Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story

An engaging look at the fascinating subculture of the song-poem industry, where a dream and a song come together as ordinary people mail in their poems to be set to music for a fee.

Independent Lens, True Stories
Premiere Date
February 11, 2003
60 minutes

Jamie Meltzer

Director Jamie Meltzer’s feature documentary films have been broadcast nationally on PBS and have screened at numerous film festivals worldwide. They include Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (Independent Lens, 2003) about the shadowy world of song-poems, Welcome to Nollywood, an investigation into the wildly successful Nigerian movie industry Show more (PBS broadcast, 2008), La Caminata (2009), a short film about a small town in Mexico that runs a simulated border crossing as a tourist attraction, and Informant, winner of four best documentary/grand jury awards at film festivals in 2012, about a revolutionary activist turned FBI informant, and which was released theatrically nationwide by Music Box Films in 2013. He teaches in the MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University. Show less

Other ITVS Films
True Conviction

We fund untold stories for public media.

Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

The Film

Off the Charts is a fascinating, hilarious, and at times unsettling film that explores the strange underworld of the song-poem industry. In this little known subculture, "ordinary people" respond to come-on ads in the back pages of magazines ("Send in Your Lyrics—Make $50,000 in Royalties!"), mailing in their heartfelt but often bizarre poems to music industry companies that, for cash, set those poems to music.