There’s a good chance you’ve heard rumblings of some kind of documentary MTV is doing based on the Seattle music scene. Maybe you know that it is called MTV $5 Cover: Seattle, maybe you’re curious about it, maybe you’re excited about it, or maybe you heard about it and disregarded it because “MTV” was in the title. What most people share in common is a vague familiarity with the project without knowing exactly what it is. I’m going to do my best to clue you in, as the 12-part web series debuts today on www.fivedollarcover.com.
One thing that should be made clear is that this is not something local music fans should ignore or write-off simply because it was produced by MTV. It was directed by Seattle-native Lynn Shelton, who directed the Sundance hit Humpday, and it’s clear that the Seattle music scene is something she has always had a strong connection with, and that she was truly passionate about portraying what life is like for the Seattle bands that fans of the local music scene have come to know, love, and call their own. All of the bands featured in the series seemed to have bought into Shelton’s enthusiasm and mission in filming the series, as well. After it was screened for the first time at SIFF, the series received a standing ovation from an audience that included the members of the bands portrayed.
OK, that’s all great, but what exactly is it, you ask? Though it’s been discussed as a “documentary,” it most certainly is not - not in the traditional sense anyway. Shelton calls it a “work of art,” and while it’s hard to imagine considering anything on MTV a work of art, Shelton was given complete creative freedom when it came to filming and framing the series around what she wanted. As opposed to a documentary, which might consist of interviews and footage of the bands living their actual lives and playing actual shows, $5 Cover is both scripted and unscripted. The narratives were conceived by Shelton with the help of the band members, and both the bands and hired actors act out the story lines on screen. It almost comes off as something like The Hills or Laguna Beach, in this regard, falling somewhere in between a reality show and an actual series.
Here’s the trailer:
Each episode focuses on a different band or bands and plays out various running story lines that are based on the actual lives of the band members. Shelton sat down with every band involved and figured out what would be the best way to portray their personal experiences and issues they have dealt with as members of the Seattle music scene -- “The scenarios,” Shelton says, “are actual recreations of stories [the artists] told me.” For example, she heard a particular Thee Emergency song, talked with frontwoman Dita Vox about it, and as a result her story revolves around her back luck with men. All of the web-isodes tie together, and the series as a whole is meant to portray the sense of community among the bands, despite the different types of music they play or their different backgrounds.
The bands featured are THEESatisfaction, Champagne, Champagne, Thee Emergency, the Tea Cozies, Whiskey Tango, The Lights, Weekend, The Maldives, Correspondents, The Spits, God, Sean Nelson, and The Moondoggies, whose broken-down van acts as a running theme throughout the series. Here’s a look behind the scenes with director Lynn Shelton discussing what she was looking for when she chose the bands:
Like I said, these are web-isodes and will be available to watch on MTV.com. They will not air on MTV. You can find more information and view the episodes as they are released on the MTV $5 Cover website.
And, of course, how could anything profiling the Seattle music scene be complete without giving a nod to the one and only KEXP? The Tea Cozies’ episode consists of a mock KEXP in-studio performance, which you can view right here: