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Film / Session Man

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Session Man is a 1991 short film (31 minutes) written and directed by Seth Winston.

McQueen (James Remar) is a rock-and-roll guitarist. He once had dreams of stardom, but at some point gave up on that, and settled for a much less glamorous but lucrative career as a session musician. One night at 2 a.m. the phone by McQueen's bed rings with an offer of work, and just like that he's out the door.

The job turns out to be from the Raging Kings, a hugely famous rock act that is in the studio trying to record a song called "Sixteen Tons". As McQueen arrives the band is having a violent argument—in fact, this is why McQueen was called—which end with Raging Kings lead guitarist Dean Storm quitting the band and storming out of the studio. With McQueen substituting for Storm on guitar, the band lays down the track. Suddenly, the stardom that McQueen long ago stopped chasing seems like it might be at hand.

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Tropes:

  • Bait-and-Switch: When McQueen's phone rings at two in the morning with a British-accented man saying "I've got a job for you", it comes off as if McQueen is a criminal of some sort. Then we see him picking up a guitar case.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At first it feels like a Downer Ending. McQueen seemingly has his big break at long last when he's offered a permanent role as a member of the Raging Kings, only to have it be snatched away minutes later when Storm comes back. He goes home, wearily climbs into bed, does a Thousand-Yard Stare up towards his ceiling—then his mouth curves into a half-smile right before the credits roll, indicating that he's content with his life.
  • Cover Version: After recording their own song "Sixteen Tons", the Raging Kings and McQueen rock out for a while with "All Day and All of the Night" by The Kinks.
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  • Creative Differences: In-Universe. The immediate cause of the argument appears to be Storm's guitar solo in "Sixteen Tons" but it's obvious that relations between the band and especially between Storm and lead singer Torrey Cole have become poisonous. After playing a deliberately half-assed guitar solo Storm quits the band and leaves the studio.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: A few hours, from when McQueen's phone rings at two in the morning to when he gets home sometime after the sun's risen.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Literally and in-universe. The band's rollicking jam to "All Day and All of the Night" comes to a halt one musician at a time when they become aware that Storm has returned to the studio.
  • Music Stories: A session musician gets called into a studio on the spur of the moment, and suddenly has a chance at stardom.
  • Rage Quit: The nasty fight between Cole and Storm ends with Storm screaming "Maybe it's time for me to go solo!" and stalking out of the studio.
  • Record Producer: The "Man in the Middle" version. Peter the manager is desperately trying to calm the group down, as they are paying for a studio but not getting any work done. McQueen is only called in because Peter was desperate.
  • The Rock Star: The Raging Kings collectively. After Storm quits the band and leaves the studio, McQueen and his old friend, backup singer Darcy Vance, muse about how they've just witnessed history.
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