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    Music transforms lives in We Are Your Friends

    "Music is made to bring people together, and We Are Your Friends speaks to our generation; this is our music, it comes from us. We can create it and maybe we can change the world in some small way, and that's really exciting," says Zac Efron who plays an aspiring 23-year-old DJ who spends his days scheming with his childhood friends and his nights working on the one track that will set the world on fire.

    For anyone who is unaware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol that permeate the party lives of many teenagers, We Are Your Friends is a hard-hitting and tragic journey into a world where getting high means everything.

    Set in the world of electronic music and Hollywood night life, the life of DJ Cole changes drastically when he meets a charismatic but damaged older DJ named James (Wes Bentley), who takes him under his wing.

    Things get complicated, however, when Cole starts falling for James' much younger girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). With Cole's forbidden relationship intensifying and his friendships unravelling, he must choose between love, loyalty, and the future he is destined for.

    The film marks Max Joseph's (MTV's Catfish: The TV Show) feature film directorial debut from a screenplay he wrote with Meaghan Oppenheimer, from a story by Richard Silverman.

    Music transforms lives in We Are Your Friends

    Big aspirations, big dreams

    "What I loved about this story it that is says so much about what it's like to be a young guy searching for himself, trying to get through life and fulfil big aspirations, big dreams, and all it takes to navigate through that. Nothing is just handed to Cole; he has to make it happen," says Efron who plays a young man trying to find his way out of one life and into another, knowing it's his gift for making music that will determine just where life will take him.

    Efron states: "The film's director, Max Joseph was eager to put some of his own life experiences on the big screen, especially those so many of us share.

    "I've always wanted to do a film about kids graduating from high school or college and moving on with their lives. They're on the precipice of adulthood and still trying to figure out in what direction they should go, amidst all the temptations we have when we're young: sex, drugs, parties, cars. And because we all have a sort of 'soundtrack' to our life, setting it in the music world really adds to the energy of the film. I was excited by the possibilities."

    The story was originally conceived by executive producer Richard Silverman. "My experiences in that world gave me the idea for a story featuring characters living in and around this iconic social movement, and whose lifestyles and passions really exemplify the broad range of music it encompasses," he says.

    Music transforms lives in We Are Your Friends

    Veteran of the club circuit

    Silverman took his original concept, which centred on an aspiring DJ who is mentored by a successful veteran of the club circuit, to producer Liza Chasin. "I love music festivals. I've seen the DJ with the laptop and equipment get up on stage and create the anthem for a generation, with thousands of people jumping to the beat. Richard's idea spoke volumes about what's happening out there today.

    "Max also has his finger on the pulse of this subject," she continues, "partially because of his work on MTV's 'Catfish,' but also because of his commercials and viral videos for YouTube that are very much in touch with this universe."

    Joseph and fellow screenwriter Meaghan Oppenheimer expanded Silverman's story into the screenplay. "The time I spent co-writing with Max was one of the most intense, rewarding and creative collaborations of my life," Oppenheimer says. "We felt like we were given such an amazing opportunity to write about a specific time, place and generation, and, ultimately, just wanted to create something that would feel special and authentic."

    "All of Meaghan's strengths as a writer were my weaknesses, so I thought it was a great fit," Joseph says.

    "From the very first time I read the script," Efron remembers, "I related to it on a personal level. I knew each of these guys in this movie; it felt like it distinctly represented a group of my friends and tapped into my own journey, a chapter of my life. I was blown away by the characters and, of course, Max's belief in the project."

    Heart-pounding beats

    We Are Your Friends is set to the heart-pounding beats of a diverse soundtrack that includes Gryffin's remix of Years & Years' Desire, plus two all-new tracks, The Americanos' BlackOut, featuring Lil Jon, Juicy J and Tyga, and Hook N Sling's Break Yourself, featuring Far East Movement and Pusha T.

    Working closely with the film's music supervisor, the prolific Randall Poster, who has more than 100 feature films to his name, Joseph says: "What we set out to do was to make a contemporary coming-of-age movie set against the music of today's world-dance, electronic, festival anthems, pop, trap, hip hop and some EDM as well. We all worked hard to choose tracks that were not only best for the story, but also contributed to a balanced mix of the many different genres that fit under the wide umbrella of dance/electronic music. The art of DJing is mixing disparate songs together seamlessly to create an emotional journey that you can dance to and I believe we've done that."

    Just as music surrounds us all, providing that underlying pulse to our daily lives, Joseph wanted the film, with its intrinsic ties to music, to be infused with real-world artists, enhancing the authenticity of Cole's experience, and the audience's as well.

    French artist Pyramid helped the filmmakers plot out Cole's music. Joseph had heard his work on Spotify while writing the script and his song, See You In The Other Side, inspired, and is also featured in, a pivotal scene in the film.

    "Back when we were brainstorming as to who could make Cole's music, I thought of Pyramid because his music is both electronic and very soulful, and has more than a hint of that French Touch sound that Justice helped pioneer in the mid-2000s," Joseph recalls. "We reached out to a number of artists in regard to writing Cole's track, but Pyramid, who is 26 and a bedroom producer from Paris-kind of the French version of Cole-responded immediately and was the most interested."

    "Music is tribal, it can transport you, both emotionally and physically," director Joseph states. "Like listening to a favourite song, I hope this movie will take audiences to another place, an exciting place, a place of truth. Because, just like Cole and his friends, we all want to find our own truth, listen to our own voice, stand on our own two feet and face a future of our own making."

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    About Daniel Dercksen

    Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit
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