“Scarred but Smarter” offers a perfect guide to budding musicians on how to pick your battles.
Review by David Feltman
“I don’t want to do this if it’s not fun anymore.”
I wish there was a ‘making of’ documentary for “Scarred but Smarter,” the story of how director/Regular Guys radio show host Eric Von Haessler started out on a two month project to create a music video for the band Drivin’N’ Cryin’ and ended up following them for three years with his camera. But what he actually filmed was pretty entertaining too.
Like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “Beyond the Lighted Stage,” “Scarred but Smarter” shows the inner machinations of the band. The band politics, dealings with the record label, the boon and burden of having a hit song like “Fly Me Courageous” and “Straight to Hell,” and the inevitable asshattery that accompanies fame are all covered in detail. But what sets the film apart from others is that Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is perpetually on the cusp of superstardom throughout its 28 years. Every time the documentary covers a hit song or a popular album, you’ll find yourself conditioned to expect the story of breakout success that all other music docs include. But, either by a trick of bad timing or poor decision making by the band, success never lands.
Von Haessler argues in the film that Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is successful, just not in the mega-bucks, super famous way. Despite regional trappings and the marketing difficulties of their unclassifiable sound, the band has lasted a long time, developed an ardent fan base and gets to keep making albums. Von Haessler wisely keeps his voice-over narration relegated to the beginning and ending of the movie and letting the band and their associates carry the story telling. And the stories are fascinating and unexpected. Who knew that the record label tried to force Kevn Kinney to fix his teeth or that Jeffrey Dahmer ate one of Kinney’s childhood friends?
“Scarred but Smarter” offers a perfect guide to budding musicians on how to pick your battles. Leading by example, the band demonstrates what to do and what not to do in the music business. And it’s fun to watch. The movie was treated to a hometown premier at the Plaza Theater for this year’s Atlanta Film Festival. The film also comes in the middle of a four EP release cycle that has so far met critical praise. The third EP, Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock, comes out April 16th. Maybe, just maybe this will be their time.