Film Ten Thousand Saints – starring Ethan Hawke and Emily Mortimer – delved deep into punk Straight Edge scene as it adapted Eleanor Henderson's novel. With its release on DVD today (18 April) directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman explain in a guest column for Q how and why they brought punk offshoot to the big screen.
Back in our high school days, punk music was so exotic that you could count on one hand the students who liked it, both of us being among them. We stuck out from the rockers or preppies with our thrift shop clothing, spiky haircuts and anarchistic attitudes. For us, this was a triumphant time when traditionally uncool kids turned the tables and became cool, and a new musical style shook up the teen social structure.
Years later, we read about a new youth movement called “straight edge”, an offshoot of hardcore that we both found intriguing. Although we were older and less entrenched in any kind of music scene, we both noted that it was the kind of thing we would have probably gravitated to as kids, mostly because of the community aspect of adhering to a shared code combined with the power of great, raw music by bands like Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits and Bold. Our CBGBs of the Blondie and Ramones days — a time of stale beer and cocaine — evolved into sober Sunday matinees, testosterone-fueled stage dives and only coke the beverage.
When we began adapting the novel Ten Thousand Saints into a film, we submerged ourselves in Straight Edge research. Much to our surprise, we discovered a number of people in our own circle who had been touched by this movement. For example, we have a niece who had a rough time growing up in Panama, and she credits the Latin American Straight Edge movement with saving her life.
When we told her the basic plot of our film, she cried and showed us photographs of the X’s she once sharpied religiously on her hands. When we crewed up to shoot the film, we found ourselves surrounded by former straight edge punks now working in the business, eager to share their expertise.
Our key grip on the film was in a Washington DC band and contributed music to the soundtrack. Our actors loved having the benefit of turning to our production manager (a former straight edge kid from Cleveland) or our Costume Designer (a straight edge woman from California) to answer questions about authenticity. The novel’s author Eleanor Henderson, who married a former straight edge punk, often told us that she wanted to write a story about rebellion. How can a generation whose hippie parents’ perfected rebellion find their own unique way to rebel? It became quite evident to us that while rock music naturally changes stylistically with time, so do the varieties of rebellion the music itself inspires. Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman @10KSaints
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