Have you ever wondered what it takes to get a film from the blinking cursor to the silver screen? Many of us will have heard the trials and tribulations that some movies go through, words like ‘turnaround’, ‘greenlit’, ‘on-hold’ are often bandied around but what’s actually going on?
Writer and director Justin McConnell decided to show the process first-hand. He spent five-years documenting his life as he attempts to become the filmmaker he’s always dreamed of being.
We see him making numerous calls to numerous people, taking numerous meetings, writing, re-writing, shooting short films and, of course, the highs and lows of the merry-go-round of the film industry.
McConnell is ultimately attempting to get any of his slate of films made, specifically “Lifechanger” or “Mark Of Kane”, the latter adapted from a book with co-writer and co-director Serena Whitney.
He finds investors, only for them to pull out at the final minute, he’s told the problem is ‘him’, rather than the film, when trying to get one of his short films made he’s told it doesn’t make sense. After speaking with his parents, McConnell realises he doesn’t take criticism very well, but everyone he talks to as part of the documentary says you need to listen to this criticism.
From Michael Biehn to Guillermo del Toro, Lloyd Kaufman to Dick Miller, McConnell speaks to them all to hear their thoughts on how to get started in an industry that doesn’t seem to want you to get started at all.
The results are grim; “you won’t sell your short”, “if you are in this to make money, forget it” and, as Kaufman says, “about one tenth of one percent of people in the movie industry are the best people in the world, the rest are the scum of the Earth”.
Kaufman does not hold back, as you can see, and it would have been good to hear more from him. Apart from that though, Clapboard Jungle is a good documentary but as with all of these things the conclusions are as confusing as the questions.
Eventually McConnell does get one of his films ‘greenlit’, “Lifechanger”, which is distributed by UnCorked Entertainment. As with his previous films the feedback from audiences are mixed, some love it, some hate it, the difference is that McConnell no-longer cares, he realises the dream he’s been chasing he’s actually been living, and that’s the happiness he needs.
I will just add that if you want to see what it’s like to be told that your film is going to be made by one of the biggest producers at the time, Harvey Weinstein (before everything came out about him, although even here he was known as a ruthless man), watch 2003’s Overnight from Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith about Troy Duffy and his movie, “The Boondock Saints”, it’s a brilliant watch.