Dare To Be Different is a feature length documentary revealing how 80’s music was really introduced to the US from Europe. U2, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash, The Cure: over half a billion records sold and you may never have heard of them if not for a small suburban radio station on Long Island, NY: WLIR. In August, 1982, a small group of radio visionaries knew they couldn’t compete with the mega – stations in New York City. With one brave decision, they changed the sound of American culture forever. Program Director Denis McNamara, the ‘LIR crew and the biggest artists of the era tell the story of how they battled the FCC, the record labels, mega-radio and all the conventional rules to create a musical movement that brought the New Wave to America.
Director Ellen Goldfarb states,
I had a great childhood growing up on Long Island, but it was not always a happy one. My parents had an ugly divorce when I was 11 years old. Things became complicated because my parents and their good friends switched partners and all remarried each other, which can be a whole movie in itself! My Dad and his wife moved to another state and I did not get along with my stepfather who lived with me, so life was tough. Music had, and has always been, an important tool for me to find peace and harmony in my life. I was a big fan of radio station WLIR. I was a listener with the old format, and when they changed format in 1982 to become the New Music Station, my world was changed forever. WLIR became my therapy, my safe place, my happy place. It kept me sane and introduced me to music from all over the world. This music was MY music, and not my parent’s music. I felt like I was part of a private club. It took me away from Long Island and to England, Ireland, Germany, Australia and many other countries just by simply listening to the music. The DJ’s were like family members and I was glued to the radio all the times. When I went away to college in upstate New York, I would tape the radio shows for hours and then bring those tapes upstate with me so that I had WLIR with me all the time! I have always cherished what WLIR did for me and my life on a personal level, and to this day, when I hear a WLIR song, it brings me back to that time and happy memories, not the sad ones. When I decided to do a documentary on WLIR, I was inspired by Facebook and all of the pages that were dedicated to this radio station that has not been around for over 30 years! Reading the posts, they sounded exactly like my experience with WLIR. We all shared the same fondness and respect for the station. I began to do research and found that not only was this such a beloved station by thousands of people, but it also had a compelling story behind it. Many people, including myself, never really knew what happened to WLIR. One minute it was there and the next day, it was gone! I knew that in order to begin my journey, I had to contact the program director — the famous Denis McNamara — and so I did. Denis and I have now been working together for almost 7 years on this film. Together, we have successfully contacted and interviewed many artists, club owners, music executives, DJ’s, other staff members and fans of the station. It has been a great thrill to meet all of these amazing people, hear their stories and see all the love and appreciation they had for WLIR.WLIR deserves to have their day in the spotlight! It was truly one of the most beloved radio stations that has ever existed, and that dedication and loyalty still exists today. This project has been a true labor of love. It has taken many hours of hard work and dedication — but all worth it. I want to thank Denis as well as my brother, Jay Reiss, who has helped shape the story with his incredible writing talent. I would also like to thank my fellow producer, Roger Senders, and my editing team for all their incredibly hard work. I began this project in 2010 when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer and I promised her before she passed, that I would finish this film and make it a big success. I look forward to sharing this film with the world, and giving everyone the gift that I, and many Long Islander’s, had — which was experiencing the greatest radio station that ever was… WLIR.