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article imageInterview: Filmmaker Chris McDaniel on his latest project Special

By Adrian Peel     Oct 19, 2015 in Entertainment
Digital Journal talks to a dedicated professional and ardent devotee of popular culture, who generated a buzz on the festival circuit last year with his acclaimed documentary "Music City USA."
Dr. Chris "Topper" McDaniel is an Arizona-based chiropractor with a proven flair for writing, directing and producing films. The award-winning 41 year old, originally from Park City, Kentucky, attended the University of Kentucky before completing his doctoral studies in Atlanta, Georgia.
His most recent effort Music City USA, released through his own independent production company Semi-Rebellious Films - which also put out the 2010 documentary Blood into Wine - lifted the lid on the Nashville music scene thanks to contributions from the likes of Vince Gill, Zac Brown, Naomi Judd, Little Jimmy Dickens and Kenny Rogers.
Now Chris, with the help and support of friend and co-producer Craig Kuranz, has turned his attention to films and the classic songs associated with those from a particular period - that remain firmly ingrained in the collective memory of people of a certain age - for the equally ambitious follow-up Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
"The premise of the film is that I personally miss the era when I used to see a movie I loved and then run out and purchase the soundtrack - and that doesn't happen anymore," says the man of many talents, explaining the thinking behind this exciting endeavour.
"It was mostly in the '80s, early '90s and whether it was Animal House or The Big Chill or Cocktail or Top Gun, the music itself was a character in the film, and I don't think people appreciate that anymore like they used to. I'm talking about compilation soundtracks versus the score.
"Maybe Frozen was the last big soundtrack people talked about... Now with iTunes, you buy one or two songs, you don't buy the album. Basically I love films with strong music and I wanted to make a film that celebrates and explores that connection, so Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was born."
As Chris has a particular love for the soundtracks of his youth, primarily those from the 1980s and early 1990s, does the new project concentrate mainly on that era?
"Mostly," he replies. "I mean we dipped back into the '70s a little bit; we're gonna include Olivia Newton-John and Grease and Xanadu... Right now I'm really trying to focus on Caddyshack, Back to the Future, stuff like that. I feel like that was such an iconic era - I mean they've remade Footloose and The Karate Kid, for example, so they must still be popular."
 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
"Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"
Chris McDaniel
Like Music City USA before it, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack includes a series of on-camera interviews with people directly linked to the subject matter, in this case actors and musicians. Did the man behind the camera draw up a list of his favourite films and film soundtracks before contacting the stars?
"Exactly. One of the first on the list was Ferris Bueller's Day Off, so we immediately got in touch with Dave Wakeling, who was with The English Beat and General Public.
"One of the most iconic scenes in the whole movie is at the end when Ferris Bueller is running home and the song that's playing is called 'March of the Swivelheads' by Dave Wakeling...
"In my personal opinion, there is no greater '80s soundtrack royalty than Kenny Loggins, so we had him discussing Caddyshack, Top Gun, Caddyshack 2, Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone. He had original songs in all of these movies.
"We got Kevin Bacon, who is not only a monster actor, but he also has a band, and it's important for me to try to include actors who are actually musicians themselves. Keanu Reeves, we're talking to his management right now. He had a band called Dogstar back in the early '90s...
Chris with actor Kevin Bacon
Chris with actor Kevin Bacon
Chris McDaniel
"We've got Olivia Newton-John; I'm gonna interview her in Vegas in a couple of months and of course she's an actress and a great singer. Billy Bob Thornton we interviewed the other night...
"The only number one single Aerosmith have ever had is 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing' from Armageddon and Billy Bob Thornton was in Armageddon, so I thought I'd get him to talk about that, but instead he talked about how beautiful songs can only be three notes long and leave a lasting impression on you."
Chris has more interviews lined up over the coming months, including one with Corey Feldman and one in San Francisco with Huey Lewis - to discuss the Back to the Future soundtrack - in December.
"I want to make it perfect because I'm gonna take it to Sundance in August," he reveals, when asked if the film has a release date. "We've been snubbed by Sundance several times, so if I take the time over the next 10 months to add a few more really notable people...
"Like I would love to have John Travolta talk about Grease as I'm gonna have Olivia Newton-John... It'd be great to have Tom Cruise talk about Cocktail, Top Gun, All the Right Moves or Risky Business.
"Thinking back to the songs in Top Gun, when you see the 'Danger Zone' video and you've got Tom Cruise speeding off on a motorcycle, those are iconic images that help us connect to a film better than we do today."
For more information on filmmaker Chris McDaniel, visit his official website.
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