Filmmakers rarely score a movie before they have a script, but the idea made perfect sense to Dave Matthews Band's Boyd Tinsley, who spent part of the band's year-long hiatus producing Faces in the Mirror, an experimental indie film that screened for 75 fans on Monday night at New York's Varick Room.
"Honestly, I have never felt anything like that before in my life, where it was just absolutely certain that this is what I had to do," Tinsley told Rolling Stone of the ambitious project, which he also conceived. "It wasn't even a choice."
The movie's premise hit Tinsley four years ago while watching TV in the middle of the night. Suddenly, the violinist found himself recording DMB's last album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, by day, and developing what he describes as "a modern-day silent picture" by night.
Faces in the Mirror contains little dialogue, and its acting is mostly improvised. The film's intense, percussion-heavy soundtrack – itself recorded on the fly by Tinsley and his DMB bandmates, Shawn Smith of Brad and the Seattle band Maktub – drives the story of a regretful young man (Ryan Orr) who returns home to attend his estranged father's funeral. In one riveting scene interspersed with rapid edits of flames, gyrating hips and extreme close-ups of faces, the lead character encounters a bonfire in step with a thundering, rhythmic backbeat.
"It's almost like the film is the score," Tinsley explained during an informal Q&A at the screening. Inspired by director Alfred Hitchcock's use of sound and silence in movies like Psycho and North by Northwest, Tinsley made Faces in the Mirror's score over five days in Seattle, well before he'd assembled a cast and crew. A script never existed.
"In this business, you don't really get the chance to approach a film like this. There's too much emphasis on budget and time that it's virtually impossible," Orr tells Rolling Stone. "We both wanted to approach this in an unconventional way."
At the screening, Tinsley sported shades, shoulder-length dreadlocks and a black T-shirt boasting his film's title to help promote DMB's evolving partnership with the Tempe, Arizona-based clothing line Sportiqe Apparel Company. Come fall, fans can look beyond the concert merch table for their DMB gear; tees, hoodies and cardigans will be made available in stores and online in September, to coincide with the band's album release that same month. "They are our number-one band by far," said Sportiqe co-founder Jason Franklin. "I used to wait in line for tickets to these guys, so getting a chance to now collaborate with them is a dream-come-true."
SnagFilms will premiere Faces in the Mirror for free through its website on August 30th. Meanwhile, DMB continues its summer tour tonight with the first half of a two-night stand at New York's Jones Beach Theatre.