Actor Peter Coyote calls Corey Mesler's Memphis Movie (Soft Skull Press) "spot-on" in its re-creation of what it takes to make a movie. But what Coyote maybe doesn't know is that Mesler — co-owner, with wife Cheryl, of Burke's Book Store — went into this, his eighth novel, with only a vague idea of what he was doing.
"I read a few books for background," Mesler told the Flyer. "But, honestly, I had no idea whether my depiction of a film set, film folks, or the entire film milieu was at all accurate, until Peter Coyote and [actor and former Memphian] Chris Ellis both told me I nailed it."
Courtney Love, you might say, started it years ago. According to Mesler: "She came into the bookstore with an entourage. I thought, This is strange. This is not usually how a day in Memphis progresses.
"I started Memphis Movie like I start all my novels: with an amorphous idea of what I'm doing. When the character of Eric Warberg began taking shape is when I thought I might be onto something good."
Warberg, a onetime Hollywood success story but with a few recent flops under his belt, is Memphis Movie's central character, and he's returned to his hometown, Memphis, to get his directing career back on track. How? By making a movie. About what? Even Warberg isn't so sure. But no problem. The action in Memphis Movie is more off the set than on, and so is most of his cast and crew — on the make and bedding every which way.
Chaotic, crazed? That describes the action in Memphis Movie, and Mesler said so. But he also recalled his role as an extra when the Metropolitan Opera, on tour, would come to town: "I hate opera, but backstage it was exhilarating. I was struck by how chaotic and crazed and downright ornery it was behind the curtain, and then, suddenly, when the action moved out onto the stage, it was magic aborning. There was an artistic whoosh. Beauty from chaos. Hey, there's my theme in Memphis Movie!"