“Won’t Anybody Listen” is a documentary chronicling an unspecified amount of time in the lives of Frank and Vince Rogala, members of the unknown and unsigned band “NC-17.” The brothers Rogala are Michigan uproots who have followed the road to stardom to, where else, Los Angeles to make a go of their music careers. What transpires in the course of this film is a one-hour, fifteen minute bitch fest about a group of musicians struggling to make it in a market that is over saturated. Had something actually happened to these guys, this film could have been interesting.
The music scene in L.A. is reminiscent of the California chronicled in John Steinbeck’s (and John Ford’s) “The Grapes of Wrath.” Each year thousands flock to the Golden State to get the record deal and/or starring film role that is being handed out at the border. The Rogala’s are no different. Yet, trekking to L.A. and starting their band “NC-17” seems to have had no redeeming affect on the two as, doggone it, the recording industry was fresh out of contracts when they arrived.
It’s not that the Rogala’s and their band mates aren’t truly nice guys and very dedicated artists. In that sense, you can almost start to care what happens. But the problem with “Won’t Anybody Listen” lies in two major areas. One, the film has no real beginning, middle or end. Two, “NC-17” really STINK! I wanted to feel like, “damn, here’s a great band busting their a*s and getting nothing.” Instead I started to agree with all their mom’s and wives in thinking it might be high time to give it up.
Front man Frank Rogala is way too overdramatic and the rest of the group (Vince Rogala; keyboard and saxophone, Ron Canada; guitar and keyboard, Chuck Hohn; drums, Ron Perron; bass and Robert Aviles; violin) is clearly a band throwing a mish-mash of sound against a wall and trying to see what sticks. Violin, keyboards AND sax? “NC-17” is a musical melting pot for the sake of being different. Not only that, but they are a boring mix of 80’s cliché metal and what sounds like “Rush” with a dab of “Dexy’s Midnight Runners.” The outcome is like watching a film with an unlikable lead character.
But alas, this is a film review. Much of the footage is in this funky, grainy black and white digital video. Why? It had to be done in post production and the effect makes some scenes look downright black. But, Kelemer has nice camera work and some scenes are lighted very nicely. The overall effect is uneven though.
As we trudge on, Kelemer introduces us to a variety of music insiders consisting of A&R reps, music critics and lawyers. All these people have some really good advice to up and coming bands. The biggest piece is “don’t come to LA.” Maybe “NC-17” should sit down and watch this film and listen. In scenes of true irony, music “experts” offer insights as to what a band should do to get noticed and over the course of this film, we see “NC-17” do the opposite. What is this film’s title again? By the end we the viewer have been sufficiently bonked over the head with the fact that the music business is tough.
For example, two different A&R people say they hardly ever listen to unsolicited material and never read the press clippings. Yet throughout the film we watch as Vince and Frank spend, undoubtedly serious cash, in the creation of press kits (complete with press clippings) to be sent to A&R people. Perhaps you’re now thinking this film is like the 1999 documentary “American Movie” in which the hapless life of film maker Mark Borchardt is shown.
Well trust me, it’s not. People responded to Borchardt and felt for him. Here, all we see are disillusioned musicians, even more disillusioned wives and girlfriends topped off with slimy, smarmy industry people. Does anyone even like “NC-17?” There is not a single fan interviewed throughout this film and hardly any crowd footage from the one concert we’re shown. Then, the applause at said concert sounds like it was enhanced and audibly bumped up.
Here’s my advice to band and film maker. “NC-17,” go back to Michigan where the cost of living is cheaper. If you are a good band with a good following, and more importantly, good record sales, a recording contract will find you. As for Kelemer, follow the band back to Michigan. See of they make it or break up. Then finish this film.