There is no major plotline in Jeanie Finlay’s new film, Sound it Out. The documentary, which opened at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema on Thursday night, profiles the lives of staff and customers at a well-loved independent record shop called Sound it Out Records in the north-east town of Stockton-on-Tees.
The fact that there is no neat storyline in this film is one of its strong points. Hollywood and ‘reality’ TV would have us believe that people and places can fit easily into stereotypes but this is a portrait of real people with all their complexities; it is at times laugh-out-loud funny and at other times heart-achingly sad. There is no dramatic ending – as Jeanie tells the audience at the end of the film, the shop did not close and everything carries on as before.
In the film, we meet music fanatic Tom, who owns Sound it Out Records and at times says he feels more like a social worker. Regular customers give us an intensely personal insight into their own record collections and their lives. They are all incredibly open and frank about what their collections mean to them. For many of them, music is utter escapism from a humdrum life in a town where there are very few job opportunities. In some cases, music has proved life saving – one of the young men said that it stopped him taking his own life while for another, it has kept him out of trouble.
These lives are set against the backdrop of a former industrial town, where Jeanie herself grew up. The high street – which is incidentally the widest in England – is populated by empty shops, bargain basement stores and run-down charity shops. Sound it Out Records is a refuge for many people; the town may feel like a cultural desert and the recession might have further damaged the already fragile economy but the shop is hugely important to the area. It’s a place where you can pay for your records on tab, watch an artist perform live or just pop in for a coffee and a chat – and it’s something you just don’t get with iTunes.
Sound it Out is currently on a UK tour. If you want another screening at Broadway, email the team there.
For further details visit the Sound it Out website or follow on Twitter @sounditoutdoc or visit Facebook.