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article imageReview: ‘Clapboard Jungle’ goes deep behind the scenes of moviemaking Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 2, 2020 in Entertainment
‘Clapboard Jungle’ is an intimate depiction of life as an independent filmmaker paired with an endless amount of advice on how to get to the next rung of the ladder.
It’s common knowledge the film industry is one of the toughest to penetrate and even more difficult to be successful. Of course, everyone’s measure of success is different, but in this case it can be boiled down to a few basic achievements: making a movie, getting said movie distributed, and people mostly liking it once they’ve been afforded the opportunity to see it. Now the method of all these things occurring is about as varied as the types of pictures people can make. But deep down there’s got to be some similarities; a common thread that drives everyone and bonds them in their pursuit. Clapboard Jungle is an exploration of independent filmmaking and the parallels of creators’ experiences.
In 2014, Justin McConnell picked up his camera and turned it on himself. Already making films for a couple of decades, he was in the midst of overcoming a crisis of faith triggered by a tragedy and determined to make the changes he felt would push him into the next step in his career. Collaborating with a new writer, globetrotting to network at prominent film festivals and committing to bringing his best possible work to the screen were just some of the actions he took on this journey. But at the same time, he spent those same five years interviewing a variety of other people in the business to get their thoughts on what it takes to make it, which then became the complementary subject of this documentary.
On the one hand, this is a very intimate and candid look at life as an independent (Canadian) filmmaker in an industry built on dreams. As McConnell says, he grew up in the age of the Sundance darling, and the writers/directors who worked outside the system and then broke in to great acclaim. But the industry has undergone so many changes in the last 30 years, and those stories are fewer and far between now. His “big break” simply felt like it was getting farther from his grasp. Much of the picture is spent watching McConnell labour to get the funding for his film, then try to get the greenlight for an even more promising project, then experience the same ups and downs when shopping his latest script. The interspersed shots of him cooking or exercising are a bit strange, but do speak to the fact that he’s a regular person who’s also “in the business.”
On the other hand, a significant part of the film is comprised of interviews with writers, directors, actors, festival programmers, producers, distributors, critics, special effects artists, cinematographers and anyone else who plays a role in the film process. Fans entrenched in genre cinema will recognize many of the speakers or, if not them, at least the films with which they’re associated. Most of the filmmakers have experience as independent creators and they’ve all experienced varying success, but some of the more prominent interviewees include Guillermo Del Toro, George A. Romero, Mick Garris, Lloyd Kaufman, Steven Kostanski, Tom Savini, Don Mancini, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. They talk about the democratization of the movie industry as fans gain a greater influence over films, the importance of confidence in combination with an ability to accept criticism, and the role karaoke plays in networking at film festivals.
The documentary actually chronicles the entire life of McConnell’s feature, Lifechanger, from script to screen, giving audiences a glimpse of the filmmaking rollercoaster, as well as a couple of shorts positioned as stepping stones to getting attention for larger projects. Along the way, everyone has a lot to say and some people only appear to say one thing, but it all comes together to tell a shared story of independent filmmaking. And now, this film is in the process of becoming an eight-episode educational film series.
Clapboard Jungle had its Quebec premiere in the Documentaries from the Edge category at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.
Director: Justin McConnell
More about Clapboard Jungle, Fantasia Film Festival, Justin McConnell, Documentary, Independent film
 
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