Newacheck directs ‘Murder Mystery,’ featuring music by fellow alums
Concord and Clayton may seem a world away from Lake Como and Milan, Italy, but a peek behind the scenes of the new movie “Murder Mystery” leads to some highly local suspects.
Clayton Valley High School grad Kyle Newacheck (Class of 2002) directed the film, and the soundtrack includes music from CV alums Jay Whitlatch (2003) and Jeremy Wells (1998).
“Murder Mystery,” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, debuted June 14 on Netflix. On June 18, Netflix reported that 30.9 million households watched it in the first 72 hours – making it the biggest opening weekend in the company’s history.
“It’s wild to have that many people watching the shots that I chose and the takes that I chose and the rhythms that I chose,” Newacheck says.
Magical movie moments
In the film, Sandler plays a New York police officer who has lied to his wife (Aniston) about passing the detective’s test. Meanwhile, Aniston’s character is obsessed with reading murder mysteries. As they head to Italy on a delayed honeymoon, they run headlong into (spoiler alert) a murder mystery.
Newacheck called his preparation for the movie “intense,” as he scoped out the area during three trips before shooting began in Italy. He particularily enjoyed directing the murder scene on the yacht – as one character repeatedly pulls a knife out of the corpse, then shoves it back in, to the shock of the other characters.
“That’s the funniest joke. It made me laugh out loud when I read it,” he says. “To me that’s a fun, very energetic part of the movie.”
The scene is crucial because it’s the first time all the characters meet.
“We really understand the nuances of the characters. That was very magical for me,” he adds.
“Everybody was in character, talking with each other, feeling the mystery. It was just awesome. It was so much fun.”
Friends making music
Several years ago, Newacheck formed the band Fade Up Fade Out Bye Bye, which features Clayton Valley alums Whitlatch, Danny Webber, Josh Wolf, Peter Spryer and Kayhan Ahmadi. Whitlatch, who lives in the Bay Area, performs when he can with the L.A.-based band – most recently at South by Southwest in April 2018.
Whitlatch and Wells were “friends of friends” at CV but started recording together as Electronic Hearsay after meeting while working at Skipolini’s in Walnut Creek. Wells, who had a recording studio in Pacheco, invited Whitlatch over to jam.
“From the first day we worked together, I just knew that he had something – there was some sort of magic there,” Wells recalls.
“I have perfect pitch, so I’m a really quick musical learner,” Whitlatch says. “He would be behind the boards and I would lay guitar, bass and keyboards down. We used to do that once a week, all day Tuesday. That was the album that got picked up by the movie.”
Their songs in the movie’s opening scene and title sequence are pop/R&B style, but Whitlatch says their music is “purposely all over the map” – including rap, indie rock and instrumentals. “It’s almost like a sampler platter.”
When not at his day job as a history teacher at Antioch High, Whitlatch is preparing to release an album of his own indie rock songs, with Wells producing.
Hip hop on down to Clayton
Wells’ musical roots are in hip hop, which he says was “very ironic coming from Clayton.” Growing up, his friend Paul Beinfest had a drum machine. “We would always go to his house and just kind of create different rap songs,” Wells says.
Wells, a “jock” who played football, basketball and baseball at CV, gave up basketball his senior year to dive more deeply into music. He went on to earn a music degree at Los Medanos College.
Although he now lives in L.A., he returned to his Bay Area roots to work with the Golden State Warriors after he and hip hop artist Ron Lennon came up with a fan song for the 2015 playoffs.
“It got back to the Warriors, and they contacted us and wanted to make a video,” Wells says. “From that point on, I started doing some Comcast commercials and different hype songs.”
Pushing for a “three-peat” in the recent championship run, they created a “Bohemian Rhapsody” knock-off called “Bohemian Dubcity.” “It kinda took off,” Wells says. “It was all over 107.7 the Bone and got a lot of views on YouTube.”
Whitlatch and Wells are hoping the film will bolster their status. “Just the fact that Adam Sandler’s people have our music is great,” Whitlatch says.
“I grew up watching a lot of Adam Sandler movies and listening to his old-school comedy tapes,” Wells adds. “It still seems a bit surreal.”
Far from ‘Game Over’
Netflix tapped Newacheck for “Murder Mystery” after he directed the action-comedy “Game Over, Man” for the streaming service in 2018. That film stars Anders Holm, Adam DeVine and CV grad Blake Anderson, who all previously worked together with Newacheck on the Comedy Central sitcom “Workaholics.”
Newacheck, who attended the Los Angeles Film School, is “entertaining ideas” for his next project – with mom Pamela even reading a script from her home in Concord.
Although he directed and acted in “Workaholics,” he has since turned his focus to directing. “I found it hard to direct and act at the same time, so I decided not to mix the two. I want to solidify my footing as a director.”
Newacheck laughs as he admits that he still does act – “in projects that nobody will see, just experimenting with some of my friends.”
In fact, he has been making videos with friends since his days at Clayton Valley, where he was also an everyman for the Drama Department. “I did crew for plays. I did the spotlight, worked backstage. I was in the ensemble in ‘Damn Yankees.’ ”
He credits CV drama teacher Tom Wills for nurturing his love of show business.
“He brought the art out in everybody. He challenged artists in a way that showed he was paying attention and that he cared about the art,” Newacheck says. “He was one of my biggest role models, artistically, and someone whom I think about on at least a monthly basis.”