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Making The Scene: A Filmmaker's Diary by Cameron Crowe

Page 5 of 5

2-16-92: Sleep comes in small bursts, as I dream of an intricate movie version of Hawaii Five-O. Even my dreams are trying to be more commercial . . . . The studio is not impressed with the Numbers. They are full of suggestions on how to make the movie more palatable. I have made the right movie for the wrong studio.

This is the biggest crime of test marketing. It hits directors at their most vulnerable time. You start out proud and alone, defending your vision. By the end, you're wobbling on two rubbery legs, obsessed on how to reach Young Males. It's a trap. Suddenly, all poetry is replaced by equation. All you want is to survive, to get those Numbers up. To get your movie released.

4-1-92: The last marketing preview will help determine our release. The screening goes well. The Numbers change only slightly – but supposedly in important ways. "We've got the Young Girls back," declares one executive, but it's clear they've written off their highest expectations. They have pigeonholed the movie as appealing to Young Girls, and that's that. A flash of perspective hits me during the screening. The movie needs to be set in context. Privately, I vow to restore the original ending, a voice montage of people all over the city, everywhere, obsessing about love. Singles is not just about six characters; it's about a world of people needing to make that connection. That's the last piece in the puzzle.

4-9-92: Still no release date. A year after filming, the world has caught up with the bands and the music we built this movie around. Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have all exploded. Epic, the label releasing our soundtrack, moves to put the music out now. WB agrees, and they quietly default into the only real title of this movie, Singles. The hometown music that helped inspire the script is now our best ally in getting the movie released.

4-13-92: New York City. Campbell and Kyra have come in for the last of many looping sessions. On their faces is the same look I'm seeing from almost everybody . . . . Let go. "Is the French Club scene still in the movie?" Campbell asks. Agonized, I can hardly tell him no. We wish each other the best. There is plenty that could be said; maybe we'll say it another time.

5-15-92: Today, we will screen the movie one last time for ourselves. It's the first time we will view the new ending, with the myriad of voices (provided by friends and nearby assistants). We've been mixing it for days, crafting the level of each voice. If it doesn't work, we don't have the time or money to fix it. Watching the complete movie for what must be the sixty-third time, my foot bounces wildly in anticipation of the new ending. It arrives. The voices build, all over the city, until it's one glorious din. Finally the movie makes its case for love. Finally we have an ending – and just in time.

5-22-92: We're in New York for three screenings, the first time the completed movie has been shown outside of Los Angeles. It is the first time we'll show it to a (mostly) college-age crowd. There is loud, heartfelt applause. Hearing it now, in New York City, is a real high. Jokingly, I later tell Richard Chew that I want to put back the French Club scene. "No," he says. A good-humored man, I have rendered him humorless on this subject. I will say this about the French Club scene, and then I will let it go. There's always laser disc.

5-23-92: When will filmmakers fight back against the damning effect of market research? Why is Singles still adrift? We continue to fight the currents. First, the Numbers . . . then the Cards . . . then the Release Schedule. Maybe this is Anal Fury.

6-2-92: "Congratulations," says the smooth voice on the telephone. "You have a release date."

I'm packing my desk to move out of our office. We've been in postproduction for over a year. There are stray artifacts from the filming – Steve and Linda's pregnancy test, Cliff's guitar picks and then a strange-looking white hatbox. I reach inside.

It's Campbell's wig. I pick it up. Except I don't see a wig, I see the making of this movie. I see every expectation, dashed hope, every exciting and exhausting aspect of filmmaking. How fragile the whole process is. The movie is finished, and I'm proud of it. Soon it will have a life of its own. I pack the wig in the back of my car. Like any great obsession, Singles dies hard.

Tonight, I'll sleep.

This story is from the October 1st, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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