Filming the video for a cover version of Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ by an alternative folk-pop singer/songwriter named after a home-brand breakfast cereal.
Download After a home-brand breakfast cereal play as a Word doc.
image by Julia Jamieson
Weasel and Brown work in the entertainment industry in some capacity. Rice Pops is a talented young alt-folk singer songwriter.
rice: My manager named me after a home brand breakfast cereal!
weas: Let me lay it out for you in block capitals, sweetheart. You are a slightly talented musician, and I am the woman who is going to put that talent in a blender, and transform it into famousness. When you are famous, and by famous I mean I can’t sit on a train without someone’s mobile phone squeaking out a Rice Pops ringtone, you can talk to me. Until then, you are a bag full of silence. Brown, what’s the word from the manager?
brown: He’s suggested a couple of covers she could do. We’ve got ‘Surfin’ USA’ by the Beach Boys, ‘Loser’ by Beck, ‘The Rockefella Skank’ by Fatboy Slim…
weas:: Wait what? Is that the ‘Right about now – funk soul brother’, etc? I thought she was a… hang on… a ‘non-traditional acoustic folk balladeer’. How the fuck are you going to cover a Fatboy Slim track?
rice: Right about now, the funk soul brother
Check it out now, the funk soul brother
weas: Yes well done. What about when he makes the voice go into slow motion? Do we record you singing in to a fan?
rice: Check it oooooooout nooooooowwwwwwww…
weas: All right shut up. What else have we got?
brown: ‘You’ve got to fight for your right to party’ and ‘Tom’s Diner’.
weas: Who wrote this list? Am I supposed to sell her as an elegant folk troubadour or a crusty white backpack hiphopper?
brown: Cat Power covered ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ as a mournful ballad, which I think was what made her name.
weas: My two-year old covered the kitchen wall with crayon, which I think is a closer analogy of what we’re looking at here.
rice: My manager thinks I could do a beautiful version of ‘Tom’s Diner.’
weas: Your manager abdicated the right to an opinion when he signed you. Brown?
brown: ‘Tom’s Diner’ has the cheapest copyright on the list.
weas: Fine. Whose diner was it?
brown: It’s a Suzanne Vega track.
weas: What else do we know? Brief me.
brown: …I can Wikipedia it.
weas: Isn’t there a slightly more professional way to find information out about a recording artist?
rice: I could go undercover as a Suzanne Vega fan and join her Fan Club! I could get a monthly magazine with hot inside goss and stickers!
weas: What’s on Wikipedia?
brown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzanne_Vega. (It is not okay to include URLs in scripts but this is an exception.) ‘Vega is an American singer-songwriter known for her highly literate lyrics and eclectic folk-inspired music. In 1987, she scored a hit with her second album ‘Solitude Standing’, featuring the track ‘Tom’s Diner’. The a capella track was later remixed by British dance producers DNA in 1991.’
weas: Since then?
brown: ‘In August 2006, Vega became the first major recording artist to perform live in the Internet-based virtual world, Second Life.’
weas: Well, that’s awkward. Am I right in thinking that finished her off?
brown: Wikipedia knows nothing of her subsequently.
weas: So she’s in no position to make critical comments. How’s it start?
rice: ‘I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner.’
weas: Good, that’s good. We can work with that. What’s the chorus?
rice: There isn’t one.
weas: There fucking better be one.
rice: She says ‘doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo’
weas: Shut up. Brown, have we got an enormous sound system set up in this theatre?
weas: And is there a guy in the booth up there with ‘Tom’s Diner’ cued up and ready to play?
weas: Make him to play of it.
‘Tom’s Diner’ plays through the speakers with much clarity and volume
weas: Oh it’s this song. All right, we can work with this. All right, Pops, what does your artist’s voice tell you?
rice: I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner
I am waiting by the counter for the man to pour the coffee
and he fills it only halfway, but before I even argue
he is turning his attention to somebody coming in…
brown: That’s beautiful. They’re such rich, evocative lyrics. ‘I am waiting by the counter for the man to pour the coffee…’
brown: Because we’re all, each of us, really, waiting by the counter. Aren’t we?
weas: Yes we are.
brown: Waiting for the man to pour the coffee.
weas: It is a rich soup of evocative.
brown: Some people wait their whole life and he never pours that cup.
weas: Brown, you have a rope of drool down past your elbow. Now, the key selling point is obviously the video. Thoughts?
rice: Well I was thinking it should be like a Bjork video, or a Radiohead one, like really rich and imagery.
weas: Did you just say the clip should be ‘imagery’?
rice: It should have images in it.
weas: Can we manage to get any images in the video clip, Brown?
brown: Could squeeze some in, yeah.
weas: Okay, that’s your contribution, Pops. Now, you go over there and put on this dress, we’ll figure out the film.
rice: What’s this dress for?
weas: It is a red cocktail dress that will make you look like the contents of fifty thousand wet dreams overlaid on top of each other.
rice: I don’t want to look like mashed up wet dreams, I want to look natural. My manager says I shouldn’t become a sex symbol.
weas: Brown, what are the odds that Rice Pops is going to become a sex symbol?
brown: Without the red dress, not at all. With the red dress, about as sexy as the yellow robot from the Star Wars movies.
rice: I want to wear jeans and a beanie with flaps over my ears.
weas: You’re an indie artist in your own goddamn time. While you’re on a Major Label, you adopt Major Label ways. Now are you going to write some music for this song or not?
rice: I think it should be me and, like, interesting percussion.
weas: Yes, good. So you work on the interesting percussion over there.
rice: Well where’s the percussion equipment?
weas: Tell you what, you find some interesting shit, you hit it.
Rice Pops goes over there and hits some interesting shit.
weas: All right, Brown, I’ve got neurons firing. Bring me a kettle full of stimulus, let’s boil up a pot of creativity. What have we got?
brown: A magazine headline. It says ‘One Track Mind’.
weas: All right, so our video clip features a woman with a mind.
brown: A one track mind.
weas: That’s precisely the number of tracks her mind possesses. She’s driven and focused, but unable to assimilate new ideas. She’s unstoppable, but is she a force for good or for evil? Brown?
brown: Evil. Good. Okay, we’ve also got a picture cut out of a magazine of… a man’s head near a big toy spider.
weas: Spider. Spider. Symbol of fear. Eight leggedness. Symbol of being able to climb walls. And lay traps. Brown, our protagonist must embody these qualities.
brown: Having eight legs? I could get the octopus outfit…
weas: No, we’re not doing another music video starring the fucking octopus outfit. I hate that outfit. I’m talking about the spiritual qualities of the spider. Climbing walls, laying traps. Rice Pops is going to be a one track minded femme fatale who’s laying a trap for an unwitting male. She’s a bad girl. Are you with me?
brown: So the clip is Rice Pops laying a trap for a dude…
weas: That dude is you.
brown: I’m not a dude.
weas: I know you’re not a dude, Brown, which is why I’m suggesting you wear a fake moustache and a beanie. Now sort yourself out, I’m going to see how the Cereal Princess is getting on.
Weas goes to join Rice Pops.
weas: So let’s hear it. ‘Tom’s Diner’, as performed by Rice Pops:
Rice Pops has much unusual instrumentation.
rice: doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo, I am sitting in the morning, I am hitting weird objects, I am waiting by the camera for someone to make me famous…
weas: Beautiful. Transcendental. What are you hitting?
rice: It’s unusual percussion.
weas: I guess it is. All right, I’ll take over hitting this stuff, you get over there with Brown and let’s get to filming. Now you’re a spider-esque femme fatale, stalking a guy. Brown is the object of your affection. Brown, wave.
rice: Brown’s a girl.
weas: She’s got a moustache and a beanie on.
rice: Why do we have to pretend that she’s a man? Maybe in the film clip my character is a lesbian.
weas: I don’t know if you really grasp the idea behind the art of the music video. The aim of the clip is to make you appear available and accessible. We want the viewer to believe that they could bone you at a minute’s notice. If you get with another girl on film, it will be to look as if you have low self esteem and want to appear hot for the boys, not because you’re actually gay. All right, first scene. We’ll use the mountain backdrop.
rice: But Brown doesn’t look anything like a man.
weas: Brown, look more manly. More. Even more. That’s too much. Okay, now make your shoulders and arms a little more effeminate, so you don’t look like you’re on ‘roids. Good. Okay, camera rolling. Opening shots, we’re in the mountains, it’s snowing, we see Brown. Brown, you’re some guy in the mountains in the snow.
brown: I am in the snow.
weas: We’ll get the CGI guys to add in some FX later to make you look less like a midcareeer transsexual. Camera swivels round, there is Rice Pops, through the trees, she is looking at Brown lustfully. Singing. Singing.
rice: Am I supposed to be walking through the snow wearing a red cocktail dress?
rice: Singing a song about how I’m standing in a diner with a cup of coffee?
rice: All right.
Weas plays the interesting instrumentation, rolls camera. Rice Pops stalks Brown through the snow.
rice: DOO-DOO DOO-DOO, DOO-DOO-DOO-DOO,
I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner
I am waiting by the counter for the man to pour the coffee…
brown: What am I supposed to be doing?
weas: She’s stalking you like a spider.
brown: Why am I in the mountains?
weas: You’re the man that’s being stalked by the woman in the video clip.
brown: That’s what she’s doing, that’s why she’s in the mountains. What am I doing?
weas: You’re doing what a man does. What do men do?
Brown does what men do.
weas: That’s good. Now do that, but in the mountains. Go.
rice: …and he fills it only half full, but before I even argue,
he is turning his attention to somebody coming in.
doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo…
weas: That’s fine. All right, second verse. Now you’re stalking him somewhere else, so we get to understand the depths of your obsession. Brown, get changed into a different outfit.
rice: Can I wear a different outfit?
weas: No, you’re too crazy and obsessed to change clothes. So the second scene happens at the opera. Brown, you go sit in the seats with the rest of the audience and look like you’re watching an opera. Brown, you look like a girl again.
rice: The beanie makes her look like a man.
weas: The box of cereal is right. Brown, keep the beanie on.
brown: I’m at the damn opera!
weas: You’re a man. Have you ever seen a man at the opera without his beanie on?
weas: That’s right. Go sit next to the most sophisticated people you can, get that opera vibe going.
Brown sits in the audience.
weas: Maybe you can talk with them about the opera you’re watching? Make it look natural. What does a man say when he’s at the opera with people?
brown: This is the opera. It is the opera.
audience members: It is.
weas: Now, Rice Pops. There he is, sitting in the crowd. Stalk him with your predatory love. Cameras rolling, here’s the music… Go!
rice: it is always nice to see you, says the man behind the counter
to the woman who has come in, she is shaking her umbrella
and I look the other way as they are kissing their hellos
and I’m pretending not to see them, and instead I pour the milk
doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo…
Weas’ phone on stage begins to ring. Presumably it is attached by a string to the director’s seat, and the director makes it shake whenever necessary. Weas goes to answer it.
weas: Keep going, keep going. Hi yeah?
It is a Director Cameo speaking from the audience (through a TUBE) or a cunning piece of stage-chicanery whereby Brown or Rice Pops speaks as Suzanne Vega (through a TUBE).
suzanne vega: Hi, it’s Suzanne Vega. Is this Ms Weasels?
rice: I open up the paper, there’s a story of an actor
who had died while he was drinking, it was no-one I had heard of
suzanne vega: I noticed that someone at your address looked at my Wikipedia page a few minutes ago… just wondering if there’s anything in particular you wanted to know, anything I could help you with?
rice: and I’m turning to the horoscopes, looking for the funnies
weas: Are you normally on the internet?
suzanne vega: These days I have the internet in my head. So what were you looking for, exactly?
rice: when I’m feeling somone watching me and so I raise my head
doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo…
suzanne vega: What was that? Is someone singing Tom’s Diner in the background there?
weas: Um… a little bit.
suzanne vega: A little bit because they’re in a bit of a singing mood, or a little bit because you’re covering my song and you’re recording the video clip while we speak?
rice: there’s a woman on the outside looking inside, does she see me?
no she does not even see me, she sees her own reflection
weas: More the second one, yeah.
suzanne vega: May I see?
rice: and I’m trying not to notice she is hitching up her skirt
weas: Well I mean we can send you a copy when we’ve finished-
suzanne vega: That won’t be necessary. I’ve hacked in to the security camera system for your studio, I’m looking at you now.
rice: while she’s straightening her stockings, her hair has gotten wet
doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo
weas: Guys, shh. Suzanne Vega is watching us through the internet.
suzanne vega: Please, don’t be afraid. I’m merely curious regarding your artistic intentions with my song. Carry on.
weas: Uh, okay. Pops, Brown, we’re going to jump to the end. Pops, you’re standing on one side of a busy street, in a shop.
rice: What kind of shop?
weas: The kind where you use your imagination to figure out what kind of shop it is and then don’t tell anyone. There’s Brown, the man you love, he’s on the other side of the street, in a cafe. You’re singing to him. You want him so badly. Sing it.
rice: Oh, this rain it will continue through the morning as I’m listening
To the bells of the cathedral…
weas: Now we see a girl come up to Brown, put her hand in his…
brown: What girl? Who’s the girl?
weas: Me, I’m the girl. Here. So you see us hug, we sit down at the cafe. Brown gets down on one knee and gives me a ring, oh no, he’s proposing to me. Brown, propose.
brown: Okay, I… I am wanting to become your husband now, please.
weas: Oh! I’d love to! Kisses kisses etcetera. So it’s clearly not going to work between the stalker and the dude. Close up on Rice, she’s still singing, with a whole bunch of sadness.
rice: I am thinking of your voice…
weas: Can your voice crack a little on the final chorus?
rice: …doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo…
weas: Wrenching. Now we see you buy something significant. We’ll film it through the glass and there’ll be rain beading on the glass and everything.
brown: Rain on the glass, like tears.
weas: Yes. And we see Rice Pops buy something to indicate her loss.
rice: Like I buy a knife to kill myself with?
weas: No, like something to comfort you.
brown: Teddy bears are comforting.
weas: That’s right, that’s meaningful. So you buy a teddy bear, and you walk out of the shop, and we see you walk off into the distance. Into the rain.
rice: It’s not raining.
weas: Brown, splash some water on her.
brown: Right you are.
Brown splashes some water on Rice Pops.
rice: Doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo…
The phone makes impatient noises.
weas: Ms Vega?
suzanne vega: Where is the young man?
weas: The young man?
suzanne vega: With the beanie and the moustache.
weas: Uh, Brown? Brown, Suzanne Vega wants to talk with you.
Brown takes the phone.
suzanne vega: Mr Brown, I like the cut of your jib. I have a proposal for you. Do you have a family? People who care for you?
brown: No, I mean, well I guess in effect I’m basically alone.
suzanne vega: So would there be anyone who might be offended if you were to appear in a… a blue movie? You see I’ve just received $540 million dollars from Universal Studios and the National American Space Agency to direct the first pornographic feature film in space. We’re looking at filming in about fourteen months’ time, so we need someone to start training straight away. Now this is strictly vanilla – no costumes, no props, no unexpected orifices. Just good, old-fashioned, heterosexual, missionary sex, in space. We’ve had Joanna Newsom lined up for six months now, but we haven’t seen a man we liked the look of until now. Are you on board?
suzanne vega: The limousine is waiting outside for you now. Come along now, Brown. Say farewell to your friends.
brown: …bye Weasel. Bye Rice Pops.
Long awkward silence.
rice: ….ssssssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuulllllllll bbbrrrrrrroooootttttthhhrrrrrrrrrrrr…..?
weas: I suppose so.
rice: Right about now! The funk soul brother! Check it out now! The funk soul brother! Right about now! The funk soul brother! Check it out now! The funk soul brother! Right about now! The funk soul brother! Check it out now! The funk soul brother! Right about now! The funk soul brother! Check it out now! The funk soul brother! Right about now! The funk soul brother! Check it out now! The funk soul brother! Right about now! The funk soul brother!
& on into the night. The end.