FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! I happen to love documentaries about film and filmmaking. So, when I heard about Justin McConnell’s documentary, Clapboard Jungle, I had a pretty good idea that I would enjoy it. However, the film isn’t just a guidebook to making it in the independent film industry. It’s also the tale of one independent filmmaker’s journey through the arduous process of getting a film made and shown to audiences.
Justin McConnell started filming Clapboard Jungle in 2014, and we see him visit different film markets such as Frontieres and the Cannes Marche Du Film. We hear about all the potential his film has. We also see that despite all the attention McConnell and his co-writer Serena Whitney got at Frontieres for their Mark of Kane adaptation, nothing actually happened. McConnell switches focus to another idea he has (which ends up becoming Lifechanger), and we see him go through all the pitfalls of receiving funding, casting, etc., until finally, he gets to make the film.
Throughout the course of McConnell’s personal narrative, there is sage advice along the way from seemingly countless personalities in the independent and major film worlds.
Lloyd Kaufman says, in reference to a large amount of available content out there, “Nobody complained when there were thousands of paintings and drawings and comic book illustrations. Why should anyone complain about too many movies? The problem is that (there are) too many great movies that nobody gets to see.” L. Gustavo Cooper, director of Velvet Road, says in reference to a director’s ego, “All of us suck. All of us are bad, and the minute you think you’re good, you should quit.”
“…we see him go through all the pitfalls of receiving funding, casting, etc., until finally, he gets to make the film.”
Filmmaking legend Guillermo Del Toro says that while making a film, “you want to fight for the stuff that’s a lost cause. The lost cause is the only one worth fighting for.” On casting actors, Sid Haig says, “If you have the confidence to hire somebody, you should have enough confidence that they know what they’re doing.” There are many other wonderful soundbites throughout the hour and a half journey through the ebbs and flows of independent filmmaking.
It would take me forever to list all of the people who are interviewed in this documentary, but just know that there are many actors, directors, film programmers, producers, casting directors, make-up artists (including Tom Savini), and more. The film really is an essential how-to-guide for any wannabe filmmakers out there. It doesn’t make anything seem too precious or wonderful. Clapboard Jungle lets the viewer know that making a movie is a hard and serious business. All the while, we see someone climbing the ladder of filmmaking, and at the end of it all, knowing a lot more than he did when he began filming the documentary.
Please, if you are a fan of independent cinema, see this just for the interviews of many people you’ve admired, heard of, or even know yourself. Stay for the inspiring story of a filmmaker who finally gets his foot in the door after years of trying. It’s an effort that not many people can see through to the end, but maybe after watching Clapboard Jungle, you’ll get some of the tools to get ahead in this rather unforgiving business yourself.
Clapboard Jungle premiered at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…an essential how-to-guide for any wannabe filmmakers out there..."