Directed by Douglas Blush & Renee Barron
When I was young my dream as to be a professional baseball player. Flash forward 30 years and here I am, not a baseball player, but thanks to something called fantasy camp, I could pay a fee and spend time in Florida getting instruction from professional coaches and playing games with other “campers” to live out my dream of playing baseball for a living. While baseball may not be the dream for everyone, undoubtedly everyone has a dream. There is a variety of fantasy camps out there you can attend to live out those dreams, including Space Camp, and the subject of this film, Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. If music is your thing, but you never took the plunge of quitting your job to pursue that career in music, but you still get a kick out of playing, then it might just be the fantasy camp for you. It has been for many, which is why after 23 years of running camps, this documentary film helps capture the joy and rapture of the campers who have attended the more than 50 such camps over the years.
David Fishof is a promoter. He has gone through a number of different career paths, including a sports agent, but when he organized the first solo tour for former Beatle Ringo Starr with his All-Starr Band, he found something completely different, which inspired an idea that has been embraced and experienced by many. Calling on all of his friends in the music business, Fishof organized the first Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. With only a few campers, the first camp may not have been a success, but all these years later, it is evident that it has become an important experience for many, including otherwise straight laced executives like drummer Tammy who is trying out singing for the first time, or Blake, a prodigy guitar player who is normally quiet, but finds his release in playing rock music. It is a salve for many, a way to get away from their stressful every day lives and live out their dream of being rock stars.
The camp itself is by all accounts an incredible time and well worth the $5000 price tag to attend. Who wouldn’t want to rub elbows with some of rock music’s royalty and learn a few tips and tricks from them while forming a band with like-minded campers? Douglas Blush and Renee Barron manage to capture both the energy and passion of the experience, focusing on just a few campers and counselors whose experiences are both enriched. And it is very evident that Blush comes from an editing background (he worked on such documentaries as Icarus, 20 Feet From Stardom, and Period. End of Sentence.), as the film moves with the same propulsive energy as the rock/metal music at its core.
While the film highlights what is, by all accounts, an incredible experience, the film itself is not one. For the majority of the run time, the film comes off as a glorified, extended commercial for the camp rather than a documentary telling the story of Fishof and his campers. The film lacks storytelling depths in its main figures, merely scratching the surface of what music and the camp means for those who attend, and conversely what it means to those rock stars that volunteer to contribute to the populations lifelong dreams. Additionally, Fishof’s career gets a cursory glance without delving into what the camp truly means to him. Overall, the coverage is gushing for the camp, and we get a few talking heads to explain what it means to them. I wish we got to follow them around more. See them more at home, and see them more playing music. There is just something missing with this documentary that prevents it from leaving a lasting impression. So while I may be able to recommend the camp itself based on this film, I would struggle to recommend the film itself outside of truly passionate rock fans or those who already have interest in Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.