Great World of Sound

Craig Zobel

“Just because it’s a lie, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea,” Clarence (Kene Holliday) explains to his record company associate Martin (Pat Healy) while trying to justify feigning snapping photos on a lens-free cell phone, reasoning that it helps to boost confidence while closing deals in director Craig Zobel’s wholly original Great World of Sound.

Of course it’s this kind of thinking that has caused the men, obviously lacking in the field of logic (unless they’re just accustomed to blind, na├»ve trust), to accept jobs with the shady Great World of Sound which has just relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina from Chicago. Why the move was made, it’s not immediately known but when Martin turns up for the job interview and finds his would be employers in the midst of cardboard boxes, surprisingly it’s his background that comes into question as the interviewer criticizes the number of moves on his resume that had found Martin moving from various cities for work in his field.

To the higher ups at Great World of Sound, constant motion is an indication of laziness yet there’s something about Martin, perhaps in his willingness to go along with whatever they tell him, that inspires them to give the man a chance and wouldn’t you know, soon they’re calling on his fondness for constant motion in sending him out on the road scouring for new musical talent.

Working with the more dynamic salesman Clarence, also newly hired as a producer, the two men learn that instead of trying to weed through the auditioning masses for viable talent, they have to think of Great World of Sound like an all-encompassing university and it’s their job to sign as many musicians as they can, all the while knowing that most will not “graduate.”

Faster than you can say “something’s rotten in Charlotte,” they’re told that due to the intricacies of CD production and recording costs, they have to request payment from the musicians as a sign of good faith. While $3,000 is the target number that the “financial contributions” Great World of Sound tries to solicit from would-be artists, Martin and Clarence quickly become the best salesman-- or I mean producers-- when they realize that quantity counts and begin taking payments in the hundreds.

“You really think that’s all there is to producing?” Martin questions near the beginning of their new career and while any viewer with half a brain realizes that they’re working for a con operation, it’s amazing the length of time and amount of justification the two main characters need to realize the exact same thing.

Zobel’s film, which was written by the director and George Smith, played at both the Sundance and South by Southwest Film Festivals and after earning Zobel a Gotham Breakthrough Director Award, garnered two Independent Spirit nominations in the categories of Best First Feature and Best Supporting Male (Holliday). Despite its admittedly repetitive nature and dubiously dim “heroes” as the characters try to sign every new auditioning artist, Great World of Sound profits from an undeniably clever and unmerciful script. In addition, the humor that is heightened by the actors who, unlike their characters, fight the urge to “sell” their jokes and make the film a parody by instead playing it straight, making Great World of Sound feel far more compelling and frighteningly authentic than a typical night of American Idol.