By Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/6/23 – Life’s little routines are the parts of our daily existence that make things manageable. We have schedules, practiced protocols for our tasks like showering, brushing our teeth, combing our hair, getting dressed, and so on.
If we are lucky, comfort is found in these routines. We feel safe in our daily lives because of those practices that enable us to get our business done without fuss or fanfare.
For most of us, the daily routine is just that – routine – and we seek other ways to add variety into the mix of life. For some, that routine is the spice, and the predictability offers comfort.
Every now and again, something – or someone – comes into our pat routine and shakes us to our very core, changing our lives and somehow, some way makes it richer, fuller, offering hope for something better.
This is the story of writer/director George C. Siougas’ marvelous short film, “The One Note Man”. A musician who is set in his routine, finds someone to add that bit of missing spice. The result is a delightful musical rom down routine lane turned upside down.
Siougas sat down for an exclusive chat with The Hollywood Times recently from his home in Cardiff, Wales, to talk about his touching Christmastime film about a musician whose life revolves around his playing of just one note.
Click below to see our exclusive interview:
“I came across this illustration from 1921 by an artist called H.M. Bateman, a British artist, and this illustration was called ‘The One Note Man’” Siougas said, talking about the inspiration for his 20-minute masterpiece.
“It is the story of a musician whose job in the orchestra is to play one note”, Siougas said. “And after he completes this task, he gets up and goes home. The little illustration shows his routine – he gets up in the morning, brushes his teeth, has breakfast, jumps on the bus, climbs the steps up to the Albert Hall, sits in the orchestra, waits for his cue, plays his one note, gets the nod, gets up and goes back onto the bus, goes back home, and repeats his little routines until he goes asleep, and that’s it.”
“Bateman was a master of such cartoons, using his talents to convey the story through usually exaggerated reactions to minor social gaffes. And his cartoons were largely stories told without words.” This particular cartoon struck a note with Siougas.
“I thought, ‘wow that’s a really clean idea’”, Siougas said. “It made me laugh right away. But then immediately after that knee-jerk reaction of ‘wow this is a great story, it would be great for a short film,’ I started asking questions about this guy.”
“Why does he play one note? How has he arrived at that point in his life? Is he happy? Is he depressed? Can he play more notes? And sort of metaphors started … forming, about being complacent.”
Those questions came fast and furious to the filmmaker.
“What are you doing? Maybe you’re in your comfort zone, your spark has gone out, maybe because we’ve lost someone,” he said “And we’ve all been in that situation, where we’re going through the motions in life. And then what happens if we get jolted out of that with a calling? A call? An opportunity? What do we do?” Siougas ticked off the ideas that swirled through his mind as he considered this one-note existence that this little man was living.
“All these questions formed, and I thought, ‘Let’s spend more time with this guy and explore that,’” he said. “So, I developed it into a love story. A Christmas love story. And that’s how it started.”
The story follows our one-note man, played masterfully by Jason Watkins (The Crown) through his daily routine as he rises each morning to perform his one note. Our hero is the bassoonist for a small orchestra, who once he plays his note, packs up his instrument and leaves, never sticking around to hear the ensemble play the piece in total.
Then one day by chance, he is forced to stay, and hears a violin solo that prompts him to step out of his comfort zone and find a new routine, a new existence … and a potential new love. He takes the audience along for the ride as he longs for the attention of the pretty violinist, played by Louis Clein (Emmerdale), much to the chagrin of the group’s maestro, portrayed by Crystal Yu (Dr Who).
The film, with its 20-minute run time, grabs your attention and hangs onto it as you root for our one-note man to find happiness.
The musical score, composed by Academy Award winner Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love, Billy Elliott) rises in musical perfection to help tell this tale, presented without as much as one word of dialogue.
And if having an Oscar winner compose the score isn’t enough, Sioukas scored a real coup in having the film’s opening and closing moments narrated by another Oscar great – Sir Ian McKellen.
“It’s surreal, such an amazing honor,” Sioukas said of having McKellen’s warm vocal tones bookend the story with the only words spoken over the film’s 20 minutes. “He’s really the fairy dust to this amazing little Christmas fable.”
Sioukas said McKellen came on-board his film early on as a financial backer through his foundation that supports an array of causes, including music, theater, and LGBTQ issues. McKellen read the script and he agreed to finance the film to a great extent, with one caveat.
“If we could put the film on, show the film to a live orchestra, so a live orchestra could be playing the music of the film, then he would agree to finance it,” Sioukas said. “He loved the story and the script, and initially he came on board the movie as someone who helped us make the movie, put it on the big screen through his foundation.”
Sioukas said he had one more thought in mind for McKellen.
“I always had it in the back of my mind it would be such an amazing thing to have his amazing voice to bookend the story,” he said. “We thought, ‘Let’s just ask him,’ and he agreed!
“That was the most incredible ‘yes’ I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Indeed, McKellen’s warm three-sentence narration brings the story full circle, carrying the audience to a conclusion that leaves them wrapped in the hope and happiness of the season.
“The One Note Man” is currently in development by Sioukas for a feature-length treatment and is under consideration for an Oscar at the 2024 Academy Awards. The film brought home the Audience Award for Best Film as well as the Jury Award at the Cannes Indie Shorts Awards this year.