Jerry Wayne produces a bleak view of Los Angelesby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
Jerry Wayne knows all about the good and the bad of Los Angeles. As a kid from central Minnesota, he headed west to try to make it in the music business. He saw how some people succeed, but many don't. Wayne is the producer of a new film called "Broken," which opens in the Twin Cities this weekend. Like L.A. itself, the film's full of dangerous undercurrents.
St. Paul, Minn. — As it opens, "Broken" is filled with hope. Literally. An enthusiastic young woman begins speaking.
"What is it they say? 'Today is the first day of the rest of my life.' Goodbye Cleveland! Everyone has been telling me not to go, not to follow my dream, but I've got to get out of here."
This is Hope, an aspiring singer, talking into the video camera she uses as a diary.
"I see my mom and I figure, if I end up like that, I might as well be dead already. I've been dreaming about this my whole life," she gasps giddily into the camera.
Off she goes. The dream gradually fades.
"The story is simply about a young woman who leaves the Midwest, going to Hollywood with stars in her eyes to be the next pop-rock star and gets together with a bad guy as a boyfriend and he takes her down this path of heroin."
Producer Jerry Wayne says audiences will have to work a little when they see "Broken."
"It plays as a straight and tragic love story. But it also plays as this very complex storyline and structure that you really do have to think about," he says.
Wayne knows the draw of the West Coast all too well. After being in bands and running a record store in the Twin Cities in the '70s, he headed west himself.
"You know I came out of the '60s," he says. "I was in a rock band, there was heroin around. It scared me."
Wayne was able to avoid the pitfalls. He worked as a music producer and then built a successful commercial production business in Las Vegas.
It's clear though that those early days still weigh on Jerry Wayne's mind.
In the film Hope, played by Heather Graham, falls under the spell of her boyfriend, Will, and begins to lose control.
They eventually break up, but she's left isolated and alone, struggling to make ends meet.
Much of the action in "Broken" plays out in a diner where Hope waits tables. She's had no success with her music and she begins to see herself reflected in the late night customers, her own version of the seven deadly sins.
Meanwhile Will is on his way to win her back, by any means possible.
Jerry Wayne recalls what one reviewer wrote about the diner.
"He called it 'Hell-ay.' He called it 'the wannabe diner' because all the people in this situation were wannabes," he says.
The crew shot the film in a real diner in a run-down part of Los Angeles. It was small, and with all the equipment, and actors, hot and cramped. Wayne says he believes it worked to the to the film's advantage
"We were in this diner for two weeks, under those conditions it became more like a theater troupe. Everybody, the season performers and the young kids, everybody just got along so well and there was just such a good vibe it was really quite a pleasure," he says.
Jerry Wayne admits he has an admiration for films like "Pulp Fiction" amd "Momento" where the plot jumps backwards and forwards in time. He says he's heard several different interpretations of "Broken." He has his own understanding, but he's careful to say whatever individual audience members settle upon is perfectly fine by him.
"In some ways it's like a puzzle," Wayne says. "You put it together. There's this blur between what is real and what isn't real."
Wayne says like many young people, Hope is lost. It's easy to blame Los Angeles, but Wayne says he also thinks Hope was broken before she left the Midwest.
- Morning Edition, 10/18/2007, 6:52 a.m.