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SXSW: For the Record is the new show we need right now!


In the long list of the SXSW Film Festival available content, there is one that you may come across and not pay that much attention, but it is imperative that you would do so. For the Record is an extraordinary combination of love and music compacted in a 15 minute episode that will make you thirsty for more. Ray and Angela have just broken up a 6 year relationship and they set up a meeting to decide which musical records of their big collection each one gets to keep. But as soon as they find The Beach BoysPet Sounds, emotions start stirring up between them and reveals there is something more that is still connecting them. Acquiring a anthology format to tell different tales of love that are interconnected by music is just what the world needs right now. Even if the first episode is short, you will have to wait to understand how this story ends, making it one of the best episodic displays of the festival.

While our critic Jorge Lestre has seen the whole season, for festival rules, following episodes will not be mentioned, as for some parts of the interview, presented shortly after this introduction, have been omitted so that people will enjoy the series (without SPOILERS!) when it arrives (hopefully soon!) to their screens. Created by Julian De Zotti, For the Record is a gem that resonates to the relationship scenario of the modern world, while tackling important social issues that makes it one of a kind masterpiece. Like SundanceTV‘s State of the Union, episodes are short but effective, allowing actors to thrive in the amazing material they have in their hands. We had a chance to speak with De Zotti and his co-directing partner Lisa Baylin about the first episode of the series and what it represents for modern day representation of love in the small screen. We hope you enjoy the episode as much as the interview below:

CineAddiction: Hi guys! Julian, when did you came up for this idea for the show?

JDZ: It was a few years ago, I was going through a painful breakup and I needed a way to handle that pain somehow and I just thought in the moment when I was divyying up this final collection with my ex, I just realized that each of these albums tells the story of the moment in our relationship and in specific times in our love story, and also music is something I am such a big fan of and it has been something I’ve been leaning on the last year. Just all the songs I know and love, they give me comfort, space and so it’s a way to celebrate music as this uniting force that connects us and brings us together. As the centerpiece, as the hook of the show, every song tells a story, music is the driving force of that, so this was a great way to tell a different kind of love story. You start with a breakup and you can see if the couple finds a way back together thanks to the music and some random connections we have with people and different stories, and points of view, and cultural perspectives, so it was important we told this kind of story, different kinds of people, and just because music is that thing we can find in common ground on, and finally I would say, also telling a story about the other relatable thing about music is, you know, it’s the soundtrack of our lives and has this ability to, when we hear our song, transport us back to that moment we first heard it or the moment it underscored a very pivotal moment in our lives, and now is this indelible, unforgettable memory, thanks to that song and whenever we hear it.

CineAddiction: What were the challenges of interconnecting all the characters for you?

JDZ: Making sure it would felt organic and random at the same time. I think trying to weigh it with “oh, these are actual more directly related to these people and then those middle episodes are kind of just: I’m following this random story and I thought it was important that you’re not telegraphing to the audience what’s going to happen and you find ways to surprise them”. I think that’s so hard to do and that’s something I strive for in my work, but finding those ways to keep the audience engaged and that’s why I think trying to find these really really compelling and interesting ways to keep people connected but not in not in such a direct way, and hopefully we achieved that.

CineAddiction: Lisa, what was your responsibility in bringing episode one to life?

LB: It was quite great and was actually quite fun to be able to direct again, because it’s been a while since I directed, and to direct Julian, which was quite fun! He is such a great actor and so warm and Julian and I worked closely together and wrapped for the day. It was really quite fun to really take it through the adjournment and that’s what so great about these stories, because the episodes sit in this type of anthology. You really get to do a beginning, middle and end in one day! We did shoot some other pieces in other days, but really you get to go through, and we shot in sequence which is nice too, which you don’t always necessarily get to do. It’s great for the actors to be able to clock where they are emotionally and exploit ways to make it through a day, you’re really dealing with a time experience. And what you really feel when you are watching it that, I hope, you are really living with these characters as a voyeur in the moment as they are going through these beads of rehashing the relationship, which we’ve all done and we’ve all gone back that one time to get that pot, which is why I am married to my husband right now, but you go back to that time and think: are we gonna make it and come back together or is this, like, our last breakup, right? So that’s why I think it was really fun about directing that episode and just be able to live with these characters and live in that world for that day. It was really unique and special!

CineAddiction: What do you think about bringing such a diverse amount of women to the show and their role to modern day society?

LB: That’s an excellent question! For me and my shows, I’m always sort of interested in quite of my shows having female leads. This one was really interesting because the episodes feature such strong female characters in a variety of episodes and we really had the chance showcasing different people from different ages and ethnicities, which was really important. Originally we had 10 stories and we ended up getting down to 6, so we really wanted to make sure that we were having this cross section and be able to tell a variety of stories, because in series like this everybody’s going to get their episode. That’s what’s really great by having female centered stories and this diversity so front and center and did that with our directors as well, with female directors, male directors, different ethnicities to get that authenticity for each individual stories, which was really important for us.

CineAddiction: Why the 15 minute format?

LB: It’s sort of interesting for a couple of reasons, so Gem, which is the CBC platform that the show is on in Canada, we were licensed under their short form platform, so we called it like a midlength because there are things that are shorter, so they don’t have a cap for the sweet spot for this like 10-18 minutes slot and also there was some Canadian funding that was involved, the Bell Fund, Independent Production Fund and Ontario Creates and those requirements  are “short form funds”. You have to follow these certain requirements as well as the unions, the Actor’s Union and Director’s Guild as well, so we did follow under those parameters, and with that it’s a little more economical to get your show made. A) from the funding side and B) from the financing side. We had those caveats and we did the best to push them and to really tell us robust stories as we possibily could within those timeframes, but if we’re hopefully going to start a second season depending on interests, fingers crossed (!), I think we would see a more robust and longer runtime, sort of like streaming half-hour, but we feel that these stories definitely won that. We definitely want to be able to be living with these characters a little bit longer.

JDZ: We have broken it, the story anyways, so we’re pitching it and we hope SXSW gives us some visibility and we have the first season that’s ultimately why we made a short form series, because we could have the resources. I love the challenge of making content for that medium, and I’ve always been a believer that I have to make it and put it out there, because if we hadn’t we’d still be in development somewhere five years later on a TV version and at least we have a show that we got to make on our own terms and we can show people that we can do it, and the efficacy of the music hook and that kind of love story and the hope is that someone sees the value in that, and we get to make a bigger and better second season.

CineAddiction: What are your personal opinions about the rising of streaming services dominating people’s consuming film productions?

LB: It’s interesting. On one side you end up having a lot more access as an audience member and you have a lot more variety and a lot more choices and options. And also, as a content creator you there’s a lot more access points where you can find yourself not stick to a strict time slot and is this a comedy, is this an 8 pm comedy, is this a 9 pm drama, or what night do you fit in? For traditional networks you have to fit in very tradicional lanes and the nicest thing about streaming platforms is that the whole category of dramedy has opened up, which would’ve never been able to otherwise, right? You also get things that are binge-worthy and allowing you to be having a lot more content available, so you can pitch things that you know maybe fit into a multiple series, a limited series, could be an offshoot of the next thing and, specially in content like this, which is not clean, you know, it’s not a comedy and it’s not a drama, and I think this whole genre of dramedy has opened way up. And there’s always the issue with the target audience, you know, new adults, young adults, and all these micro demos and now as a creator you can really craft shows you have more options in exploring this is another way. This idea you can watch content everywhere at anytime, anywhere, as a creator and a producer, it’s interesting the windows and the opportunities that have opened up.

JDZ: For me it’s really exciting! It’s the wild west! All these places you can go and take your stories to, but I would say that the prevalent business model is still based on huge IP, notebooks and whatever stories are in existence and stars, so you if you don’t have either of those, you better have some I-don’t-even-know-what-kind-of-show that is just catapult you into their radar, because it’s still impossible to get something onto a streaming platform made and seen, and as a creator I’m trying to do something that actually leaves someone beyond the quick dopamine rush and kick you in the guts and differently challenge your perspectives, introduce you to new points of view, cultural perspectives and there’s such a lot of content and you just get lost in it and you start to go “oh gosh! It’s going to take me five years to make a show and BANG, it could go like that!” in an instant, so it’s finding that balance of making sure you’re really committed to what you’re doing and also being able to navigate the other side of it once you’ve made it and how you navigate a streaming platform viables because there are so many shows on their platforms, they don’t have the time or attention to give you a lot of love unless you are a multimillion dollar show they have produced themselves so you have to find ways to still be your own promotor, still find an audience, and nurture that audience and bringing it along with you.

LB: And I would say that is pretty common and I don’t think that is necessarily a new thing that producers have to be champions of their own work, so I think it’s really the kind of opportunity and audience and trying to bring the best story forward.

CineAddiction: Thank you so much, you guys! For the Record touched our hearts and we hope it gets the attention it deserves! It warmed our hearts today!

LB & JDZ: Aww, thank you so much!