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March 29, 2014 | posted in Filmmakers
What would you do if you saw Elvis, Oprah, and Dr. Phil eating lunch together? “It’s certainly an odd experience,” says “Just About Famous” co-director Matt Mamula. Though these people look like their celebrity counterparts, these are just professional impersonators. Co-director Jason Kovacsev read about a celebrity impersonator convention and it struck a chord.
“I was curious about how obsessed our society must be in order to pay regular people money just because they resemble someone famous,” says Kovacsev. “The whole concept seemed bizarre.”
But, Kovacsev and Mamula attended the event with vague curiosity. “Once we got there, our own interest piqued,” Mamula says.
The world of celebrity impersonators is not one for the faint hearted. “They are a group of people who belong to a minority that don’t feel understood by the masses,” explains Kovacsev. “But they have a community of others who accept them for their differences.”
The co-directors discovered more similarities than differences between themselves and the impersonators. “You think these people are crazy, you know?” says Mamula. “But then you realize it’s a profession and they work hard.”
He continues, “The dead ringers still have to work at it. Costumes, mannerisms, hair and makeup; they get nervous too, just like the rest of us.”
Mamula and Kovacsev introduced their short film to captivated audiences in 2010. “People wanted to see more of the impersonators,” Mamula says. “As filmmakers, we wanted to bring that world on screen to see what it is all about.”
Excited about the prospect of more storytelling and filmmaking, Mamula and Kovacsev found a strong sense respect for the impersonators. They had no intention of mockery, like many press people do. “Once you give these people a chance to get to know them, they reveal how they really are just like everyone else,” says Kovacsev. “Beside the fact that complete strangers get excited about taking pictures with them.”
The surreal lives of ordinary people in “Just About Famous” will have CIFF audiences enchanted and curious if Elvis really is still alive.
If you spot an American president at the festival, look again. These people are, after all, professionals.
— Molly Drake
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