Show Casing: Mark Phinney’s film ‘Fat’ captures a local music scene on the fly

To poorly paraphrase a film poet from the ’80s: “Local music moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

That’s the feeling before tonight’s premiere of Fat at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Writer/director Mark Phinney’s moving film about a man who struggles with food addiction (played by Miami native Mel Rodriguez, who has since been seen in AMC’s Better Call Saul, HBO’s Getting On, and Will Forte’s Fox comedy The Last Man on Earth) is set against the backdrop of the Boston music scene. Filmed around town in 2012, screened at the Toronto Film Fest in 2013, showcased at the Independent Film Festival of Boston last year, and now coming to iTunes two weeks from today, Fat has captured a scene that’s partly unrecognizable just three years after completion.

On the soundtrack alone, former luminaries Mean Creek and Stereo Telescope have broken up, and the Fagettes have changed their name to the less-suggestive Barbazons. And of course, T.T. The Bear’s Place, the Cambridge rock club where several scenes were film, closed last summer (it’s expected to re-open as Sonia’s early next year, with the space now owned and operated by the team behind the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub).

Throughout the film, there’s also an endless display of local t-shirts (Rodriguez reps famed Kemmore Square dive the Rat and beloved alt-rock radio station WFNX) and roles and cameos from musicians in the Rationales (David Mirabella), Razors in the Night (Troy Schoeller, who plays Rodriguez’ trainer), and Jittery Jack (former T.T.’s manager Kevin Patey), and the soundtrack also features the film’s music composer MG Lederman (of the late, great Victory at Sea), former We’re All Gonna Die shredder Jim Healey, gloomy rock shruggers The Milling Gowns, and others. As we noted in a 2014 preview of the soundtrack, the our city’s music scene is as important to the film as Seattle’s was to Singles in the early ’90s.

“All the music is great,” Phinney, a Boston native and former Los Angeles resident, tells Vanyaland earlier this week in advance of tonight’s premiere, where he’ll also host a Q&A. “The bands here have always been my favorites. I mean since I grew up. From old school to the latest, and I wanna show that love, respect and adoration. I am a local guy and coming back here, I wanted to be a part of that again and these bands welcomed me back. They became some of my first, new Boston friends. I wanted to work with them. The local music, people and scene is the backbone of the movie. The music for it is a backdrop that is the spine and blueprint. And the music is amazing. Simple as that.”

He pauses, for a few moments, then gets honest: “And I couldn’t get Morrissey for the soundtrack.”

Which is a shame, because few artists would have been able to lament the closing of T.T.’s quite like the Moz. But in Fat, we have Mirabella on its stage, and several others key scenes shot around its bar and pool table room.

“I had no idea T.T.’s would be gone,” Phinney admits, “but it being gone, as sad as it is, makes it even more special. I grew up on that club. The people back then and near the end were special to me. I worked there. They made me welcome as well. From Randi [Millman, former booker] to Bonney [Bouley, owner], Patey, the staff have become great friends to me. So, yeah… I didn’t know, but I feel that I have some part in immortalizing it now. The movie is so much more special now. That we have these images of this legendary room in something we made.”

Preview the Fat soundtrack and trailer below…