Groove, the cinematic snapshot of one night in a San Francisco warehouse party, just might be the first rave film to carry a DJ seal of approval.
"People were very concerned about a movie being made about the [rave] scene, because the scene has constantly been vilified," explains first-time director Greg Harrison. But Harrison's take on rave culture has succeeded, where other films like Go misfired, because it emerged from the scene.
The buzz on Groove began at Sundance, where it was snapped up for $1.5 million by Sony Classics, and continues to build as it's released nationwide today.
Harrison says, "I started writing Groove in 1996, [after moving to San Francisco from Los Angeles], about the same time I started getting into the local rave scene. Groove definitely came out of my own experiences. [It's a perfect example of] writing what you know."
Working with the film's music director, Wade Randolph Hampton, a k a DJ WishFM, the Groove crew convinced local and international DJs including Polywog and U.K. trance kingpin Jon Digweed to participate in the film, spinning on screen. "We reached out to the underground community and found people who really do play at parties of this size," says Harrison
"I wrote the DJs as characters first and wanted to have different personalities represent different styles of music," says Harrison. "When it came time to cast, I wanted to find real DJs to suit the characters. I even wrote what their crates [of records] would look like, because that's very evocative of their personalities."
Reflecting the central role of music in the film, several Groove CDs are in the works. The original motion picture soundtrack, programmed by Hampton with an emphasis on San Francisco rave classics, hits stores Tuesday; an exclusive Digweed mix disc follows later this summer, and a third, chill-out disc is planned. Plus, several Groove DJs are spinning on the movie's premiere tour, playing dates nationwide throughout June and July.
Next, they had to find real ravers. Producer Danielle Renfrew says they spread the word the same way rave invitations really circulate via flyers, e-mail, and postcards. "We threw a huge party that functioned as a casting call," she explains. The response was amazing. "We had hundreds of people. That really influenced the film everyone learned from each other there were people who were really involved in the scene, and also people who were well-trained actors, coming together. It was an interesting mix."
The filmmakers found their key location in a warehouse on San Francisco's waterfront. Ironically, in one scene, the rave's organizer bluffs a policeman by claiming that the unauthorized party going on is actually the launch fete for a new dot-com start-up, which is far more likely to be what you'd find in a San Francisco warehouse these days.
Harrison says that locating a spot, any spot, in which to throw an actual rave is nigh impossible in the San Francisco's booming dot-com economy. With most of the city's key South of Market clubs threatened with closure and real estate going for a pretty penny, good luck discovering an unoccupied building for any purpose. "I have friends moving out of what I think was the last loft space in San Francisco," says Renfrew. "They're getting paid $15 grand to move out for office space."