LINDA CHORNEY: Music, Passion and her film, ‘The Opening Act’ A Review bY Calvin Schwartz 3-24-16
The refreshing documentary, The Opening Act, shoots from the hip. There is never a lull or lapse. Linda asked me in a Sally Field childlike enthusiasm and innocence, “You really liked it?” Chorney, although secure with her musical ability, was not so sure if she had any business being in the film business. After viewing The Opening Act, she does. I answered, “Yes, it was a purist form of frenetic Linda.” “What’s frenetic?” she asked. “Frenetic Linda means frenzied but in a good way. You are non-stop energy and spontaneity.” She creates a special microscope of a film dedicated to creative people like herself. Her energy coming to life in the film is purposefully, obviously for the armies of future musicians coming up; they should all see this film. She explains, “This is about independent musicians. You are not alone. It’s to show the ‘non-musician’ world how much time, money, pulling favors and groveling goes into the process and hopefully acts as a cheap therapy session for musicians.”
Since I watched the film a day before we talked, I was replete with emotional recall. I told Linda, “The film gives the audience a great picture of what life is like in the music business. It isn’t all Adele. It’s not really just about you.”
She dug my description, and continued, “Yeah, a lot of people were expecting this film to be about my story – ya know, the Grammy thing. That’s coming later, in a feature film with a bigger budget. But I thought this message was important and timely, as the music business has drastically shifted, causing musicians to be paid fractions of pennies, rather than dollars for their recordings.”
Linda Chorney is a muse of sorts; a force inspiring thought and creativity. I know firsthand.
It seemed like old times; sitting down and chatting with her for this interview. It seems like only yesterday when Scott Fadynich, her husband, invited me to hear her sing at Olde Freehold Day. That was August, 2011. Scott saw my posts on Facebook and thought I was a quirky writer/blogger, so he reached out. He is always promoting Linda. It was also my second month as a journalist. A few months later, I did my very first journalistic interview with Linda in Sea Bright, overlooking a river with Jersey seagulls flying overhead. Perhaps the birds were harbingers. Linda’s interview that day helped to launch my new career. And now, five years later, there’s a full circle here. And no treatise or interview with Linda should proceed without mentioning the fact she made history for being the first Independent artist to be nominated for Best Americana Album Grammy; after playing in bars for 30 years.
I told Linda right from the start of our interview that I wanted not only to share my adjectives about ‘The Opening Act,’ but it was quintessential to my thought process to highlight the unexpurgated Linda with my readers. Yes, I suppose a bit out of the ‘Private Parts’ school; people always want to hear what she has to say. I’d gladly go down the quirky question brick road. But taking a page from her book; I’m going to digress, egress, progress and jump into her movie and glittering, unique personality that radiates from Arizona to Jersey.
The film moved basically frenetically. (There’s that word again) Honesty was mirrored in a roller coaster of her emotions; you felt her depression worrying about weight gain or the long hard road for the film’s financial success. The fact she wore no make-up in many shots was a special effect in itself. She wanted it to be natural and real as possible. “I did everything including the editing. I had to cut out 37 minutes. It was a challenge. I didn’t want it to be boring. I shot most of it myself, asides to the camera, “selfie-style”. I hoped there was a certain charm to that.”
There was. The film is charming; a perfect adjective to describe Linda’s labor of love. She also did the sound, color correction; and, of course, the music. She actually calls herself “Jackass of all Trades.”
I asked about the title of the film, The Opening Act. “The original title was actually ‘Why Bother?’ In this new millennium of streaming, hardly anyone buys albums anymore. Musicians are losing money recording these days, hence, at some point they have to ask themselves, well, at least I do, over and over again while bashing my head against the wall – why bother?” She reached out to her cousin Robin Russin, a successful screenplay writer and filmmaker in Hollywood, who also helped edit her book, “Who the F**K is Linda Chorney”, and asked him to screen the film before she released it. Expecting him to “rip her a new ahole”, she was pleasantly surprised when he called her with a rave review. There was just one thing; the title. “It has a negative connotation, and I found the film to quite frankly be inspiring. How about calling it “The Opening Act?”
While watching the film, you feel like you are right there in the passenger seat, as she recruits friends, family, and strangers to do a new wacky music video. In typical Linda panache, this wonderful song (full of messages, but in diversionary Chorney style) is called ‘The Cantina’ which describes inane Arizona laws where you can carry a gun but can’t drink a beer in public risking arrest. Her ‘embraceable you’ personality and spontaneity invites a local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca, to partake in the insanity. They are very entertaining.
You will come to appreciate her fortitude by working in 102-degree heat and many sleepless nights, as she creates. She is a perfectionist. And although you will laugh through her winging it style and journey, you may also shed a tear.
I am a movie snob; totally appreciate the art of making a movie. Movies helped change my life. I’ve walked out of movies that didn’t meet my expectations or wasted my time. So in critiquing movies, I must call it as I see it no matter what. There is my need of walking away from a film with knowledge and intestinal lining feelings; emotion. I remember the scene of her waiting to hear if she’d be opening for the Beach Boys. It was weeks. She was down and said, “People have important things to do and you’re not one of them, so get over it.” This sustained her. For me a riveting quote. Linda Chorney made a good film.
Not to give away the plot, but she did open for the Beach Boys. I asked how it felt. She chuckled first, “It was awesome although I don’t know if Mike Love knew he was standing on top of my Mom’s ashes.” Her mother’s death was that recent. A typical Linda thing to do. “My mother was a HUGE influence on my music. Everybody’s parents; all they want for their kids is happiness and success. I’m sure parents of musicians, who supporting their kids learning an instrument, or any of the arts, will relate to the film.”
I told her it was quirky question time. “Be Linda.” Q1 – What makes you cry? “Mostly tears of joy for beautiful things. Nature. When I see real family love. Friggin’ strangers in an airport greeting each other with hugs – like grandparents hugging their grandchildren. Waterworks. Then there are the sad ones; sometimes when I drove home from my gigs in smoky bars. I’d think why am I here? When am I going to get my break? Then I did or so I thought. The backlash from the Grammy nomination made me shed a tear. Then I look at problems in the world. I make fun of myself. “Oh, poor Linda got nominated for a Grammy, wah wah. Shut the fuck up! Your life is good.”
Q2 – Is there a philosophy by which you live? She was quick to answer, “Keep it real.” Q3 – Is there a best time in your life? “When I am creating.” Q4 – Is there a worst time? “When I am standing still, not creating.” Linda is often awake at night. “Everything keeps me up. My brain.” Q5 – Strongest childhood memory? “Piano Lessons, listening to great music and dancing with my family, lots of Beatles, being bribed through quiet contests in the car, and rewarded with Chinese food every Sunday…I always lost.” Q6 – I wondered if there was a big misconception about her. “My honesty is misconstrued for being blunt or rude.” Q7 – fill in the blank. “Before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I _____________.” Also a quick response, “Make the movie about my book.” (She is currently working on the screenplay, and might do a little shooting while on the Jersey Shore in April.)
Of course I asked about her fondest memory of the Jersey Shore. I knew her answer. I’ve been there with her and Scott a few times. “Sea Bright Pizza!” She continues, “And that will be the first thing I eat when I get back for the film fest. Wanna meet us for a slice of eggplant?”
There are interviews and interviews. I’ve done my share. Musically speaking of course, my time spent with Linda Chorney for this interview was rare, precious and beautiful. I can’t wait for Saturday, April 9th for the premiere of “The Opening Act” at the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival at the Salt Theater at noon. She will do a little talk, a little singing and Q&A. Yes, it seems like old times having her and Scott back by the Atlantic Ocean making music and sharing passions.
Film, Festival Tickets are available at http://apmff.com/schedule-tickets/
“Opening Act” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZypajZ6_sA
Linda Chorney website: http://www.lindachorney.com
Calvin Schwartz website: vichywater.net
Facebook: Cal Schwartz and Calvin Schwartz-Cerebral Writer