Fever Pitch ***
Fever Pitch Films, 2001, 26 Minutes, for more information visit http://www.feverpitchfilms.com/
If you’re like me, you’re probably a little bit sick of people telling you how to get somewhere in the film business. The advice is nearly always the same. In any case, the better it is, the worse you feel. You know you should be doing X, you also know that you’re not doing X. The result: guilt and existential nausea. Well, that’s not a problem with Fever Pitch, because all the advice given in this comedy documentary is either utterly ignored or carried to monstrous extremes by filmmaker/star, “award-winning” actor-director Willard Morgan.
Largely taping himself with a lightweight camera held at arm’s length (a la the most famous shot from The Blair Witch Project), the video starts out as a chronicle of Morgan’s efforts to make this film and to promote his last film, “Festival Fever” about his experiences at Sundance (which means that “Fever Pitch” is a film about making a film about promoting a film about film promotion!).
Comprised largely of Morgan’s thoughts while shopping at Ralphs and Home Depot, “Fever Pitch” begins as a happily neurotic semi-spoof of the vast industry of show-biz instructional materials. As Morgan looks at possible gurus, trenchant remarks (well, remarks, anyway) are provided by such denizens of the lower media depths as “2-Day Film School” maven S.S. Dov Simens (who instructs anyone who thinks of film as an art form to immediately leave his seminars), Tom Arnold, and Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame. Also along for the ride, so to speak, is irrepressible eccentric and weird-car-king Dennis Woodruff. (If Dennis has ever accosted you in a Hollywood-area coffee house to sell one of his videos, raise your hand.) The only one to offer any real face-time is Woodruff. He proves to be a dangerous inspiration indeed.
The film slowly moves from neurosis to psychosis as Morgan relentlessly pursues a meeting with the guy he would really like to be his mentor, Michæl Moore. Our hero becomes very excited when an assistant informs him that the creator of “Roger and Me” is planing to watch “Festival Fever.” What follows is a series of increasingly uncomfortable encounters as Morgan pursues Moore whenever he’s foolish enough to make an L.A. area appearance. Things devolve quickly from pleasant encounters with Moore’s polite and supportive staff and the equally polite Moore. Soon, Moore is referring to Morgan as a “stalker” and Morgan either really is in the midst of a harassment campaign or is just playing along for the sake of this film. Moore, who invented this sort of thing, seems to be really in pain at times, advising Morgan over the phone to seek counseling and probably wondering, since he never shut a factory down, just what he did to deserve this.
The results are fairly entertaining throughout — even if too much footage consists of Michæl Moore’s chin — and mildly disturbing. However, it’s a bit reassuring that the film was actually co-written and edited by Jeffrey Orgill (who produced with Catherine Fletcher). It’s sort of nice to know that Willard Morgan has any friends at all.