OFF THE CHARTS: THE SONG-POEM STORY, is a fascinating, at times unsettling, documentary that exposes the strange underworld of the song-poem industry. In this little known subculture, “ordinary people” respond to come-on ads on the back pages of magazines (“Send in Your Lyrics and Make $50,000 in royalties!”), mailing in their heartfelt but often bizarre poems to “music industry” companies that, for a fee, turn those poems into real recordings. Through interviews with several song-poem writers, the jaded producers and musicians who set their words to music, and a few of the growing number of zealous song-poem connoisseurs, OFF THE CHARTS explores a truly unique, never-before-seen slice of Gothic Americana.
This music has everything in the world going against it. It's completely artificial, it's a scam, it's ... you know, I could probably list fifteen different reasons why it shouldn't work. But, for some reason, something comes through all this stuff. And I think that's part of the charm and attractiveness that it has.
-Ellery Eskelin, musician and son of song-poem auteur, Rodney Keith Eskelin
Premiere – SXSW Film Festival
Television Broadcast – Independent Lens, on PBS