"Fuzz Track City"
Director Steve Hicks
Director Steve Hicks
"Fuzz Track City" Friday, October 19, 9:30 pm
Meet Murphy Dunn a private detective from the Valley who’s down and out and on the fringe after his best friend/business partner is killed and his marriage fell apart. To solve the case, Murphy must learn the difference between growing up and selling out.
What exactly is a fuzz track? Is that a common term in the music industry or is that a Steve Hicks original term?
It comes from an old school guitar pedal called a "fuzzbox", which was an early form of distortion invented in the 1960's. The classic fuzzbox sound was how I wanted the song to sound, so I called it the Fuzz Track. It just sounded cool and made sense story wise. Any word with two z's in it is just a badass word.
This movie makes me wanna take all my dusty LPs off the shelf and go for a spin. One reviewer described the movie as viewing “the conceits and comforting clichés of old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective stories through the lens of sophisticated rock snobbery.” Tell me how the 70s rock guitar vibe influences you as a person and how it ended up a main theme of your movie?
I've always been a 'guitar god' enthusiast. In high school, I was all about Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck...etc. There's just something about lead guitar players that drew me in. I wanted to BE that guy. Movies like 'The Song Remains The Same' and 'The Kids Are Alright' had a terrific impact on me. Even though I was in high school in the late 80's, the music and films of the 70's resonated far deeper with me. Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page were so much larger than life and the music they created was just so spectacular. It was the score of my youth. When I began writing Fuzz Track City, I made a list of things that I wanted the movie to have in it. I knew I wanted a 70's vibe, an old school private eye protagonist and a lot of great music. I was listening to a lot of 70's rock while writing and it dawned on me to make the music in the movie part of the story. To make one of the main characters a 'guitar god' a (Zack Lee) just seemed like a perfect fit. A hard rock mystery was something I hadn't seen before.
How did the infamous song come to be? I love how it is used thematically in the story as well as in practical situations. For example, it's even used as a cell phone ring if I remember correctly? Did you write the story around this super catchy tune that you had in mind or did the story idea evolve first?
The story and script evolved first --the script described the song "Ricochet" as being an old school chunky guitar lick that would definitely be on a Jock Jams compilation. And we shot the movie without even knowing what the song would sound like. When it came time to actually write/produce the tune there was a lot of pressure! I felt like it had to be so many things. I analyzed a ton of iconic riffs ("Walk This Way," "Whole Lotta Love," "Back In Black," etc) and the one thing so many of those classic licks have in common is that they're really quite simple. "Walk This Way" is like five notes. So, I sat down with a guitar (I am NOT an accomplished guitar player at all, either) and wrote "Ricochet." Then spent another year finding the right musicians to actually record it. Nick Maybury, an incredible guitar player and master shredder, ended up playing the guitars on the recording. He crushes it. Every time I hear it, it brings me right back to high school.
Same car. Same hair. Same diner. Same coffee. Same life? I think a lot of us can relate to your main character's sense of comfort in the sameness of things he grew up with. And as adults we learn that if you don't roll with the changes, life will leave you in the dust until you grow up and become the next version of you.
I want to thank you for making a comedy that's about characters with whom it is easy empathize. So much of what exists in movie comedy is vitriolic anger-based interactions of characters who are in a mad race to spitball each other. “Fuzz Track City” is the opposite of that because it's situationally-centered around a character who is genuinely likable. You start thinking that this 70s wannabe private dick may not really be stuck in the past but instead the future went nuts and he's the sane one who stayed behind. Do you have a background in comedy? What type of comedies inspire you?
I don't really have a background in comedy, although I like to think I have a decent sense of humor. Tonally, my favorite films are ones that are very, very funny, but you wouldn't necessarily find them in the 'Comedy' section of a video (if there were still video stores). Quentin Tarantino does this extremely well. His films are hilarious, but they're not categorical comedies. Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" is a favorite, as well. "Three Kings." I think "Fuzz Track City" is more of a comedy than those films, but if anyone asks me what genre it is, I just say it's a mystery or a detective movie. And if they ask if it's funny. I say yes.
The movie premiered in June 2012 and it's already won awards in most of the major categories: directing, acting, editing, cinematography. Congratulations on the recognition! There are so many elements of the filmmaking process done well that serve to elevate this film. How do you go about finding the talented people you work with and putting together your team?
I'm extremely lucky to know a lot of people who are very good at what they do. I went to film school at NYU in the early 90's and met a bunch of very committed and talented actors and filmmakers. After college, most of us moved out to Los Angeles and remained close. My NYU friends have been an amazing resource and foundation.
Based on the previous question, obviously, we think this movie is hitting it on all cylinders, but let's talk about your actors specifically. The performances of Todd Robert Anderson and Josh Adell really pull those characters off the page and turn what might have been quirky oddballs in the hands of lesser talent into real breathing people we care about. Is directing actors part of the collaborative process that you enjoy?
Working with actors is probably my favorite part of filmmaking. I know Todd from NYU and so we have a long history together. We're very close friends. Before the script for FTC was even written, I'd invite Todd over, we'd dress him up in the full Murphy Dunn costume (I knew what I wanted Murphy to look like before I started writing) and I would film him driving all over the San Fernando Valley. We'd talk about the character, improvise, spitballing funny things he could do or say. I've got at least ten hours of footage with Todd in costume years before we shot the film. By the time we got to the set, I didn't really have to direct him at all. It was already in place. Todd's one of my very favorite actors. He's a special guy.
Lastly, the question every fan boy has been waiting for … How did you talk Dee Wallace into play the hot cougar teacher who drops her robe and gets naked with her former student?
I wrote the part with Dee in mind (as a part of my dream cast), but I never thought she would actually do it. Todd's wife's mother used to take an acting class with Dee (years ago) and she helped us get the script to Dee's manager. Dee was about to get on flight from New York back to L.A. and she realized she had nothing to read on the plane. So, she called her manager and asked if there were any projects she hadn't read yet. Her manager emailed the "Fuzz Track City" script to her and she read it on the plane. She called us personally the next day and said she wanted to do it IF she liked the director (me). We set up a lunch date (I was nervous as HELL!) and talked film and other things. Dee is a very direct person. She doesn't bullshit. At all. At one point she asked me point blank, "Do you know what you're doing?" And I, of course, said, "Yes" (with every ounce of confidence I could muster). She bought it and and we made the movie together. Fanboy heaven!