Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great World of Sound

"Great World of Sound" (Craig Zobel, 2007) Wonder why there are so many contestants for these broadcast "Talent" shows? Surprised that the open auditions inevitably pull lines of people that extend for blocks? Because the world is full of deluded people with such a lack of perspective, or a reality-crushing ego that they think they can become a star if someone would just notice them. And there are enough people in the world who just need to be told that they're good. At something. At anything.

And you can make a lot of money from these people, as "American Idol" and the various "Fill in the Blank's Got Talent" programs have proved again and again. Give people a little gold dust and they go ga-ga—they stop thinking and want more of that gold dust. You can do it big time, as in "American Idol."

Or you can do it as portrayed in "
Great World of Sound"—with a "vanity press" of sorts for bands and singers.

Great World of Sound" is all about advertising. Martin (Pat Healy) answers an ad for a "record producer" position with the "Great World of Sound" company. But the position is really a con-job masquerading as a sales job. G-W-O-S puts out advertisements for the aspiring singer to respond to, and it's the job of Martin and his co-hort Clarence (Kene Holliday) to land them for the whole package: for a fee, they will record said singer at a "professional" recording studio, press the CD's and present the singer with a professionally average-looking product and a valueless gold-plated record for them to hang their den, presumably, if they still have a house after the process.

It's a great idea for a movie and the technique Zobel used to get auditions—by actually auditioning people who answered the very real advertisement they put up in the towns they were filming in—blurs the lines between reality and fiction. The auditioners inter-acted with the actors playing the parts and the process seems uncomfortably real.

Because it is.

But it boils down to a pyramid scheme. These producers are merely salesmen, gathering money for the folks running the company. But these producers are in on and victim to the same con. They never know if the next person coming in will have real talent and genuine ability...and if they find them? Well, there's that gold-dust again.

A great idea for a movie. But one that doesn't really come across successfully. There is that frisson of reality invading cinema, but it's what is done with it that makes a great film. And "Great World of Sound" has nowhere to go, but to where most pyramid schemes go when the well runs dry. In this case. the well is the ingenuity of the film-makers and ultimately the film just ends with a double-edged sense of "What Might Have Been," both for the world inside the film and the film itself.

I saw this movie before the "Susan Boyle" story broke. But, being a former recording engineer and having recorded scores of "demo's" in my life, I know the odds of finding genuine talent are long.

But they're not impossible. And "Great World of Sound" churned up a bunch of old memories of the process. In my world, I couldn't tell a person with no talent they were doing "great." I'd shut down the session and give them advice. Come back, sure. But do this, first. Practice this, first.

I once did an audition for a game-producer for a promotional piece. They needed a young "game-player," and I spent a fruitless afternoon trying to coax that from a series of auditioners. Then, a guy came in, said he just graduated from an arts program and his agent sent him out to try his luck. Not expecting much, I was amazed to find that not only could the guy read, he could act and provide a depth to the material no one had reached. He provided sub-text. He wasn't just reading words. He was playing a part. "You have got to use this guy," I told the producer.

They did.

But the game-producer thought he sounded too old and so they re-cast with another actor, and the client and the producer were satisfied with the finished product. That's the bottom-line.

And the actor who was so good, and was rejected? Don't feel too sorry for him.

It was Brendan Fraser.

True story.

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