This weekend, CMT is premiering Mixtape, a new short film based on the Eric Church song “Springsteen.” The song is inspired by some of Bruce Springsteen’s biggest hits: it references “I’m On Fire,” “Born To Run,” “Born In The U.S.A.” and “Glory Days.”
“The song [‘Springsteen’] is so huge and so awesome that we felt that it deserved something more than a simple video,” explained director Peter Zavadil in an interview with CBS Local. “The weight of it, the emotional gravitas. So we started talking about it right away: rather than just making a four-minute music video, why don’t we make a film?” The label, management, and Church himself all then got behind the idea, says Zavadil.
The 30-minute film is directed by Zavadil, who also helmed the video for Church’s “Springsteen,” as well as his songs “Drink In My Hand” and “Homeboy.” Zavadil is a veteran music video director who’s worked with a huge range of country artists since the late 1990s including Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Sara Evans, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Jewel and Randy Travis.
The story for Mixtape was developed by Zavadil and Robert Vaughn, and Vaughn wrote the screenplay. It was shot earlier this spring over a period of several days, at the same time as the music video for “Springsteen.” The filming took place in Nashville and in the small Texas town of Elgin.
The song “Springsteen,” says Zavadil, “reminds me of the songs that we listened to as kids that were the soundtracks to our lives. I can still listen to certain songs and be instantly brought back to periods of my life.”
“Funny how a melody sounds like a memory/Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night,” sings Church in the song.
In the “Springsteen” music video, Eric is shown performing as well as walking reflectively through a suburban neighborhood. These shots are interspersed with scenes of a young man making a a mix tape (on cassette), and then sharing it with his (presumed) girlfriend. The film expands on this concept, with a stronger focus on the narrative.
“I would call it a love story, with the mixtape serving as the glue that holds the piece together,” says Zavadil.
The focus on the cassette may make the video, and the film, appear to be set during another era, but that wasn’t entirely the intent. “It’s not necessarily a period piece,” says Zavadil. There is, though, he says, a “timelessness” to the song, which is why the time period for the film (and the video) is deliberately unspecific.
Eric is not an actor in the film per se, but his music features prominently. “We used Eric’s music throughout the piece” to enhance “certain scenes and certain moods–soundtracks, essentially.” There is even an “Easter egg,” says Zavadil, in the form of an unreleased song–“a little bit of a treat for die-hard fans,” he says.
And so, we had to wonder, when they were shooting, did anyone ever ask, ‘What’s a cassette?’
Zavadil laughs. “Fortunately not!”
Mixtape debuts commercial-free on Saturday, July 7 at 10:15am ET/PT on CMT (and it repeats Sunday, July 8 at 8:15am ET/PT).
– Kurt Wolff, CBS Local