, Adam Levine was terrific in portraying his character. Keira Knightley, looked lovely at some angles, but sometimes also has a smirky pose that appears on film that does her no favors. Mark Ruffalo seems to be visible everywhere these days in a kind of career renaissance after playing the good guy on “13 going on 30” with Jennifer Garner. In between that movie and this one feels like a couple of decades, but whatever. Most actors nowadays are standing in line to test out their pilot TV series no matter how gruesome or dumb the concepts are, e.g., “Extant” with Halle Berry.
But back to the surprises in the movie. (here are some spoilers): Ruffalo and Knightley work together on a project that serves them both well professionally but they don’t end up in bed (or even kissing) each other although they do look longingly at each other every once in awhile. Adam Levine’s character craps on his relationship with Knightley although he is sorry afterwards and he wants her back: she longs for integrity of her songs more than she wants him back. In the end, you realize, dear viewer, that the whole movie is about how compromised a creative work (e.g., original song) can be when people (bad marketing and money-mongers) want to make lots of money off of other people’s creativity. It turns out that the creator of a song or a writer of a book receives ONE DOLLAR out of the TEN dollars per unit spent on marketing, publicity and production/distribution.
So what is the moral of the story? Stay true to yourself. Don’t compromise. Keep being creative about your own work. Protect the integrity of your own work from money mongers and parasites who hook onto your creation and then steal it to make it “more marketable.” That goes for lovers and ex-lovers who take your song in order to make it “bigger.”
Surprisingly, some of the songs Kiera Knightley’s character supposedly composes and then sings are not all that bad. They have a kind of poignantly musical tonal space that is appealing a lot of the time. What I liked best was the actress who played the classical cellist who mouthed the words of the song during each of the gigs. And her brother was funny too, the prodigy violinist, each working for no upfront money but for a cut of the proceeds on the back end should there be any.
Which brings me full circle to the moral of this little film. Instead of handing over her project of songs performed all over NYC to a big-name record company, Knightley’s character decides to upload it online and SELL IT FOR ONE DOLLAR. It doesn’t hurt that they get a big record honcho who is a friend of Ruffalo’s character to publicize it online in a Twitter post.
So, it takes off, right? 10,000 purchases on the first day? At a dollar a pop, (which is all they would have received anyhow by letting record producers “remix a couple of tunes” etc.,) this is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) to the MAX! And the proceeds are PURE. The big-bad-middlemen are cut out of the picture altogether and the proceeds are shared by all the musicians who worked for nothing just to be playing music and participating in this project.
I drove home thinking I should just write what I want to write, stop worrying about publishing or who might or might not want to read it; and sell it (whatever it turns out to be) for a dollar online.
BINGO, now that was worth the price of admission.