20 Feet from Stardom: The Third Side of Fame

Denisa and I watched the Oscar winner for best documentary this year last night: 20 Feet from Stardom. Netflix just added it to Instant Watch, so why not? It’s a very well done piece on the history of backup singers in American music. I enjoyed the film, though I thought it could have used a bit more focus to the narrative. 8/10 for me, and worth a watch.

One thing that I wanted to talk some about that I appreciated from the movie was how well it showed a side of fame that I think often gets overlooked. Most people hear about the big successes or the big failures. The people who make the big time, or the people who wish they could but never do. This movie highlighted the people who get stuck in the middle. They’re close to their dream of stardom, but in some ways that puts them farther away than the people who are just starting out.

Some of these backup singers are recognized by stars as being exemplary musicians, but because of fate, managing, luck, or whatever reason, they just never quite made it to the big time. They got stuck between floors. Sting has a great quote in the movie that touches on this concept, but I can’t find a copy of it online to share.

In any case, as I was watching it, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the writing industry. I have some friends now who are bonafide rock stars when it comes to writing. They sign seven figure contracts. I have other friends who aren’t published at all–they just dream of being published one day. Me? I’m in the middle, though much closer to the end of “not been published” than “seven figure contracts.” I wouldn’t even put myself in the same region as the equivalent of the ladies featured in 20 Feet. No, those are other friends. Friends who are great writers, who’ve written excellent books, but who just. can’t. break. through.

Friends who got publishing contracts, but then their books didn’t sell. Friends whose books review well, but they don’t take off.

It’s one thing to be frustrated that you can’t get your foot in the door. It’s another realm of hurt when your foot’s there, and you find out no one cares about you anyway.

Watch the movie. Think about the topic. I’d love to hear what others have to say about it. Again–this isn’t about me. This isn’t even about me pretending it’s not about me. I didn’t watch this film and think “That’s me!” But I did see others I knew.

The hope of course is that with epublishing, a lot of people will be able to be discovered who couldn’t be previously. The fact, however, is that all it does is increase the noise, making it hard to stand out and be seen. I’ve read a few well-reviewed (on Amazon) self pubbed books that were just dreck. It’s the nature of the beast. The sooner we can realize that talent and skill don’t equate to success and big bucks, the sooner we can be at peace. Frustrated, but at peace.

Anything to add?

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