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  • Anyone for Movieoke?

    From this morning's Everyday section of the Post.


    By Daniel P. Finney
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Daniel Fuller performs a scene from Apocalypse Now during "Movieoke" Monday evening at Farrago in St. Louis. Movieoke is similar to karoke, but uses scenes from films instead of songs.

    Daniel Fuller is on his knees with a man standing over him pointing a gun at his head. At that moment he believes all his dreams might come true.

    You should probably know right away that the gun is fake — a plastic toy with an orange cap on the nose.

    And you should also know that the young man wielding it, Square Watson, actually is a satisfied customer of Fuller's, rather than some disgruntled loon.

    In fact, the whole scene is part of a new game that Fuller believes will be the hot new event for bar and coffeeshop customers, eventually leading him to the Las Vegas Strip.

    But let's back up a second.

    Fuller is pushing a new game called "movieoke," which is similar to the bar-game favorite karaoke, in which participants sing the lyrics of their favorite tunes — often aided by the occasional alcoholic beverage — in front of loud, raucous crowds, also loosened up by a few belts.

    In movieoke, instead of singing songs, people act out entire scenes from their favorite movies while the film plays on a screen behind them.

    Watson was standing in for Al Pacino as he gave the "cock-a-roach" speech in "Scarface," before he ordered the death of a sobbing boss being played by Fuller.

    "I've got to admit it's kind of scary to be on your knees with a gun to your head on the first night of the show," Fuller says. "But it's fun, isn't it folks?"

    Fuller is clad in a tuxedo as he stands on the small stage in the back of Farrago, a coffeeshop and video rental store at 1212 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. This is the first night for movieoke and only a handful of people have come.

    One couple sits in the back and watches as Fuller and his partner, Vince Russell Jr., untangle a mess of wires to set up a microphone, which is drawing some nasty feedback from an unknown source.

    Fuller thought he invented the movieoke idea last year until he did a Google search on the Internet and came up with six other sites around the country that are doing something similar. This year, when he did the same search for "movieoke," he came up with more than 7,000 hits.

    "This is something that's really taking off around the country and I want to get something started here in the Midwest and expand from there," Fuller says. "This is going to be the next hot thing."

    Before he can take over the world, however, Fuller needs to work out a few bugs. One problem is figuring out how to navigate copyright laws. If he charges bar owners or people to provide movieoke, then he owes a portion of his profits to the movie companies that make the films.

    In karaoke, the payment process is relatively simple. The DJ keeps track of what songs are played in a night and then pays a small royalty to the record companies, which distribute that to the artists as needed.

    The film industry, however, isn't set up that way so what Fuller needs to pay the movie companies isn't exactly clear.

    "We're going to do it right," he says. "You can't take any chances in this legal environment, especially with the whole MP3 music piracy thing going on right now."

    Still, once he smoothes out the issues of both sound equipment and copyright law, Fuller believes he's got a winner. He sees crowded coffeehouses, bars and theaters with people waiting to do their favorite scenes from "Pulp Fiction," "Apocalypse Now" and "Casablanca."
    "I have people tell me all the time that they do scenes from movies just around their house," he says. "How often do you hear people talking in movie dialogue or talking like their favorite character from a movie? This gives them an opportunity to do that in a public setting."

    Eventually, Fuller hopes he can create a nationwide chain that will put him in theaters and bars around the country, maybe even a standing gig in a theater on the Vegas Strip.

    Those days, however, are a ways off for the 38-year-old seafood restaurant waiter from St. Louis.

    On his first night at Farrago last Monday, five people show up. After about an hour of fiddling with the equipment, Fuller introduces movieoke by doing a scene from "Pulp Fiction." He plays the part of John Travolta as he and fellow gangster, Samuel L. Jackson, are discussing the finer points of fast-food in France and how the metric system affects the naming of a quarter-pound hamburger.

    The small crowd erupts in applause when Fuller finishes with a bow. Well, erupts is overstating, but they did clap politely.

    Russell coaxes Watson to do a scene. Watson picks the "Scarface" scenario. After that, Jonathan Parker and his fiancée Sula Hood, play a scene from the Chris Rock film "Head of State."

    "This is great," Parker says. "I've got a huge DVD collection. I'm really into the movies. This will be a lot of fun when he gets a bigger crowd going."

    Farrago owner Douglas T. Hall thinks so, too. Hall, also a screenwriter, believes this will draw a fresh crowd of young people down to Washington Avenue. He believes in it so much, he's letting Fuller set up permanent residence at the coffeeshop on Monday nights.

    "(Fuller) is a smart guy and I really think he's on to something here," Hall says. "Right now, it's just about spreading the word that this is out there and I think it's going to fly."

    Fuller is working with a software engineer to transform movie scripts into lyrics that scroll across a screen similar to the way song lyrics scroll in a karaoke game. For now, he uses the DVDs that Hall has available for rent at Farrago, but Fuller plans to build his own library of clips once he sees what titles are most popular with players. He also plans to have costumes and props on hand for some scenes.

    His enthusiasm for movieoke is infectious and, in a way, he sounds a little bit like an aspiring actor who just wants to see his name in lights.

    "The only difference is I want to see my name in the lights on a theater marquee in Vegas," Fuller says with a smile. "I think this just might do it."

    Reporter Daniel P. Finney
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8373

    What: Movieoke (like karaoke only with movies)
    Where: Farrago, 1212 Washington Avenue
    When: 7 p.m. to midnight Mondays
    How much: Free
    More info: 314-241-5282
    Make America Great For Once.