Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story
Director: Jamie Meltzer Run Time: 73 min. Format: DCP Rating: R Release Year: 2003
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Reminiscent of early Errol Morris films Vernon, Florida and Gates of Heaven, director Jamie Meltzer’s Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story introduces us to the variety of players in the world of the song-poem, from the aspirational songwriters to studio musicians who translate the words into music. Ads placed in poetry magazines entice readers to send lyrics, dangling potential radio play and royalties, maybe even a breakthrough into the industry, for a low fee. Common subjects include religion and Elvis, but every so often a special individual puts an unexpected combination of words to paper to express their particular set of interests.
This documentary presents a few of these people with affection, even creating makeshift music videos to accompany the songs. We meet Caglar Juan Singletary, who favors songs about martial arts, ladies, religion and sci-fi, swirled together nicely in his “Non-Violent Taekwondo Troopers.” Then there is Gary Forney, who is so pleased with his output, he and his son go on a one-day only tour to perform, overcoming his jitters as he takes the stage to sing before a sparse crowd. On the receiving end, we see the array of styles each studio offers. Nashville-based Ramsey Kearney has that classic country twang; Art Kaufman at Magic Key Productions is your synth-pop guy, and Sunburst Recording Studios will get you more of a Sinatra sound.
Off the Charts thankfully doesn’t feel exploitative of the unusual personalities it portrays, but rather seems to celebrate their inimitable qualities.
This screening will include some outtakes provided by director Meltzer.