It is easier to make movies today than it ever has been. The technology is readily available to shoot, edit, and package a film. Conversely, it is even more difficult to find a way to get that project out to the masses. There are more avenues for a movie to be seen, but how does someone break into the business? Screening at the Fantasia Film Festival, Clapboard Jungle: Surviving the Independent Film Business is a passionate look at one person’s attempt to break into the film industry.
The documentary follows Justin McConnell as he tries to make the movie that will make him a big name. The journey is incredibly emotional. As McConnell himself says, attempting to get an indie movie off the ground is a roller coaster ride. Clapboard Jungle does not sugarcoat anything. McConnell is refreshingly honest. In a series of self shot confessional style interviews, the director questions himself and the business. It is as depressing as it is engaging.
The number of interviews in the documentary is impressive. Mick Garris, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Guillermo Del Toro, and the late George A. Romero are just some of the names who speak about the business. What is best about these segments is how frank all the interviewees are. Instead of the standard talking heads, these moments are part advice and part lecture. Even those who have no interest in filmmaking will enjoy what these film legends have to say.
This is where Clapboard Jungle truly excels. The plot seems like it is catered to a very specific audience. While it is true that would-be filmmakers will find many of McConnell’s setbacks familiar, everyone can relate to his story. He is a person with a dream. Each time he is on the verge of fulfilling that goal, the bar seems to keep raising. It is frustrating to watch.
At the same time, McConnell is a very likable underdog. Again, Clapboard Jungle is completely transparent. McConnell is unafraid to show his mistakes. There are even moments when he shows his actions contradicting what film icons use as best practices. The documentary showcases McConnell’s change as a person as he hustles to make his movie.
Clapboard Jungle: Surviving the Independent Film Business is an engrossing documentary. The plot focuses on director John McConnell as he tries to break it big in the movie industry. It is an honest depiction of the film business that is unflattering without being offensive. It is an emotional picture that examines the business and one person’s years long struggle.
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