There's no middle ground when it comes to electronic dance music, commonly known as EDM. The computer-generated tunes assault the senses with stabbing synth sounds and rising and falling rhythms that happen so quickly the layman ear may not even notice the shift. Listening to EDM is an intense, immersive experience. A staple of millennial nightclubs and music festivals around the world, EDM has been fully embraced by today's 20somethings, and now, there's a summer popcorn flick highlighting EDM for the masses. "It's cool that we were able to integrate electronic music into what is a really universal topic," says Zac Efron, We Are Your Friends' star. "It's sort of like what disco was in Saturday Night Fever. That movie is really about a guy transitioning from a certain place in his life and becoming an adult, and the backdrop is disco. This is our generation's version and it's EDM."
Starring Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Shiloh Fernandez, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, and Alex Shaffer, We Are Your Friends follows aspiring EDM DJ Cole Carter (Efron) who is caught between the expectations of his childhood friends and his attempt at following his dreams to fame and fortune. Things become even more complicated when he starts to form feelings for his DJ mentor (Bentley)'s girlfriend (Ratajkowski).
But for Efron, taking on this role meant more than getting into the mind of his character, he had to learn the skills of an actual DJ. "It was nerveracking. It was overwhelming to say the least," Efron says of his first experience with a turn table. "There are so many buttons, but I had a great coach and he made it really easy. It was just him and I. About half way through the movie I was fairly confident I could do all the stuff, and that was all I needed. Then It was just trying to make it look cool."
While EDM is the backdrop for the film, director Max Joseph assures that it's simply an accessory to the greater story. "You can expect to see a coming of age story about four guys, but mainly about Zac's character who's just trying to figure out who he is in today's world," the Catfish director says. "I was maybe one of the oldest people on set at all times. But It was a world that everyone on set could access from experience, so I think they poured themselves into it. All you can do is be honest and hope that that honesty resonates with people."
Jonny Weston, who plays Mason, explains that for one of the rave sequences shown in the film the cast actually held a real rave and sold tickets to the public. "It was nuts, like 700,000 people had to sign a release," he says. "It was so funny because we walked out into the crowd with masks on. We'd take them off to film something then slip them back on."
Weston auditioned with his co-stars and formed an instant bond with the men who would play his onscreen best friends. "Zac and I are friends, and Alex and Shiloh in real life. We auditioned together and we were like, 'We're doing this!' We were friends as soon as we left the room," he says.
Efron's love interest Sophie, played by Gone Girl's Emily Ratajkowski, says the film felt particularly relevant because it represents a collective millennial experience. "It feels natural because it documents what a lot of young people experience going to festivals and hanging out with friends," she says. "I think a lot of people will be able to relate to it."
White Bird In A Blizzard's Shiloh Fernandez wanted to make a "heartfelt movie that moves you with music and emotion." Outside of the EDM-centric film, the actor has been busy working on his own independent project, The Queen of Carthage. "I made a movie with my friend in New Zealand, and we basically spent our time editing it and learning all the different processes of filmmaking," he says. "It's a weird art movie. It's completely different than anything else I've done. The antithesis of [We Are Your Friends]."
See We Are Your Friends in theaters Friday, August 28.
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