Two For Singing Flicks
by Greg Tutwiler -
Chalk up another silver screen point for karaoke fans.
fast on the heels of last year's inaugural, all-karaoke flick
"Duets," producers Arthur Borman and Steve Danielson
along with Sputnik Pictures have produced a ninety minute documentary
about the lives and dreams of six karaoke singers participating
in Southern California's talent competition, Karaoke Fest.
Fever, is a funny and heartfelt journey into the world of
hard-core Karaoke contests. The six hopefuls compete for one
of the coveted spaces in the contest finals. Vying for fifteen
thousand dollars and a recording contract, these people are
not only singing for your enjoyment, they are singing for their
The film is filled with a lovable menagerie of oddballs, dreamers,
and schemers you meet along the way and are alternately inspiring
and hilarious. You follow them as they sing, work, and practice
at home, coming to understand the compelling reason why each
feel they have to win. For one contestant, it's about proving
that he has overcome multiple birth defects. While for a young
father, who is caught between his family and his dreams of a
musical career, winning means validation of his sacrifices.
with them through the prelims and semifinals. It has many twists
and turns as favorites get shut out, and surprise singers advance.
Things don't always go as planned either, as one duet singer
discovers when his partner's criminal past catches up with him
on the contest's eve. He must then scramble to bring a new,
hilariously inept partner up to speed.
In 1998, Arthur went to watch a friend compete in a Karaoke
contest on the Santa Monica pier. "He didn't win, but I
realized just how many people took Karaoke very seriously. It
was a career hobby for these people," Borman said. "I
also learned about this annual contest, which I thought was
a great way to explore the subculture." The producers were
not interested in making fun of these people, although there
is a lot of humor in the film. The point is to understand what
drives karaoke people to do what they do, and maybe even give
them a bigger platform by putting them on film.
Arthur told me about the idea," said Danielson, "I
could immediately relate to the hope of chasing after a dream
that these people go through. I think we all desire to do something
great or memorable with our lives and these people really go
for it. I admire that, and knew it would make a wonderful story.
Also by the fact that it was a contest, I knew it would give
it a narrative drive I felt other documentaries lacked."
inspired Borman and Danielson were the singer's giddy dreams
and their willingness to bear their souls in their music. Almost
every singer had personal reasons for entering, it wasn't merely
a prize to be won. For many of the competitors, it was a validation
of their existence. "As documentary filmmakers, we knew
these stories were worth exploring," said Borman.
said, "When we started researching the subculture of competitive
Karaoke singers, we quickly realized, to our surprise, that
these people are professional singers trapped in an amateur
world. They come from all walks of life. They share the same
singing talent as hit recording artists, except they have the
burden of life's realities preventing them from pursuing their
dream full time. Karaoke offers these under appreciated singers
a real chance for three minutes of fame."
the passion in their voices and come to see that Karaoke allows
them to express themselves and receive acknowledgment in an
otherwise oblivious world. "I don't know of any other place
where when you walk in the room, people stand up to applaud
you, and make you feel appreciated," says Ray Lee, a proud
Karaoke singer and contest hopeful. It is this sense of fulfillment
and recognition that ultimately proves to be the most enduring
quality of karaoke. Another contestant Keith Allen said, "Karaoke
is a lot like marriage. It takes a lot of work and you're gonna
The contest had over 1500 entrants. Arthur and Steve began by
filming everyone. "We burned a lot of film," Steve
said. As they got to know the people, they started narrowing
the search down to only those people who had fascinating stories
to tell outside the bars. They followed over twenty people throughout
the initial filming, but the final film only follows six from
beginning to end. The film does feature several other strong
"Ironically what we discovered was the people who had the
most compelling stories were also some of the best singers.
We wanted people who were more than just drunks in a bar. We
wanted people who live Karaoke nightly, people who believed
in the dream that you can be discovered doing this." They
also discovered that the songs most people sang were thematically
linked to events in their own lives. "I guess that's what
really sells a singer, when they have a passion for the songs
they sing," he said.
"Karaoke Fever goes beyond drunks singing off key in a
bar," Borman said. Karaoke Fever documents the real lives
of real people with dreams that remain just out of grasp."
It's gut wrenching as often as it's laugh out loud funny. This
film will inspire everyone who sees it to release the Sinatra
or Elvis trapped inside.
to know more?
Check out www.directorscut.com,
or send requests for information to:
PO Box 3463
Los Angeles, CA
with the kind permission of Singer