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Great World of Sound

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Original title
Great World of Sound
Running time
106 min.
United States United States
Martin (Pat Healy) is an uncomplicated southern guy with a resume that includes experience at a few small town radio stations, doing mostly engineering work. Unemployed, he responds to an ad in the paper for a company called Great World of Sound, that’s setting up shop in a generic office park. After his interview, he’s invited to attend a Saturday seminar explaining what the job entails. There he meets larger than life Clarence (Kene Holliday)—the two hit it off right away.

At the seminar, an articulate but somewhat slimy man named Shank (John Baker) explains that the seminar participants have been selected out of a field of 80 applicants to be A&R executives for GWS, seeking out new, untapped musical talent. GWS will put out a record for these artists—all they ask for is a financial commitment from them up front to show that they’re serious, and to allay the costs of studio recording time and marketing. After all, GWS is an independent record company working on a budget. Shank and his cohort then talk about how much money the producers stand to make, and as if to prove it, dials into his bank account, letting the room hear his $13,000+ balance. Martin is suspicious, but Clarence believes that this is a whole new way of looking at the world, and if they sign someone that hits it big, they’ll hit it big with them. Martin, who likes the idea of helping new artists, agrees to sign on.

Clarence and Martin soon start auditioning acts as a team, all of them very, very bad. While Martin has a hard time disguising his displeasure, Clarence is a natural: he enthusiastically encourages those who audition, while Martin trips over explaining the financial commitment the company will need from the artists. When a skeptical neophyte producer admits at a staff meeting that he thought they were only supposed to sign “the good ones,” Shank compares GWS to a university: in order to support the “best and the brightest,” universities must admit a lot of mediocre students.

Clarence and Martin soon prove to be among the best of the GWS crew, so the company sends them on the road to audition musicians responding to ads in other cities. Armed with the dubious gold records that Shank has displayed in the sparse GWS offices, the two men hit the road, holding musical auditions in cheap hotel rooms. This is where things start going downhill—first they find that GWS has booked the two of them into a motel room with only one bed. Later they are sent on a business trip with one-way plane tickets, only to find that GWS hasn’t booked them flights back home. And worst of all they soon learn that some are the artists that they’ve signed are having less than favorable experiences in the recording studio.

As the veneer falls away from GWS, Clarence and Martin have no choice but to reconcile the excitement and escape that their new jobs have provided them with reality. Have they become scam artists? Or are they victims of the scam themselves?
2007: Independent Spirit Awards: 2 Nominations including Best First Feature
2007: Gotham Awards: Breakthrough Director Award. 3 Nominations
2007: National Board of Review: Top Independent Films
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User history
Great World of Sound
Craig Zobel