Bill Murray at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Photo credit: Brent Flanders.
Bill Murray playing kickball. Bill Murray stealing french fries. Bill Murray serving tequila shots, and only tequila shots, when he tends bar. These aren’t scenes from the comedian’s long and historic television and movie career — they’re from adventures in his real life. And, now, from a documentary about adventures in his real life.
“The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man” documentary, which was recently released, explores how these urban legends of random Bill Murray sightings and interactions were popularized and shared on the Internet. The documentary also tries to understand why the famous actor would randomly appear in peoples’ lives to do something as mundane as wash someone’s dishes at a house party or crash a birthday dinner — and why the general public has grabbed onto the myth of Bill Murray.
“I mean, who’s not a Bill Murray fan?” said John Avarese, an associate teaching professor at Drexel University who scored and mixed “The Bill Murray Stories.”
Previously, Avarese had worked with the film’s director, Tommy Avallone, to score his past documentaries about off-duty professional Santa Claus performers and “Ghostheads” obsessed with the “Ghostbusters” film. Avarese’s working relationship led to the opportunity to score his new documentary related to Bill Murray.
“’The Bill Murray Stories’ film tries to explain why Bill Murray is the way that he is,” said Avarese, who is a faculty member in the Film & Television Department in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “You can see that Bill Murray comes from the world of improv, which is all about ‘yes and’ and just following along. But his movies also have a lot to do with mindfulness and living in the moment.”
Avarese has been involved with the project since the very beginning when he scored music for the trailer that was created to drum up interest and funding. From the winter of 2017 to the summer of 2018, he was closely involved with the filming.
“It’s a long process, but I like to be running alongside the production and feeding in my music,” said Avarese.
Over the decades of his professional career as a musician, composer and producer, Avarese has scored or mixed thousands of features, shorts, planetariums and shows. He also uses these experiences when teaching film and video majors at Drexel.
A behind-the-scenes shot taken by John Avarese while shooting a scene for "The Bill Murray Stories."
“I think it’s never too early to prepare filmmakers for music,” he said.
For example, he discussed his time working on “The Bill Murray Stories,” as well as the creative process he used to score the film, during a “Directing the Score” course he teaches.
The direction he received for scoring “The Bill Murray Stories” was to create something out of a detective or true crime film — because Bill Murray was kind of “missing” throughout most of the movie, with his stories told only by witnesses and video and camera footage. He also was inspired by music from the James Bond films, the Netflix true-crime mockumentary series “American Vandal” and the ’80s sound of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Stranger Things.”
“To give the score a detective film vibe, I used these rhythmic-based guitar sounds that create tension and build, and don’t use any singing,” he explained.
To hear Avarese’s score, and watch the film, you can find the documentary at select theaters or available on demand.
And who knows — maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about living from Bill Murray.