How will the big-screen remake of Fame measure up in a market saturated with dance-related reality series and films?
27 Apr 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 9:30 PM

In September '09, Alan Parker's iconic film Fame will be 're-imagined for the next generation' by first time feature film director and choreographer, Kevin Tancharoen.

I'm very happy to have had an excuse to watch the original Fame + the Director's commentary for this blog. Full disclosure: I own two copies of the soundtrack to Alan Parker's 1980 film. What can I say — it's a record that always pops up in the $1 crate at flea markets and one that works well for share-house living. If it disappears 'by accident' you have a backup.

The original Fame is the story of eight talented teenagers who successfully audition for places in the prestigious New York City High School for the Performing Arts. (Although the film was actually shot in Harlem High.) In the commentary, British director Sir Alan Parker tells of the mammoth task of the open auditions he held to find teens whose real lives mirrored the scripted characters. Parker cast non-actors in many of the lead-roles, including Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy) who he saw on a Harlem street corner performing his dance routines.

\"\"Fame for Parker is “based on truth pushed to its theatrical edge”. The film, he says, is “not just about kids putting on a show and singing and dancing and being a stand up comic, it's actually about the darker side of what celebrity means and the desperation to be famous.” For Parker, “no other manifestation” of the franchise, which includes the TV series and musical, has managed this.

It remains to be seen what direction the newest 'manifestation' of Fame will take. Since the original, we've had innumerable 'I'm going to make it / dance films', Honey, Step Up, Step Up 2, not to mention the frenetic editing and glamour of the omnipresent juggernaut, So You Think You Can Dance. The original Fame positively crawls in comparison.

So while we'll have to wait til September to see Tancharoen's 'vision' it's certain to be influenced by his own back catalogue which includes two multi-protagonist reality-TV series for MTV, Dancelife (2007) which showcased LA-based dancers following in Jennifer Lopez's footsteps (J-Lo Executive Produced) and the 2006 Twentyfourseven about 7 men in creative industries struggling to become famous. Other credits for Tancharoen include The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll and Britney Spears Live from Miami (2004).

Like Parker before him, Tancharoen has said in pre-production press interviews that he's determined to cast unknowns but is that really possible in a studio movie these days? Do Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Kherington Payne (So You Think You Can Dance) and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Hannah Montana, Camp Rock) count as unknowns? Not to mention the teachers, who include Debbie Allen, Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth (Frasier).

To date it's the soundtrack where Tancharoen has successfully made his mark — Michael Gore's theme song 're-imagined' with synthesizers and voice modifications. Irene Cara meets Idol in a world of over-saturation. Who wants to live forever? The FAME franchise, that's who!