UPDATE 3/2/2014: "20 Feet from Stardom" won the Documentary Feature Oscar tonite! Here's our piece from Sundance 2013, and congratulations to all involved.
They can really make or break a record, but throughout the history of recorded music, they've been -- mostly -- kept out of the spotlight. They're background singers.
Director Morgan Neville tells their story in the inspiring new documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which became the first film to sell at Sundance 2013. The Weinstein Company snapped up the North American rights and it'll reportedly screen in theatres this summer.
Off-Ramp contributor and documentarian Ray Greene talked with Neville at Sundance soon after the director heard the good news. Neville told him, "It's the kind of thing you fantasize about for years when you're making films. My head's spinning. It's a huge relief. And it means I get to go see movies" at Sundance.
Neville told Greene former A&M Records president Gil Friesen approached him about making the film, and they started -- since they didn't really know anything about background singers -- by simply interviewing fifty of them. Then, the doc took shape.
Friesen, the film's producer, died last month. Neville says Friesen saw the final cut, and was in the hospital when he heard the news it was accepted at Sundance. "It's just added a whole other layer of emotion to beign here at Sundance with his wife, and his kids, and his friends, and knowing it was his dream, too."