There are a new group of Friends coming to video and this time there is a music spin to it. Max Joseph from MTV’s Catfish is directing the new film We Are Your Friends. The story surrounds Cole Carter played by actor Zac Efron, from the movies Hairspray and Neighbors, learning to be a DJ from celebrity music maker James Reed. His girlfriend is played by Emily Ratajkowski as Sophie who many know from the “Blurred Lines” music video and the movie Gone Girl.
Nexus’ Nunn went to The MID, a dance club in the West Loop, to interview the trio before the movie opened.
Jerry Nunn: Where did the title of your new movie come from?
Max Joseph: It was originally called The Unknown DJ Project for a while.
JN: Not as catchy…
MJ: The problem was it was too catchy. People would read the script and they felt it was more than just a DJ or EDM movie. We thought of a lot of DJ puns but it felt cheesy. I looked through my iTunes library and found “We Are Your Friends” which is Justice vs. Simian. It resonated with so many themes of the movie not just working in one way but many ways. It was an anthem and was one of the first big electronic music songs to cross over.
JN: It is a bromance movie. Did the group hang out before filming?
Zac Efron: We rehearsed at my house. Once we started this movie it kicked in really quickly. We started filming right away.
MJ: We rented an Airbnb over a course of a weekend in the Valley where it was me and the guys.
ZE: We all had a big hang out session. We realized overnight that we were instant best friends. From that point forward we had a really cohesive energy. They were great with improvisation. We have a really young, talented cast.
MJ: They bonded really quickly so when we started shooting in the car scenes or just hanging out they were talking and ribbing each other. It felt very authentic. We could step back and film it.
JN: Who is the celebrity DJ James Reed based on?
MJ: He’s based on a bunch of different people.
ZE: Mr. Miyagi, Obi-Wan Kenobi…
MJ: I had done a documentary about DFA Records while I was writing the script and many of the ideas came from that.
JN: The pool scene was perfect.
ZE: It was a fun day. We took over that house for three days.
MJ: It was so hot when we were shooting that in the Valley. We shot it literally a year ago today. That was the one nice location that had a breeze.
JN: I noticed a drag queen in the movie.
MJ: There was a nod in that scene to the underground house movement, which started here in Chicago. I had done a lot of research on electronic music. I know the movie is about straight white guys but the origins of that music is in the gay and Black music scene in Detroit and Chicago. When James, who knows more about music, is opening the world to Cole he takes him to an underground house party. That is based on a party thrown at that very club in Los Angeles called Los Globos where we shot that. It is a much more eclectic group of people with gay, straight, and drag at the club.
JN: Are you now a DJ, Zac? Are you spinning tonight?
ZE: No, I think it is like anything else that you put time and effort into to be truly great. It opened my eyes to the world of DJing. It is complicated and not easy. I give those guys so much credit. It was a lot of fun and made me gravitate to that style of music.
JN: The movie seems about finding your own niche and style. Was that the point you were trying to get across?
MJ: Yeah. Everyone in their early ‘20s is searching to find themselves. If you want to be an artist of any kind then you need to find your voice. Part of that involves trying on a lot of different hats and seeing what fits and what doesn’t. It is figuring out who you are and what is pure to you. I think that is important if you want to make anything that will resonate with anyone else. Each of the boys had their own arcs and Sophie does as well.
Emily Ratajkowski: Sophie doesn’t know what she wants and by the end of the movie she still doesn’t know. When she is done she has sacrificed all the things that she used to identify with that makes her feel comfortable and a real person. She is taking a step in the right direction to figure out who she is.
JN: She goes on a journey.
ER: Yeah, and I love that. I don’t think there are enough stories where someone hasn’t found their passion yet and they are trying to get out of something. People find themselves in that situation at age 40 and have to let go of everything that is comfortable. It is like coming out of the closet.
JN: Who did the art in the PCP scene?
MJ: These two really talented guys that had just graduated from the Art Institute in LA. They were game to do it and we had fun going back and forth deciding on what it would look like.
JN: What is everyone working on next?
ZE: I start Neighbors 2 in a week.
ER: I start a movie in October that I can’t talk about but it doesn’t take place in the present day.
MJ: I start filming another season of Catfish right after this movie opens.
JN: Are you all doing parties everywhere to promote the movie?
ER: We have been to so many cities. We have been to London, Toronto, France, and Miami. Tomorrow we leave for San Francisco for the big opening then we are done!
We Are Your Friends is released on DVD on November 17.