A heartfelt and comic love story about a struggling musician and a model trying to launch an acting career, UNDISCOVERED is the perfect vehicle for the talents of first-time theatrical feature director MEIERT AVIS. The acclaimed music video director and documentary filmmaker has worked extensively the biggest music stars of today including U2, Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen and Audioslave. He was recently nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for best breakthrough video for New Found Glory's "All Down Hill From Here."
Set in Los Angeles, UNDISCOVERED uses the L.A. music scene as the backdrop for two talented young performers trying to deal with the trials and tribulations of success and fame in today's celebrity-oriented media world. They share an unspoken love for one another that seems to get thwarted at every turn. Still, only when it looks like the price of fame will take its toll is their love revealed. The pressure of dealing with their respective careers almost eliminates their feelings and aspirations, yet it becomes apparent to both of them that it is a love too powerful to stop.
Says director Avis, "It's about what you have to give up in order to make a relationship work, and about how success can take away the things that are worth having in your life. It's a romantic comedy, but it deals with what happens if you just pursue fame and notoriety, how you can end up an empty shell."
Avis was attracted to the project because music is such a large part of the film. "It seemed like an area that I knew enough about to do something that was interesting without falling on my face," he chuckles. "I thought I could do this well and that it was worth spending a year of my life doing. There are a lot of music performances in the film and some of the sections are inevitably shot in a kind of a music video style." Thanks to Avis' sensibility and experience, the music performances were taken to another level. His natural expertise gave them the dynamism and vitality they deserved.
The male lead, aspiring rock singer Luke Falcon, is played by the fast-rising young star STEVEN STRAIT. Director Avis quickly realized that the talent he was dealing with was exceptional. "Steven Strait has a two octave vocal range with all types of music from ballad to straight-out rock tracks. He really pulled it off. He can act, but he's also a rock star so we were very lucky to find him." Strait concurs, "Being able to sing the tracks myself and tackling both aspects of music and acting has made this project really special to me."
Steve describes his character Luke as "a normal guy, a little shy who sort of internalizes quite a bit. Yet, the stage is an outlet for him. It's a release of all he thinks and writes about and he gets to express it up on stage. That's where he really becomes alive. It's a great character to play." In this regard he is a success but feels incomplete because he cannot express his feelings for the one he loves. He continues, "It's a self-realization of the character throughout the film: Brier and Luke are in love with each other. It's a story of the boundaries and barriers that sometimes have to be crossed for things that are important."
Stunning young actress PELL JAMES plays Brier, the young model and counterpart to rock singer Luke. Strait and James, both fellow New Yorkers, display a natural comic timing that adds enormously to the humor inherent in the story. Avis is equally enthusiastic about her performance. "She gives such a very detailed, nuanced performance," says the director. James notes the similarities between her character and her own experience and adds, "I'm from New York where I studied acting and also came out to L.A. to act. My first audition was for this movie, so it was kind of cool. I was really excited."
Someone who knows about breaking through in the music business and dealing with fame is singer Ashlee Simpson who makes her feature film debut in the role of Clea, an up-and-coming singer who tries to help her friends succeed. "I play an aspiring actress and musician," says Simpson, "something that really relates to my life. I love the whole music aspect of the movie, how there's songwriting involved and struggling artists trying to make their way. I've seen struggling musicians and I've been a struggling musician myself."
In the film, Ashlee's character finds her self-confidence both in writing music and singing. "At one point in the film I get up and sing a song which is actually on my album. It's called 'Undiscovered' and it's a really cool moment because it's a moment of self-discovery." What was important to her was the real sense of kinship she had with her character and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Yet, it wasn't about playing a carbon copy of her but creating a fresh role that her unique talents and experience could bring.
Like her co-actors and performers, working with a director that understands the music business was also a plus for Ashlee. "Meiert's an incredible director. He's so creative and so kind to the cast. I love the way that he shot the film. It's been wonderful to get to work with him."
It was important for the city of Los Angeles to look and feel authentic. To get a real feeling for the city, the production decided to use as many real locations as possible. Musical landmarks were used including The Mint, a legendary small rock club; the renowned Chateau Marmont and The Viper Room. For the scenes shot at Los Angeles International Airport, the production was permitted to shoot inside. It was a logistical nightmare that involved a hundred extras and film equipment passing through the X-ray machines of the airport's security system.
Ultimately, Strait feels that it's important to stress that, although it's about two individuals' rise to the top, the heart of the story is really about love. "Everybody can relate to that and the sacrifices people make to pursue that," says Strait. Luke wrestles with the notion of stardom and asks should he sacrifice his artistic integrity to stay famous? Or does he keep that something special with somebody who has inspired him to write his songs in the first place? It's only then that the story comes full circle.
Meiert Avis began his career as a music video director with a highly productive collaboration with U2, directing ten definitive U2 videos including "Where The Streets Have No Name", for which he won a Grammy. Videos with Springsteen, Dylan, and many others followed.
He was nominated for a second Grammy for Bob Dylan's, "Series of Dreams".
Also recognized as one of the top commercial directors in the US, Meiert has worked on commercial's with many of today's a-list actors including Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio. Avis's "Bridge," spot for Pioneer Audio, won the Cannes Gold Lion, a pair of Clios (including the Grand Clio) and a place among Leo Burnett's 100 Best Commercials of All Time.
Recent Music Videos include those shot for Audioslave, Damien Rice, Matchbox 20, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Groban, Alanis Morissette, Counting Crows, Avril Lavigne and Seal.
Meiert's video for New Found Glory's "All Down Hill From Here" was nominated for Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2004 MTV VMA's. His video for Avril Lavigne's "Happy Ending" is nominated for Best Female Video at the Asia VMA's.
Meiert has also produced two videos which are nominated in the 2005 VMA's: Weezer for Best Rock Video, directed by Marcos Siega and Ashlee Simpson for Best Pop Video, directed by Stefan Smith.