It’s all too common to hear stories about greed in the music industry, which makes stories the opposite downright exceptional.
One these occurred just days before Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film The Friend was scheduled to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and they were the result kindness on the part the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin and its lead singer Robert Plant.
While The Friend stars some Hollywood’s biggest actors, such as Academy Award winner Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson, it is a decidedly low-budget film. It tells the true story Nicole Teague and her battle with ovarian cancer, which took her life in 2014. The film is based on a 2015 article by her husband Matthew in Esquire magazine.
At the heart the story were two Led Zeppelin songs: “Ramble On” and “Going to California.”
These songs were not just background music, they were fundamental to the telling the story. But including them were beyond the budget the film.
So, while the director the film made an alternative and less heartfelt cut the film, she, along with the producers — which includes acclaimed director Ridley Scott — all sent personal letters to the band asking them for their help. This, in turn, led Plant to watch a cut the film.
He was so moved by it that he and the other surviving members Led Zeppelin agreed to lower their standard price for music licensing, which would have been about one-third the film’s total budget $10 million, just days prior to the film’s premiere.
According to Deadline, there was an element winging it — in the hopes the band would agree to lowered licensing. It all came down to the last minute. “Then came the difficult moment: asking the band for permission and hoping the price wouldn’t break the film’s modest budget,” Deadline noted. “The way it works is you send publisher] Warner/Chappell music a bid, and if they accept, you have five days to pay what would have amounted to about a third the entire budget.”
Instead, the cut-rate deal was extended, making the inclusion possible.
So, thanks to Led Zeppelin, The Friend premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 6th with both its music and its heart intact. Matthew Teague was also in attendance. The filmmakers are now attempting to close a domestic distribution deal for the film.