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SPN vid: "Every State Line"

Fandom, Characters: Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchester
Summary: Legend has it two brothers once traveled these roads in a black Chevy Impala.
Song: "Every State Line", by Ani diFranco
Length: 3:56
Spoilers: Heavy spoilers for seasons 1 and 2, and also the end of season 4.
Thanks to: My betas, counteragent and Steven.
Released: In the 2009 Vividcon "Premieres" show.
Disclaimer: Sam, Dean, and Supernatural belong to Kripke and the CW, not to me. I own nothing but the contents of my imagination and the sound of my own voice.
Feedback: I'd love some, including concrit. If public concrit makes you uncomfortable, email me at keerawa@yahoo.com.

Download the 28 MB DivX avi from my website or watch the streaming version.
ETA: For anyone having trouble with slashcity, here's a temporary alternate download link from Sendspace.

Vimeo Password: brothers

Voiceover and Lyrics
(Ani prefers her lyrics without capitalization or punctuation, so I'm following her lead.)

legend has it
two brothers once traveled these roads
in a black chevy impala
some say they came to answer
the prayers of the dying
others claim they were the devil's own
way my gran told it
could be both were true

i got pulled over in west texas
so they could look inside my car
he said are you an american citizen
i said yes sir, so far
they made sure i wasn't smuggling
someone in from mexico
someone willing to settle for america
because there's nowhere else to go

i broke down in louisiana
and had to thumb a ride
got in the first car that pulled over
you can't be picky in the middle
of the night
he said baby do you like to fool around
baby do you like to be touched
i said maybe some other time
fuck you very much

i'm in the middle of alabama
and they stare at me
wherever i go
i don't think they like my haircut
i don't think they like my clothes
i can't wait to get back to new york city
where at least when i walk
down the street
no one ever hesitates to tell me
exactly what they think of me

a little town in pennsylvania
there was snow on the ground
i parked it in an empty lot
where there was no one else around
but i guess i was taking up
too much space
as i was trying to get some sleep
because an officer came by anyway
and told me i had to leave

every state line
there's a new set of laws
and every police man
comes equipped with extended claws
there's a thousand shades of white
and a thousand shades of black
but the same rule always applies
smile pretty and watch your back

however the story's told,
here's where they all agree
couldn't heaven or hell
keep those brother apart

Vidder's Commentary
I started planning this vid way back during season 1 of Supernatural. The song is about a woman's road trip across the country. She's isolated and alienated, and under constant threat, even (especially) from the police who are meant to protect her. I liked the parallels between that story, and the Winchester brothers. It's very much a season 1 and 2 vid, with a side dish of meta.

I'm using a live version of the song for a very specific reason. The song is from Dean and Sam's POV. But I didn't want the audience to share that POV. 'We' are the normal those boys are alienated from. And so this song has an audience, a cheering, female audience separate from the narrator. In the intro voiceover I try to create some apprehensive distance between us and the Winchesters, establishing the brothers as the same type of legend they research and hunt. And I also try to introduce a certain moral ambiguity - they might not fit our preconceived notions of black and white, good and evil. Notice that the car is driving towards us, but at the last moment it is shown to be driving by us, not to us.

First verse - West Texas. I was struck by the fact that I was telling the same story in this verse that the Pilot was. Welcome to Dean Winchester's America. It's a dangerous place. The cops are not your friends. And Sam's been dragged (smuggled) in because he doesn't have anywhere else to go. I like the idea of Sam's safe, normal life being Mexico. Notice that the poor guy reaches for a love cookie, and ends up with a shotgun? No point even looking at the map, because there's no way back.

Second verse - Louisiana. Here you get the first reference to the 'car' in the song as a metaphor for the brothers' relationship. When it breaks down, Sam tries to find an alternative relationship out there in the world. How's that work out for you, Sammy? The gender reversal is (and should be) uncomfortable here, as the narrator's fear of being raped by a man while hitch-hiking is such a specifically female fear. But the show canonically reverses that fear. (What happens to men who pick up pretty little Meg?) I think it's a good headspace to be in, to understand that the Winchesters live in a world that is inherently threatening, at all times.

In the song, Ani's female audience starts cheering at, "Fuck you very much." I really wanted to use clips there that would pull the same reaction from my audience, to strengthen that the awareness of observing and reacting to the brothers from the outside. I heard a reaction from the Overflow room at that moment, which thrilled me!

Of course, it's not just demon-chicks that the Winchesters shouldn't get involved with. Whenever they try to form relationships with outsiders, it drags them into the brothers' dangerous world. I like the image of them burning those connections and backing away from us in their car.

Third verse - Alabama. Dean does not fit in, in the normal world. Not at all. They're all victims, witnesses, or threats out there. Love that eyebrow on "clothes", heh. Dean's more comfortable fighting evil sons-of-bitches. I focus in on the violence that has become a natural response for both of them. Yes, it's intentional that it's mostly directed at humans.

Fourth verse - Pennsylvania. This verse is the part of the song that gave me the most trouble. In my original conception this was a purely Dean-centric vid, and I'd contemplated cutting it. Then for a while I considered using "What Is and Never Should Be", the djinn's wish-verse, as the focus. But in the end I decided that it's about death, Winchester-style. Remember that the car is a metaphor for their relationship with each other, and I think it works. There's a tension here between two needs, two desires. There's the desire to let go, to be done with the fight. And there's the desire to stay together, to never let go of each other. Canon showcases that dilemma beautifully, and I don't think I've quite captured it here. But, in the end, the Winchester boys can't even DIE like normal people.

Now we get to the chorus, which only shows up once in this live version of the song. We've got the internal threat of Sam's powers, and the external one of the cops. The world's attempt to separate the brothers into good and evil, hunters vs. psychic kids. I like the way I use Mary and John (YED version) Winchester to push that contrast. But Sam and Dean always return to each other, saving each other, supporting each other. They are a complete unit, sufficient unto themselves, even with the entire world against them. (Bits of this section are different than the VVC version. I was still fiddling post-deadline.)

Now the voiceover ending. In the intro, there were two versions of the legend told about the brothers. In one they were good. In the other they were evil. But in every version, it's the brothers' relationship with each other that is the heart of the story. Now I want to take that idea and push it further. I'm trying to push it forwards in time, to the 4th season, and outwards in scope, to the fandom. Not sure how successful I was, but that was the goal.

In the end, they drive away down that open road together, and the audience cheers. That end of the chorus is where we were after 2 seasons. The final voiceover brings us up to where we are now, after 4 seasons. There's one more year where this belongs to Kripke, and then the story's ours. If we're still telling each other the brothers' story in 50 years, I wonder where we'll have taken it?


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
This was really cool - I wasn't sure how the voiceover was going to work for me at first but I actually really liked it. I thought it set the storytelling tone well and, having read your notes, I agree that it added a good distance so that we weren't reading too strongly from their POV during the vid - though with the use of 'I' in the lyrics it's hard not to slip into that, but it feels like it's a slow slide in and then you pull us back out again with the ending, which was neat. The only thing that didn't work for me was using the kind of humorous Supernatural book cover at the end; I was worried you were going to go even more deeply into all that which the show treated as such comedy, but the more serious ending clips (including that fantastic use of Hell opening as the final shot) saved it.
Aug. 17th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
Thanks! Every comment I got at VVC was about the voiceover, and mostly positive. (Apparently it's more of a rule-breaker than I realized.) I'm glad that it had the effect on you I was going for.

Oh, the book! I was trying to show the different modes and genres in which this story-telling can take place, from published novels to a bunch of girls sitting around in their PJs, from professionals filming it (I still wonder if I should go back and replace that clip with some RL back-stage stuff from You Tube) to the fic, vids, and art we create and post every day.
Aug. 16th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
I LOVED the voice over work (though I know your voice from dS podfic, and so associate it with Kowalski *g*) - I watched the vid before reading the notes, and I think it really worked for me in the way you intended. It gives the whole thing some dusty "urban legend" type distance that you carry through with this entire outside prospective of the Winchesters.

It feels interestingly at odds with the way the canon functions. We're all so close to them in the show, that we tend to forget the fact that the are sort of just passing through all the lives they interact with. So it was really cool to watch you build up "the Legend of Sam and Dean"
Aug. 17th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)
*laughs* Kowalski narrates SPN!

dusty "urban legend" type distance Oh, that's great, just what I was going for! It IS different than canon. I think that Sam and Dean, always moving, always lying, unable to form long-term connections with anyone else, essentially occupy a world of two with a revolving cast of extras.

Thanks sadiane!
Aug. 16th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! Well done.
Aug. 17th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC)
Thanks ith, I'm glad you liked it!
Aug. 17th, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
Ooo, nifty. I like the voiceover bookends; in combination with the bluesy road trip narrative of the song, it lends the boys' journey an (even more) epic feel.
Aug. 17th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
Thanks, serrico! I'm glad you liked the voiceover.

it lends the boys' journey an (even more) epic feel That's interesting - there are some truly epic SPN vids, and I didn't think of "Every State Line" that way. Season 4 is an epic story, but this focuses in more on the intimate drama of two brothers and their relationship.
Aug. 17th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)
I. love. this. beyond reason. It says everything about the elements of the show I fell for to start with. There's a forward motion, an impulse, that for all the slow pace of the song the viewer is unable to resist. It takes you and carries you along, and all the while you're falling deeper into the lives of these drifters you'd never otherwise notice. Extras, day-players, walk-ons in everybody else's everyday lives, they catch your attention and slowly become center focus.

It's gorgeous.

And your dl link isn't working for me.
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
*beams* Thanks so much, arliss!

If you don't mind, what error are you getting when you try to download? As far as I can tell, it's working.
(no subject) - arliss - Aug. 19th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keerawa - Aug. 19th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arliss - Aug. 20th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 18th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
I loved this at the show and I love your explanations here, which both fit my experience of the vid and enrich it. Thanks!
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Thank you, rivkat, I'm so glad that you enjoyed it!
Aug. 19th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
That was great... I especially liked the prologue and epilogue verse... that made it so promo feely *g* Nice story!!
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought of it that way, but it IS a bit like a promo piece, yes. Thanks for the comment, cat!
Aug. 19th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
I read the lyrics before watching the vid, and didn't initially realize the first paragraph was your voiceover, so my first thought was, "omg! Ani Difranco has a song about the Winchesters? Why didn't I know this?!?!" *facepalms*

Anyway. I love this. I love the melancholy feel it has, I love that you've really managed a sense of the Winchester America which is a dangerous one and has the same feel as a western gunslinger's where the hero's forever riding out of the town he's saved, and I love how well you've highlighted Sam and Dean's importance to each other and how that sometimes conflicts with their desire to get out of the life they're in.

I also really enjoyed reading your commentary. Especially: the car is a metaphor for their relationship with each other (which I think is the perfect way to sum up the series as well) and There's one more year where this belongs to Kripke, and then the story's ours, which, YES. Supernatural's a show about stories as much as it is about anything.

Done rambling now! Superb vid!
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
We need to suggest this to Ani. *grins*

the hero's forever riding out of the town he's saved Yes, exactly! Sam and Dean's relationship is definitely what draws me to the fandom.

I appreciate the feedback, and I'm pleased that the commentary was interesting to you as well. Thnks!
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Looking very much forward to this.
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
I haven't watched an SPN vid for ages but I was seduced by Ani DiFranco. You certainly did her justice with this clip, it's beautifully put together and raelly encapsulates those first few seasons of the show and the boys lonely, isolated journeys.

I didn't know voice-overs were a no-no? Either way it seemed pretty seamless to me, it worked brilliantly. Thank you for sharing!

Aug. 20th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
Ani is terribly seductive, isn't she? I love the way SPN is a road trip, a journey along those endless two-lane highways. Thank you for the comment!
Aug. 22nd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
Gonna rec in my LJ!! This was awesome!!
Aug. 23rd, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
Thanks, a_pheonixdragon, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
(no subject) - a_phoenixdragon - Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 29th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
Huh, I quite liked that, even though I've never seen SPN. Part of it was your voice leading me into it, I think, and also that I liked the music, and how it fit the dark road trip feeling of it.
Aug. 31st, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Thank you, luzula, and I'm pleasantly surprised that you were able to enjoy the vid wihout knowing the source. You should check it out, Supernatural is great TV!
Sep. 1st, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
Wow, interesting vid! I am not a Supernatural fan, so I'm sure my reading was only superficial but I just wanted to say I found the song choice interesting and the journey compelling. (Just watched it on the VVC DVDs)
Sep. 1st, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
Why thank you, bop_radar! I really appreciate the comment!
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )