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Round Two For Singing Flicks
by Greg Tutwiler - source Singer Magazine

Singer Magazine
Chalk up another silver screen point for karaoke fans.

Coming 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.

Karaoke 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 lives.

The Plot
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.

You journey 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.

Why A Documentary?
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.

"When 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."

What really 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.

Danielson 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."

You hear 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 get hooked."

The Cast
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 supporting characters.

Arthur said, "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.

It's A Wrap
"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.

Want to know more?
Check out,
or send requests for information to:
Karaoke Fever
PO Box 3463
Los Angeles, CA

(reprinted with the kind permission of Singer Magazine)

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