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Fame: Questionnaire with the creative team

The Creative Team behind Fame!

Interview: Gary Lucchesi (Producer), Marguerite Derricks (Choreographer), and Kevin Tancharoen (Director)

A reinvention of the Oscar®-winning musical,  Fame once again transports audiences to the fiercely competitive world of a performing  arts high school in New York where a new generation of hopefuls reach for the stars. The result is one of the most highly anticipated movies of the season, thanks not only to the bright young cast, but to the hard work of the veteran creative team behind them. Sharing their thoughts on the new Fame are Gary Lucchesi, who co-produced the film with longtime partner, Tom Rosenberg (Million Dollar Baby),  multiple Emmy Award-winning choreographer, Marguerite Derricks (whose work has run the gambit from Little Miss Sunshine to Cirque Du Soleil), and first time director, Kevin Tancharoen.

What initially attracted you to the project?
GARY LUCCHESI: I had seen Fame when I was a young agent at William Morris. It was around 1980. William Morris represented Alan Parker (director of the original Fame) and so I got to see an early version of the film. And it just knocked me out. I remember watching the 'hot lunch jam,' and from that point on it just had me. Fame was one of the seminal movies in my young career.

What does it feel like coming back to it now?
GL: It was a thrill, an absolute thrill. Kevin did a magnificent job and the movie is everything I hoped it would be& It actually exceeded my expectations in some ways. Like the music, for example. It's funny, I had great faith in Kevin. But I never knew that the music was going to be as good as it turned out. That was one of those unknowable things that really scares the hell out of you. You have to commit to songs early on. You think they're good, but you're not entirely sure.

KEVIN TANCHAROEN: When you're shooting a movie, you start way before it comes out. But since music trends move so rapidly, you really have to lead instead of follow what's in the marketplace at the time you're making it. If you go for something that's popular at the time you're filming, you never know, a year later when the movie actually comes out, if that's going to be thought of as dated. I think we did a great job of incorporating as many different styles as we possibly could while keeping it progressive and edgy. By playing off of the trends that are really popular, we made our own sound instead of trying to copy the ones that exist.

Why make a new Fame& Didn't the original speak for itself?
GL: Well it's been since 1980 when the first film was released - that's almost 30 years ago. I mean, most of our cast that are in Fame now, weren't even born then. Today, New York has five or six high schools that are dedicated to the performing arts alone, not just LaGuardia, which was the case when the first film came out. Almost every big city in the country has a performing arts high school, today. So it feels exactly like the right time to do it.

KT: We also have this kind of singing and dancing phenomenon coming back full circle - from High School Musical, to Step Up, to Hairspray, to television shows like Dancing With Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Best Dance Crew - American Idol, even. The performance aspect of it is very, very, popular. At the same time the old school mentality of 'fame' has become somewhat convoluted. The idea of '15 minutes of fame' is so tangible now and so immediate that it's somewhat lost its importance and integrity.  You can literally film yourself doing something crazy, upload it to YouTube, and "Oh my god, you're famous." All of this technology has sped things up so quickly that people have forgotten about the real artists that dedicate their lives to performing. The truth is it takes a lot of work and that old school mentality of working hard to achieve fame has become a distant memory. I think this is a good way to bring it back. To remind everybody that there are artists out there who dedicate their lives, their focus and their passion.

How did you put it together?
GL: Once we discussed it with MGM and worked on acquiring the rights, we developed a screenplay. And once we had a screenplay, it became a long and complicated process of finding the right director. I remember very clearly the Friday afternoon that I met Kevin Tancharoen. He was 22 or 23 at the time and already had this long dossier of work. I looked at him and said, "Did you really do all this stuff?" He'd directed the Britney Spears' tour at 19, The Pussycat Dolls, a Jennifer Lopez TV project called The Dancers Life. We sat down on a Friday afternoon an spent about an hour or so together. And I immediately liked him. And when I heard his father was a truck driver,  I thought we were kind of destined - the two sons of truck drivers (laughs) - There's no question he walked through the door at the right time. But the other thing is we had had a lot of guys walk through that door before and none of them felt as right as Kevin did for this movie. There was a bit of a leap of faith. But my partner, Tom Rosenberg and I, also did our due-diligence. We really did our homework. And Kevin was the guy that we thought was absolutely the best.

What attracted you to the project, Marguerite?
MARGUERITE  DERRICKS: Well, my first job as a dancer was on the Fame television show. So this was like a full circle for me. And then, I found out one of my students was directing the movie - Kevin Tancharoen (laughs). He called me up: "I'm doing this film, would you do it with me?" I told him I couldn't be prouder than to stand by his side and choreograph his first movie.

KT: I grew up learning from her. And when this movie came along I couldn't think of a better choreographer. Not only was she in the television series Fame, but she grew up in New York and went to a school very much like the one in our film. All the styles of music and dance we explore in the film, Marguerite has either performed herself, choreographed, or taught. And so the collaborative nature of it was unmatched. I've never had an experience like it.

What did you change and what did you keep?
GL: We kept the rough format of the original movie, where you had auditions and then watched the characters through all four years of high school, ending with graduation. We decided to keep that. We kept the New York environment. We use the Fame song in end titles and Out Here On My Own, but we created our own versions.

KT: What we've changed are the issues - the relatable teen issues. We had to adapt it for a new generation. I ended up going to a bunch of different performing arts high schools and interviewing kids in all of the different aspects of the arts. I asked them what their obstacles were and really tried to get into their heads. This way I wasn't guessing - I was keeping it as authentic as possible.

MD: And obviously, all of the choreography in this movie is new. It had to be, because dance has  escalated to a place I've never seen. The same way that we're seeing athletes take their craft to another level, so are we seeing singers, dancers and actors, do the same thing in the performing arts.

What was the shoot like?
KT: We shot for 45 days in New York and LA. And, of course, the shooting was a blast because everyone involved had such an energy and excitement. For some of our cast, this was their first film. So their cooperation, excitement and dedication was all very upfront in the shooting process. They were very willing and able to rehearse - wherever, whenever.

GL: And Kevin was never a 'first time director,' either. From the first day on this movie he knew exactly what he wanted and he knew how to get it - I think even Alan Parker would approve of the way the movie looks. It's a movie that I'm very, very proud of.

Fame is ostensibly a story of young people pursuing their dreams, seeking that first recognition of their talent. Is it something you can still relate to as an adult?
GL: If I didn't I wouldn't be here (laughs).  It's funny, you remember those early days so vividly. There's a part of me that thinks that's what Fame is all about. I remember those days when I was in the mailroom at William Morris. I remember when I first became an agent, when I first signed a client, the first movie I produced - you remember those first moments of achievement, vividly. Because those first moments of recognition are unmatchable. They're indescribable.

What are your hopes for the film?
KT: My hope is that it will inspire a new generation... that it will inspire kids who want to be in this world to keep doing it. I've come across a lot of people who may have the talent, but are scared of rejection and failure. I hope they'll learn that that's a part of it. That failing and being rejected, that screwing up here and there, is actually what makes you successful. I hope this film does what the first movie did for a whole new generation of people.