In The Stream, out today, a group of friends go on a journey accompanied only by each other, their homemade lightsabers (the year is 1981), and the warm, whimsical narration of The Office's Rainn Wilson.
You wouldn't be wrong to compare the film to Stand by Me (or, as Wilson recommended, The Wonder Years), but the film has its wrinkles: The Stream was produced by Dreaming Tree Foundation to benefit the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America; more than 200 BGCA boys and girls also had the opportunity to work behind the camera.
When the film had its red-carpet premiere this week, the kids were there along with the cast - which includes Mario Lopez, Christopher Gorham, and Kelly Rutherford. A majority of all producer proceeds will go to BGCA's youth development programs.
Wilson called me earlier this week to talk about the film, the students, and perfecting the voice in voiceover.
You haven't done a lot of voiceover work before, have you?
I did an animated voice in Monsters vs. Aliens and I narrated a documentary called The New Recruits and I've done a couple of voiceovers, but this is kind of new to me. How did I get involved? They were looking for a narrator and my manager works with Mario Lopez, who did a little part in the movie. And I think they were talking about me and it all worked out.
So what's that like - I'm assuming the acting process is completely different? You're alone in a sound booth for most of it.
Yeah, it's a full day in the sound booth doing all the narration and trying it different ways. They weren't sure exactly how it was going to work. Does it need to be broader and a little more obviously comic or does it need to be more subtle? Trying different tones, because they weren't sure exactly what they wanted for the edit. I got to meet some of the actors and crew. They also filmed me for some behind-the-scenes stuff, so they did bring in some cameras and some of the student filmmakers.
When you were finding the tone, what was that process like?
Just trying to help them find the tone of the film - this narrator is kind of whimsically remembering life - And to bring heart to it and warmth. It was more just my job as my actor, that's my job as an actor is to do that, is to bring as much to it as possible. It can be humor, it can be heart, it can be stuff as simple as pacing.
So how would you describe the narrator that we'll hear in the final cut?
You know what, I have no idea. I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know what they used.
What do you think was your best work?
I hope that there's a lot of comedy in the film and there's a lot of kids acting like doofuses and having crazy misadventures and stuff like that. So I hope that there's a balance of illuminating the comedy but also just bringing out the heartwarming aspect of what it is to remember your adolescence.
Would it be wrong of me to compare this to something like Richard Dreyfuss in Stand by Me?
Yeah, I think that's a good comparison. I think that's perfect, I think even like The Wonder Years had Daniel Stern as that wonderful narrator's voice and that had a nice tone.
Tell me a bit more about the film and the period it's set in. I know you kind of came of age at the same time as these characters.
Well it's set in the early-'80s. It's 1981. It's post-Star Wars so it's kind of this Star Wars obsession and I can really relate to that because I saw Star Wars six times when it first came out. I was one of those dorky kids, I was 11 or 12 years old when it first came out and I lined up every weekend. In '81, I was 15, so I was a little older than these kids. But I lined up every week to see Star Wars and my friends and I would definitely have lightsaber battles and pretend to be characters from the film. So I totally know the world - running around in the woods and pretending all this stuff, too. We did a little more Dungeons & Dragons than these kids do. They seem completely obsessed only with Star Wars. But that was very much my world in suburban Seattle in 1981.
With the film's connection to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, it has a whole other cool back-story. When did you learn about that?
I learned right away and that's what really made me interested in this and I kind of felt like, Why hasn't this been done before? This is brilliant. You can have these student filmmakers from the Boys & Girls Clubs; and then the profits go toward them. That's fantastic. It's a simple formula. I was just really surprised that it hadn't really been done before. For that, it's a really good film - it's a fun script, the filmmakers really know what they're doing.
You did get to work a bit with the student filmmakers. What was that like?
It was interesting. They're very cute, you know, holding the boom and the bounce boards and stuff like that. But they had adult guides to kind of let them know what to do. They were terrific. I think one thing that's really crucial is that the film and television industry is a very big industry and employs a lot of people. And I think it's important that young kids, especially kids from the intercity or kids that come from lower economic means, to understand that it is possible to have a career in those fields. Because I think a lot of people, they don't even think about it. They don't' even think that's a remote possibility. But to know that it is entirely possible to train as a sound person and learn about sound equipment and learn about mixing and editing and stuff like that and that you can go to Hollywood and you can get a really good, solid, lucrative job doing sound in movies.
Regal Theatres are exclusively releasing The Stream. It will be playing at Atlantic Station and in Chamblee.
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