A N A DV ENTURE THRO UGH M US I C A N D BROTHE RHO O D
By: Jenny Hallanberg
Copyright © 2018 by Alyssa Sopko All rights reserved. No Parts of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, write to the publisher, adressed ‘Attention: Permissions Corodinator,’ at the adress below.
Creative Press 938 South Street New York, New York 10839 www.creativepress.com
Directed By John Carney
Music will forever belong to the youth. It’s a source of discovery that changes, progresses, and influences identities all across the world. To date, there are jusft a few things in pop culture that are more personal or influential, which is why it’s such a vital slice of life for those who are just starting to rub their eyes. Think back to when you first heard your favorite songs and albums. How old were you? Where were you? Who were you with? Be it rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, Top 40, whatever, there was likely a piece of music that shook your bones and opened your mind. Director John Carney is no stranger to that feeling, having wrestled with the power of music in 2007’s Once and 2014’s Begin Again, and now he’s back with another ballad, Sing Street.
Sing Street charts the musical output of a group put together with a typically less-than-artistic purpose in mind — to impress a girl. Inspiring teen viewers with its captivating representation of the pure joy, creativity and self-expression that comes from being part of a band, the film also offers audiences of an older generation a healthy dose of nostalgia. Writer/director John Carney, who also directed musicals Once and Begin Again, imbues the film with much of his own experience growing up in Dublin, but with the character of Conor he allows his creation to be more adventurous than he ever dared to be at that age.
Set in Dublin in 1950, the film opens with 15-year-old Conor’s family in upheaval as his parents tiptoe around the thorny issue of divorce - something that was not permitted in the strict Catholic society of the time. On top of this tense atmosphere, money is tight and savings need to be made. To cut costs, Conor is removed from his fee-paying school and sent to local state school Synge Street (a school that the writer/director John Carney really attended), and where he is initially a fish-out-of-water in the anarchic environment, presided over by the strict and unsavoury Brother Baxter. At first unintentionally challenging authority from the outset, Conor is chastised for wearing non-uniform brown shoes to school instead of
standard issue black, in an incident that later inspires a punky protest song. Conor continues to clash horns and argue with Brother Baxter as his personal musical style evolves alongside the honing of his musical persona. The commencing catalyst for Conor’s transformation is the mysterious and beautiful Raphina, whom he spots near the school gates on his first day at Synge Street. To justify making an approach, he claims he’s looking to cast her in his band’s latest music video for their new song. However, at this point he doesn’t even have a band! But with the help of enterprising new friend Darren, Conor recruits a motley crew of new
schoolmates to form a group on the fly, naming their band Sing Street, in a play on the school’s name. Despite having no clue what they’re really doing, the group go in with the spirit of adventure, donning costumes that initially seem as though they’ve raided an older siblings dressing-up box to achieve a look inspired by the likes of Duran Duran and The New Romantics. Darren, as the band’s self-styled manager, steps up as the cameraman to film a spur-of-the-moment music video in the backstreets of Dublin, complete with questionable zoom-ins and clunky set-pieces, all inspired by their weekly Tops of the Pops viewing. Similar examples off-the-cuff DIY-style filmmaking can be seen in the send-ups of classic films produced by Greg and Earl in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, while the exuberance of collaborative filmmaking as a creative outlet during troubled times is also shown in Son of Rambow. It turns out that forming a band is the making of Conor - or Cosmo as he is rebranded - as his status as lead singer and creative director of the group takes off. Conor is someone who absorbs influences and has a keen tutor in Brendan, his slacker-philosopher older brother, who takes pleasure in trying to shape the direction he thinks Sing Street should go, despite not having a very clear idea of what to do with his own life. Helping to come up with a strategy for Conor to win Raphina’s heart - as well as succeed as a band - allows the brothers to bond and support one another as the rest of their family life crumbles around them.
“It’s like, when you don’t know someone, they’re more interesting. They can be anything you want them to be.”
In August 2014, a month before principal photography began, the studio band reunited at Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin. Songwriter Gary Clark, frontman for ’80s band Danny Wilson, joined Carney as co-writer of the final tracks, which pay homage to period favorites like The Cure, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates and Elvis Costello. Lynch notes that those different song styles didn’t impact his approach to recording the tracks. What was more important was how the songs would fit into the film. It needed to sound like the kids on-screen were actually playing the songs, and the songs also needed to transition into full studio versions for the score sections. In August 2014, a month before principal photography began, the studio band reunited at Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin. Songwriter Gary Clark, frontman for ’80s band Danny Wilson, joined Carney as co-writer of the final tracks, which pay homage to period favorites like The Cure, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates and Elvis Costello. Lynch notes that those different song styles didn’t impact his approach to recording the tracks. What was more important was how the songs would fit into the film. It needed to sound like the kids on-screen were actually playing the songs, and the songs also needed to transition into full studio versions for the score sections. To cover both approaches as efficiently as possible, Lynch used different mic setups at varying distances for each instrument. “When the scene happens in a sitting room or the bedroom,
you want the music to sound as close and intimate as possible,” says Lynch, who had to make decisions on mic selection and setup without the benefit of picture. “Then, when the camera moves back and you have a wide shot, you want to be able to give it more space sonically. All we had was the script and a basic concept of what would be happening, so you have to try and imagine how the scene will be set up and hope that you have the flexibility when it comes to fitting in the track.” While the music for Sing Street’s on-screen band is pure studio magic, lead actor Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, playing the part of Conor, actually performs his vocals between the dialog and the diegetic music moments. Lynch also had an AKG C12 VR and a Shure Beta 58 paired with two UREI 1176 mic preamps on the vocals to capture a richer studio sound for when the songs go into full-on score. Another factor in helping the audience believe that the music was coming from the band on-screen was to have the professional musicians play like amateurs but actually isn’t. With this film I tried my hardest to get it to feel real and authentic, to make it as believable as possible so that the audience isn’t taken out of the film ever, not even for an instant.” Windmill Lane Recording Studios is outfitted with a Neve Legend VR-72 console, KRK V8 near-fields, and Genelec 1038CF far-field studio monitors CCiaran Bradshaw. Lynch and Bradshaw did additional recording at Westland Studios in Dublin on an SSL 4048 E Series. Music mixing for the film
â€œThis is life, Conor. Drive it like you stole it.â€?
Like any proficient songwriter, this bleak environment winds up informing Conor’s music, which is why he’s so dead-set on looking ahead. “I’m a futurist,” he insists. “No nostalgia.” It’s telling that no one ever rebuffs his decision. They share his plight and that’s one of the reasons why the music rolls by with ease and it’s great stuff. Sure, the songs are all permutations of whatever records Conor’s currently obsessing over, from a-ha to The Cure, but that’s what also makes them feel so genuine. In Bob Mehr’s recent autobiography of The Replacements, Trouble Boys, Paul Westerberg cites an old Richie Blackmore quote that reads, “You’re either a genius or a clever thief.” He cops to being the latter. Most young musicians are, and that’s part of the whimsy and charm of Sing Street. Ironically, much of that pleasure derives from our own senses of nostalgia, but in the actual story it’s Conor who is seeing the future of new wave unfold ahead of him. Carney frames those magical moments with these seamless transitions that feel as if they’re all a part of one tracking shot. At one point, we watch Conor visit Eamon late one night, as the two slowly assemble a ballad, only to pan over and see the full band bring it to life. The same happens later when the band’s conceptualizing their latest music video, one that pays homage to Back to the Future, and Carney cheekily jumps from reality to Conor’s fantasies with little effort.
ASPIRING MODEL An aspiring model with a tough life. From the outside, Raphina appears effortlessly cool. That’s why student Conor Lawlor approaches her about starring in his band’s music video. But while she’s happy to help him out, her real dreams are even bigger: She wants to travel to London to become a professional model. Unfortunately, Raphina’s life is far less glamorous – and her future far less secure – than she lets on. Throughout the movie her story is revealed.
Confident, aloof, and more vulnerable than she pretends to be, Raphina projects an air of maturity and detachment that makes her seem impossibly appealing. But beneath all that edgy persona and grown-up makeup, Raphina has a lot of insecurities too. She has no one looking out for her and she lives in fear of her life falling apart at any moment.
Raphina will never leaves the house without her bright red lipstick. She enjoys looking glamorous and mature but never likes to look too fussy. Her go to outfit includes her simple hand me down fit and flare dresses along with her tan heels. Raphina likes having her hair curled or tied back in a low ponytail.
ANY THING BY HALF. Role Played By: LUCY BOYNTON