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An Affair of the Rock Doc

Directed and produced by filmmaker Sylvia Caminer, the rockumentary An Affair of the Heart revolves around Australian-born Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Rick Springfield and his devoted fans. Over the last year it appeared in theaters and at festivals such as IDFA, Sidewalk Film Festival, and HotDocs. It’s available on DVD starting July 16th.

Springfield, a pop rock idol during much of the 1980s, may seem an unlikely subject for Caminer. She won an Emmy for her directorial work on the Discovery Channel series, Great Hotels. She has spearheaded projects for Lifetime, WE, and other networks. On the film side, she has created several serious documentary features, such as 2011’s Tanzania: A Friendship Journey. Yet in Caminer’s hands, even though it was new territory, this latest project came together with a depth that is unexpected for the rock documentary genre.

“I had not been involved with this type of documentary,” she says. “It’s a lot harder in many ways because of all the licenses and technicalities, especially when you’re doing a documentary independently. You want to capture the music and its essence live, and make sure it’s gonna rock when you finish the film.” Caminer was not content to let it become a simple biopic or concert film. Instead she decided to embrace and also question the validity of fan worship.

Entertainment PR professional and An Affair of the Heart executive producer Melanie Lentz-Janney believes that Caminer had enough affection for her subjects to feel engaged, but also had enough distance to be objective.

The two women met in 2001, when Lentz-Janney was executive director of Women in Film and Television’s Florida chapter. Because Lentz-Janney had been a lifelong fan, a Springfield project seemed like a natural subject.

Lentz-Janney describes how it all came together. “I knew that I could not be the one to knock on the door. First of all, I had never made a film before, and Sylvia had won Emmy Awards and had been doing this for 20 years, so she really needed to be the one to make the intro to Rick’s team. Fortunately, I had been studying Rick and his team for so long, I kinda knew what the right route would be. So she picked up the phone and called and they said, ‘This sounds really interesting.’”

Lentz-Janney describes the first meeting that she and Caminer had with Springfield: “He just wanted to kind of get to know us as people, which is very cool, because that’s when I think he realized we were people he could trust to tell the kind of story that we wanted to tell. And he was amazing. He gave us full access and let us create the story we wanted to do.”

As a former longstanding cast member of the daytime soap General Hospital and on-and-off actor for other film and television projects (Hard to Hold (1984), Californication), Springfield is familiar with being in front of the lens. Caminer feels that this actually helped her subject to feel comfortable: “When we actually did interviews, he was very…you know…raw,” she says.

Although Lentz-Janney has been a part of the subculture that she chronicles, even she has learned something deeper about the fans that have surrounded her for decades: “All fans feel like they have this special connection that no one else has,” she says. “It was hard when we cast them, and we had a thousand submissions. And each was worthy of being in the film. It was really hard to narrow it down to seven to tell the story. But even now, Sylvia and I, we’re a teeny tiny production company. We raised all the money to get this far. And the fans—so many of them are like, ‘what can I do to help?’…There are so many people…it took a village to create this film.”

By all indications, the “village” might be growing. Lentz-Janney says, “The film really does bring new fans to the table, too. Sylvia and I have had all these screenings at film festivals, and people that you’d never [expect]…from rap artists to 80-year-old men…walk away and they become fans. And that’s awesome.”

Caminer alludes to the possibility of there being future projects on the horizon: “Well, if I could ever do David Bowie, that would be a dream. I would really love to. Melanie and I have a couple other music/pop culture projects that we are trying to get going. I love this genre.”

Official site for An Affair of the Heart: www.rickspringfielddoc.com.

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