"Bad Animal" aims to portray the diversity and DIY spirit of the Chicago music scene

“Bad Animal” aims to portray the diversity and DIY spirit of the Chicago music scene

There is something unique and disturbing when it comes to the indie music scene in Chicago. It’s something Remsy Atassi sought to capture in his award-winning directorial debut, “Bad Animal.”

Movie – Available to stream now on Prime Video, Tubi, Mometu, Hoopla, and www.emulsionlab.com – a love letter to the city’s music scene.

“Chicago is almost like a character in a movie,” says Atassi, co-founder of Chicago film company Emulsion Lab. “All of these cool DIY venues are part of the history and legacy of Chicago music. The DIY scene is a huge thing here. It’s such a wonderful and diverse world, all these different types of artists coming together. … I just felt like there was a big story there.”

The film tells the fictional story of Cimbri and Marilyn, who fall in love while trying to grow their music careers. Sempree – played by Chicago poet, artist and actor Mikelle DeVille – is a rising hip-hop star who is building on the success of his debut album. (Deville is also the former bunker employee who led to my complaints Temporary closure of the club.) Marilyn — played by Chicago native Rivka Reyes for “School of Rock” — juggles being a musician, manager, and company owner.

When a producer shows up with a major label deal for Sembré, they have to confront their pasts and who they have become while navigating this newfound fame.

“Bad Animal” explores the ways in which “we interact with each other and change over time and the way we hurt each other sometimes and the way that changes us,” says Atassi, who is also the film’s screenwriter.

The film is a cautionary tale about the price of success.

“You get put under a microscope in your decisions, you get surrounded by people around you that are hard to trust or relate to and you get voices in your head,” he says. “We always have to be careful of that voice and try to stay true to who we really are. But also, mistakes are part of life…and there is always room for growth, change, and learning.”

Filmed in 2019, Bad Animal builds on work created by Atassi and director of photography Sean Robert Kelly at Emulsion Lab since its inception in 2017. They have been working on photo shoots, videos and short films focusing on local musicians. The Kickstarter campaign for the film raised over $15,000.

“The script seemed like a perfect marriage of the content we were producing and the artists we were working with,” says Atassi. “If you have good people around you who support you, you just know you’re not going to give up.”

Featuring a locally sourced soundtrack, the film features original songs by bands like The Palmer Squares, Chris Crack, Pixel Grip, Malci, and Pet Symmetry. DeVille and Reyes covered some of the songs in the movie.

The director’s brother Rami Atassi, a musician from Chicago, scored the film, which recently won Best Original Score at the Venice, California Fine Arts Festival.

Music has been important to Atassi since he grew up in northwest Ohio. Lived in Chicago for 15 years. He enjoys the city for its sense of community.

“There’s a lot of real art here because people are here because they’re passionate about their craft,” he says. “Making art for its own purpose, connecting with people, and having a community can be an end in itself.”

Chemistry was helped by Reyes and DeVille, who have been best friends since they went to the University of Illinois at Chicago. Reyes relished the opportunity to star with her friend and be a part of another movie based on the music.

“It was nice to share some of that actual live experience that I had from being a musician in Chicago, from dating musicians, and from knowing a lot of musicians in Chicago,” she says. “It’s easy for me to imagine myself in Marilyn’s living conditions because I lived in those conditions.”

She no longer lives in Chicago, but the city will always feel like home. She enjoyed filming in familiar locations, including The Beat Kitchen, where her high school band performed at the Battle of the Bands.

“To be able to have one of my last months in Chicago shooting a movie in [these places]It was wild,” she says. “It really felt like it was the perfect end to my time in Chicago, kind of bittersweet.”


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