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RUNAWAY STRAIN

A rock act writes a song about runaway kids and makes an accompanying video that shows photos of real runaways--several of whom see it and are moved to make contact with their parents and ultimately return home. Sound familiar? Sure, that’s the true story around Soul Asylum’s 1993 hit “Runaway Train.”

It’s also the scenario of the NBC-TV movie “Born Into Exile,” which airs March 17. However, the song and video being used in the program aren’t by Soul Asylum, but by singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman, who wrote a new song with the movie’s title specifically for this project.

Why not just use the original song that inspired the saga? Soul Asylum, it turns out, nixed the idea.

“Initially the band was approached at least three years ago and the project was presented as an ‘ABC ‘Afterschool Special,’ ” says Chris Scott, the band’s manager. “At that time the band thought it was something positive and wanted to consider it.

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“Then they never heard anything until last year, and now it was an NBC movie. [The producers] submitted a treatment and based on that and on the dialogue we were having at the time, it didn’t seem consistent with what the band’s song was about. An afternoon special was more consistent--something for kids coming home from school, latch-key kids.”

Scott also acknowledged that Soul Asylum, which is finishing up a new album, doesn’t want to be too tied to its biggest hit.

“They’re certainly proud of the song, but don’t want it to define their careers,” Scott says.

Several other noteworthy artists did allow songs of theirs to be used in the film, including Van Halen (“The Cradle Will Rock”) and Sarah McLachlan (“Lost”), with a total of 17 songs used in the production in addition to Himmelman’s. Meanwhile, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner has provided the music for another movie, “Chasing Amy,” the latest from “Clerks” director Kevin Smith. Pirner wrote the film’s score and selected appropriate songs for source material.

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