Director: Gary King
Cast: Christina Rose, Joe Schermann, Mark DiConzo, Debbie Williams
Almost exactly six months ago, I saw a film called How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song? at the Raindance Film Festival. A post-modern musical about writing a musical, it's a toe-tapping, show-stopping, ear-pleasing marvel - an indie film that thinks big enough to make you forget about its budget and exactly the kind of thing that Kickstarter was made for.
Which, of course, means diddly squat to you as its not coming out in cinemas any time soon. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, though, it is available through video on-demand from today (iTunes, PS3, Xbox Live and blinkbox). I cannot recommend it enough. Read on to hear why.
How do you write a Joe Schermann song? That's the question Joe Schermann's asking himself as he struggles to finish a musical. A veteran of the off-Broadway scene, he's been touring audition rooms for years, accompanying women hoping to be the next big lead. Among them is girlfriend Evey (Rose). She's got talent - and ambition to match - so why hasn't Joe ever penned a song for her?
Joe would answer - but he's too busy falling in love with Summer (the knock-out Williams), a singer whose voice leaves his eardrums head over heels. That’s when the theatrics really start.
"You have a much nicer piano at home," advises best friend Gunther (DiConzo). And before you know it, we’re back at that keyboard watching another number unfold. It's a duet. The title? Write Me a Love Song.
That’s exactly the kind of thing you can expect from Joe Schermann. Gary King's musical is a witty little ditty, full of songs about writing songs that get written as they're sung – and almost every single one is a gem. One Sondheim-esque tune, I Hate Summer, is a joy ("Summer makes us sweat, it give us hives/All it does ever is fuck up our lives") while Write Me a Love Song’s word play is as catchy as its underlying riffs.
“Don't over-think it, we don't need perfection..." serenades Joe, before pausing. "Shit, what rhymes with perfection."
All beard and no balls, Joe Schermann is a natural at playing himself. He slouches about awkwardly, tired of people asking him the same questions. "What do you do?" "I'm writing a musical," he replies. "Ooo, like Cats?" "Yeah," he sighs. "Like Cats." His weary confusion is as believable as his prodigious piano playing; even his facial hair looks sad.
King’s secret, though, is to open the story up from there: this could have been a low-key one man show, but the director thinks bigger. And so we have spectacular showstoppers and daring dances, fleshed out beautifully by composer Ken Lampl and edited together with all the sass of Chicago.
But in between the split-screens and spotlights, the film never forgets its characters. The supporting turns from the charming Mark DiConzo and curvy-lipped Debbie Williams are superb, while the astonishing Christina Rose takes what could have been an overlooked part and turns it into a rousing lead; with her gorgeous vocals and easy chemistry, the stunning Evey almost steals the whole show from under Schermann’s hairy chin.
The result is a proper virtuoso piece of indie filmmaking - a joyous, toe-tapping musical that razzles and dazzles with the best of them. How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song? If you're asking these guys, bloody brilliantly.