“Hard Luck Love Song” Creators Draw On Austin Musical Tradition – Sightlines

People who appreciate American music and witty dark stories will have a blast on October 15th. “Lucky love song” directed by Justin Corsbie of Austin and produced by work / life partner Allison R. Smith, hits theaters.

The film, says Corsbie, is based on “Like the good old times,” a song by famous American singer / songwriter Todd Snider. And if you’re unfamiliar with the song, know this: this is about a singer / songwriter who’s been having a hard time and is starting to look for some extra cash. Then he gets the number of an ex-girlfriend, calls her and invites her to come over to her dilapidated motel room “with a view” – from a “coke machine shining through the parking lot”.

Corsbie says he got the idea to turn the song into a movie while he and Smith attended a Snider concert at the Hogg Memorial Auditorium on the University of Texas campus.

Movie review: Dorman charms as struggling singer / songwriter in “Hard Luck Love Song”

“I’ve seen Todd play a million times, and in that flash of inspiration, when he first started playing (‘Just Like Old Times’), I turned to Allison and said,’ Remember me to tell you after the show that I have an idea for a content independent film that we can make without a studio. ‘ She kind of rolled her eyes like she tends to do when I have these kinds of crazy ideas.

Smith intervenes: “In my defense, I will say that, yes, I kind of rolled my eyes, but as a producer for all kinds of projects and directors you have to choose which project…. At the time, there was a rolling of eyes but almost immediately there was a seat…. And I could just see it in his eyes. He knew this project was going to come true. He started talking about it, and within days he wrote this summary of what he thought the story would be. Then a few weeks later he had full treatment and we were flying to Portland, Oregon to meet Todd.

And that’s how this independent film was born. Except there are a lot more stories about why the movie can be considered a love song for American music.

Corsbie grew up in the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin with her single mother, bohemian poet Alyce Guynn, who often read at various music venues owned by Guynn’s friends. These venues included the Alamo Lounge and Emmajoe’s, with the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clarke, Steve Earle, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine on stage.

“So I was a little kid, hanging out in these places, watching Lucinda Williams, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, people like that,” Corsbie says. “And my mother was kind of a bohemian poet and was very good friends with the musicians and the people on that scene. She read poetry before shows, stuff like that. So I knew these musicians before they became known. I was steeped in that kind of folk music scene. I went to the Kerrville Folk Festival, I went to the Willie Nelson concerts.

Singer / songwriter Butch Hancock is the godfather of Corsbie’s sister, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and his son Colin were among a crowd of musicians who performed on Corsbie and Smith’s long wedding weekend.

Justin corbsie
Justin Corsbie and Allison R. Smith. Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions

But there is more story to tell.

Corsbie likes to say, in self-mockery, that he peaked in college and has a lot of bragging rights in punk-rock juvenile delinquent circles by singing on The Dead Milkmen album, “Metaphysical Graffiti”, produced by the Austin musician Brian Beattie.

But he grew up and went to film school at New York University, then came back to Austin and worked in a few different places, then four years ago decided to open his own business. , Synthetic Pictures, which grew from Corsbie’s initial capital of $ 500. into an advertising, branded content and filmed entertainment company with offices in Austin, Los Angeles and New York.

And, of course, Corsbie also teamed up with the person he calls “his running buddy,” Smith, who was previously a TV and radio host in Texas. A graduate of UT, she also wrote and directed the 2013 documentary, “Slavery Out of the Shadows: Spotlight on Human Trafficking”.

While “Hard Luck Love Song” is Corsbie and Smith’s narrative feature debut, it’s not their first time at the rodeo at all. Just go to photosynthetic.com and browse the commercials and other projects Corsbie has done. They include a Ford ad featuring football star JJ Watt, the Burger King ad “Hype Man” and the sand dune ad for Venmo, with a woman walking through the desert, hoping to reach a mailbox so that she can send a letter, only to find out that she forgets to put a stamp.

All of these projects have one thing in common, in addition to being Corsbie’s creations. They all have a wry sense of humor. And the same can be said for “Hard Luck Love Song”.

It stars Michael Dorman, a New Zealander who made his breakthrough with the Amazon Prime series “Patriot”, which ran from 2015 to 2018.

When Corsbie and Smith were looking for someone to play Jesse, the hapless singer who shoves the pool to the side, they sifted through many applicants. Then they got the pilot episode of “Patriot”, with Dorman. And in this episode, Dorman’s character sings Townes Van Zandt’s song, “If I Needed You”.

Corsbie says, “At that point, when we saw that, we said okay. This is the guy. Were in. “

Smith adds, “This song is special to us because it’s the song I walked down the aisle with at my wedding. So when he appeared singing this song, we immediately fell in love. We knew it was him and we were going to do whatever it took to get him.

At the start of the film, Jesse drives a battered car back to his hometown after breaking his arm and going through tough times as a troubadour. He moved into a shady hotel, the Tumble Inn.

Lucky love song
Sophia Bush and Michael Dorman in “Hard Luck Love Song”. Photo: Andrea Giacomini. Courtesy roadside attractions

Like the anonymous character in the song Snider, Jesse tries to drink his problems, buys a bag of cocaine, and calls out an old high school flame, Carla (Sophia Bush). She comes to the hotel and they party like the good old days, with Jesse singing tunes. They have a tumultuous reunion.

Taking inspiration from Snider’s song, Corsbie says he tried to use the singer’s mix of drama and humor and courage and wit in the film. “I really tried to imbibe his skills… by taking those ingredients and sprinkling them in the movie. What I have tried to do is have some poignant and dramatic moments but sprinkle with that kind of dark humor that comes up in real life when you find yourself in difficult situations.

The soundtrack reflects this objective.

Anyone familiar with the Americana traditions of Austin will recognize the many songs in “Hard Luck Love Song”. Here are a few: “Drive”, by Hayes Carll and James Lauderdale and performed by Carll; “I’ll Do Anything but Break Dance For Ya, Darling,” written by Daniel Johnston and performed by Dorman; “Stomp and Hole,” written by Carll and performed by Hard Working Americans; “Working Man’s Blues,” written and performed by the late Johnny Copeland; “Inside It’s Pouring”, written and performed by Lucas Hudgins; and “Buckskin Stallion Blues”, written by Townes Van Zandt and performed by Jolie Holland.

You might be wondering: how the hell did Corsbie and Smith get the rights to feature this music in their movie?

“Obtaining the musical rights can be very tricky,” acknowledges Corsbie. “But it really was a labor of love, and we had a great music supervisor, Dan Wilcox, who’s also a DJ for KCRW, the big public radio station” in Santa Monica, California.

“He helped us find good music. And I was very involved, ”says Corsbie. “Some of these musicians are people I know personally and who have asked me for favors. I kind of knew and grew up around them, and we were able to explain to them that this was a celebration of singer-songwriters. Everyone rallied around the cause of the film and the creative approach we were taking. We have so much support. “

Smith adds that the film was previewed recently in Nashville, so some of the musicians could see the film, “and it turned out beautifully.”

“Part of it was seeing a lot of musicians who were so helpful to us. Like Justin said, getting music for a movie is so difficult. And we had the opportunity to let people like Hayes Carll and others see the movie and enjoy it. Sometimes we would go to concerts and be the last to leave and beg for their help. I really think you have to go about it (get the music rights) in any way you can. And with some of these musicians, we would go see them play and try to find them afterwards to see if we could come up with something. “

The film is also notable for its cinematography, edited by Jas shelton from Austin.

Corsbie says Shelton is “an amazing person to have on set.” And he points out that half of the film was shot in 35 millimeters and the other half in RED Digital Cinema 8K. Corsbie says they shot in 35 millimeters in part because “I’m obsessed with character-centric films from the 1970s, and we decided to bring a little bit of the 70s patina and grain to the film. We shot the first half of the film on film, especially the parts where Michael Dornan is sort of a loner trying to make his way in the world.

Although designed in Austin, the film was shot in the Los Angeles area. Corbie notes that the majority of the cast in “Hard Luck Love Song” live in LA. “And they’re busy shooting all over the place for movie projects because of the discounts and stuff. So when you’re a small film like ours, you have to be as strategic as possible. As with music, we took a similar approach to localization. We decided to shoot here in LA, using a lot of great actors who could come in for a few days so they could sleep in their own beds and stay with their own families. They would probably be more willing to make a short movie if it suited them. “

Smith says she’s hoping moviegoers see some of the film’s many Easter Eggs – the underhanded references to music and events embedded in various scenes. She also points out that one of Corsbie’s old T-shirts from her days on Drag appears in a scene. It’s all part of the fun in what’s a bad luck flick about an Americana song.


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