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No One Can Hurt Me When I Sing

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/26/2018

No One Can Hurt Me When I Sing

It’s rare to get the chance to talk to actors portraying their own lives on screen, but Linda Chorney is no ordinary actor and her story is anything but ordinary.  In 2012, she became known as the artist who crashed the Grammy Awards.  Her story is now told in the film, When I Sing.

In 2011, Linda Chorney released Emotional Jukebox, an album featuring great musicians, strong songwriting, and a trio of wonderful covers of tunes by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones.  It was an album she was extremely proud of and one she believed in.  She thought the music spoke for itself — all she needed was others to hear it. Thanks to a mix of ingenuity, hard work, and networking, she was able to connect with Grammy voters and get them to listen.  They not only liked what they heard, they voted for her. In doing so. Linda Chorney became the first independent artist to earn a nomination for Best Americana Album. Millions wondered how she did it, but Chorney’s album competed alongside releases by Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Levon Helm who took home the award.  The film asks the question, “Will being nominated for a Grammy be her big break or will it break her?”

To her dismay, the gatekeepers of the industry were not pleased with her nomination and went to great lengths attempting to discredit her.  They manufactured headlines insinuating she cheated to get nominated, which was not true.  Chorney used a legitimate Grammy website (grammy365.com) to contact Grammy members directly. Neil Portnow, The President of National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS) went on the record saying Chorney did nothing wrong, yet The Recording Academy changed the rules to ensure a similar situation would never happen again. Not only did they implement committees to decide the final five nominees in all American Roots categories, but they eventually shut down the grammy365.com website — a move appearing to keep real indie artists out for good.

Chorney originally told her story in the 2013 book, Who the F**K is Linda Chorney.  Her new film tells that story and more. It’s a funny look at Chorney’s career and her adventures around the world, leading up to the moment she became “almost famous” after 30 years of gigging on the road.  While the book starts on the night she learned she was nominated, the film shows her complete journey as an artist.

“This movie is my ridiculous quest for validation. It starts with a flashback of my life so the people who don’t know me can see that I’ve been around a long time,” explained Chorney.  “It’s been a long, hard road of good guys and bad guys and ups and downs.  In order for the audience to understand that journey, I had to do a flashback of my life.  But I do it quickly. I get to the friggin’ point!”



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The film premiered at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in February where it received the People’s Choice Feature Film Award.  “When we premiered in Hollywood, I cried,” said Chorney.  “It was emotional. It was like giving birth. The hardest project I had ever taken on. And I am proud of my baby.”

The film moved on to Worldfest Houston International Film Festival where it received a special jury award for Best Theatrical Feature Film “Low Budget” in April.

Since New Jersey is a part of the story, capturing the local charm and flavor in the film, Chorney has been looking forward to having it screened in the Garden State. It would have been a perfect fit for the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival, where Chorney previously won Best Documentary for The Opening Act, but her new film was not included in this years’ program.  Nonetheless, the DIY poster child is independently touring with the film and has sold out every screening. It will have its’ New Jersey Premiere at Atlantic Cinemas, in Atlantic Highlands, on Wednesday, June 20th.  The night includes a Q&A with several cast members, comedian Eddie Brill, and musical performance by Chorney. The event is sponsored by her beloved Sea Bright Pizza courtesy of Cono Trezza; Joe Amiel’s Baypointe Inn, and Mike Krikorian’s Blue Bay Inn.

Chorney, who grew up in Massachusetts, spent a number of years living in New Jersey.  She used to travel from Weehawken to the Jersey Shore to perform every weekend, building a solid following in the process...and marrying New Jersey native, Scott Fadynich, now both residing in Arizona. ‘Visit Tucson’ has embraced the film, and is a sponsor for her tour.

The cast includes a mix of recognizable actors, like Chris Mulkey and Marion Ramsey, and then whoever Linda could talk into participating.  It’s a much larger cast than most indie films. “There’s a huge array of characters, because I met so many people on the crazy ride”, said Chorney.  “It’s almost like The Big Fish in how he goes on that wild, unpredictable journey, but these are real people that I meet.  You get to go on the adventure as if you were in my shoes.”

Using her entrepreneurial skills, Chorney self-financed the film, along with local investors, and screenwriter, Robin U. Russin (a cousin by marriage) who also teaches screenwriting at University of California Riverside.  Russin believed in the story so much, that he took a semester off from teaching to direct the film, and received a grant from the university to cover editing costs. The screenplay was written by Chorney and Douglas A. Raine.  Chorney also took on just about any other role she could wing.

“I wore many hats because I didn’t have to pay myself,” said Chorney, who was involved in the writing, producing, starring, casting, soundtrack, and co-editing of the film. “But there is no way I could have done it without the amazing crew, who worked their asses off.”

Chorney stars as herself in the film, but originally was hoping to get Sandra Bullock for the role. After repeated attempts to reach Bullock through her office, Chorney had begun to move on, when she found herself in Wyoming and a chance meeting Sandra’s father. 

“I had this gig at The Mangy Moose, and the owner put us up. Part of the movie talks about the way to survive in the music business...having a free place to crash,” explained Chorney.  “If your overhead is more than you make on the gig, what’s the point?  I actually do this for a living, so the challenge is keeping your costs down.

“So we’ve just been in L.A., striking out on ‘Finding Sandra’, and the club owner invites us to his restaurant for drinks.  He proceeds to introduced us to the man sitting next to him... John. fucking. Bullock.  Sandra’s father!

“Scott and I just looked at each other with our mouths hanging to the floor,” she recalled.  “I was like, ‘Sir, you’re not going to believe this’” and she proceeded to tell him about her story and her desire to have Sandra in the leading role.  The very charming gentleman, responded in calm panicked southern accent, “I can’t hear anything!  You have to go through Sandy’s agent. If you tell me your story and then Sandy ends up doing a film that’s similar, we can get sued.”

Without Sandra, the part fell to Linda herself, which wasn’t a bad thing.  She not only knew the script, she had lived it, and she wouldn’t have to be paid or worry about an actor quitting a role shot over a two year period.  But she made Russin promise her that if he thought she sucked, they’d get someone else. After a couple of scenes, Russin looked up from the monitor, “Holy shit, Linda, you can act!”

Chorney, although extremely grateful to have Robin, says having her cousin “direct” her was challenging in scenes about her own life, because she lived it.  She wanted everything to be authentic.  If people were assholes, she wanted them to be seen as assholes.  If they were good, she wanted them to look good.  At times, they butted heads.  “He deserves a medal for putting up with me,” she laughs. Chorney did have the opportunity to direct second unit locations and plans on directing in the future.

Actor Maxwell Scott plays Chorney’s husband, Scott. Upon the actor’s arrival in Tucson, where much of the film was shot, they road together from the airport. Maxwell asked Scott for tips on how he should be portrayed, Scott offered the advice, “Just be cool.”

When I Sing includes cameos from grammy voting artists, celebrities, Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, and legendary musicians like Jackson Browne, Bernard Purdie, Leland Sklar, and Liberty DeVitto. 

This film represents the 99% of musicians, who Chorney feels can easily relate to her struggle as an indie artist.  

“My movie is like cheap therapy for musicians,” said Chorney.  “You spend $30 for a ticket, and get a trip through your entire life, and hopefully, find it healing to know that you’re not alone. But I think anyone who has a dream to succeed and belief in themselves, will also relate.  Too bad it wasn’t so cheap for me, though. This therapy cost me a shitload to make the movie!” Chorney giggles.

Even though she still has to endure continued severe backlash and false accusations concerning her nomination, Chorney turned lemon into lemon aid. She stresses that the motivation of this film is not revenge or sour grapes.  She can step out of her shoes, look objectively, and say, “This is a great fucking story. It just so happens to be my life story...and many others.  Best of all no one can hurt me when I sing.”

When I Sing will be screened on June 20, 2018 at 8:00pm at Atlantic Cinemas (82 1st Avenue) in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.  Click here for tickets.





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2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
​​​​​​​Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center To Hold Free Screening of "MILK"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center will present a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505. The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers.


Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
REVIEW: "Skyscraper"
Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.






Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


FILM

Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

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