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By Mark Bell | January 16, 2013

Cassie (Hallie York) is an unpaid intern at a film distribution company, putting her film school skills to poor use by screening films and checking legal contracts. When she finally can’t take it anymore, and feels she can make better films than the ones she’s screening, she quits her job and sets about filming a script her eccentric friend Eugene (Brian Cheng) wrote.

With no budget, and a script that is a sci-fi epic with a zombie cannibal vampire pirate queen, or something, Cassie is set up for a rough filmmaking experience. Coupled with the ambition and budget mismatch is an inexperienced crew: Kal (Eric James Eastman) is the director of photography whose experience exists in still photography, Arielle (Jessica Coles) is the perky assistant director that doesn’t know anything about being on a set, Cassie’s best friend Gary (Johnathan Fernandez) is the gaffer, and the boom mic is operated by a homeless guy (Marcus Slabine).

And since the lead actor, Beth (Miranda Childs), dropped out immediately once she got wind of how inexperienced everyone is, Cassie had to step in and fill her role opposite Tom (Jake Kropac), who appears to be taking his craft more seriously than anyone else involved. Oh, right, lest I forget, there’s also Zeke (Omar Baig), the computer geek with a penchant for illegally downloading software who is working on the edit and all special effects for the “epic” film.

As you might expect, things do not go smoothly. If there’s not a boom mic in the shot, or composition that could best be described as “too wide,” there are sound issues from the whole gauntlet of aural problems: planes, train, car alarms and cell phones. Additionally, Cassie’s mother (Elise Rovinsky) is on her case to stop this filmmaking silliness and get a real job. Will anything positive come from this experience?

Let’s Make a Movie captures the innocence of filmmaking at that stage when you’ve just got to film something, do anything, or else you feel like you’re going to be consumed by a life spent doing something you never wanted to do. Believe me, I get that; this film hit a little too close to home because its story is similar to my own, only I shot my shitty movie that no one will ever see on 16mm film (because the digital option just wasn’t viable yet).

And much like my own life, I feel like the narrative here follows that the end result, the finished film, was not the point. For me, the experience of filming my own flick was a cheap film school, and set me up for five years of working on other film sets for free to get better at everything I did wrong on my own film (which was, you know, everything). Here, while Cassie wants to see her film as a successful final product, the true gain from the entire experience was that she went all the way through with it, for better or worse, and knows more what she’s capable of moving forward.

So, yes, there’s a little extra fondness from me for this film because I relate so damn much to it. I doubt I’d be alone in that, because the story is a universal one for filmmakers, and thus is why we’ve seen so many variations of it, whether it be State and Main, Bowfinger, A*s Monster or Zack and Miri Make a Porno (for just a few examples). What filmmaking experience doesn’t involve a horror story, or calamity of some sort, in varying degrees?

That said, relational fondness aside, because the tale is so familiar, you’re never really surprised where it’s going, and there isn’t much about it that screams “originality.” So instead you have to settle back on its execution, which is fine enough, but it’s definitely hindered by its own technical limitations, and jokes that get a little old (the homeless guy can’t be that unaware at how bad he’s doing anymore than Kal is seemingly unaware that his framing is awful).

Of course, when it does transcend those limitations, it really stands out. For example, there’s a sequence where the SFX guy, Zeke, shows all the different things he’s going to do to a specific scene to make it better than what it is. After all the images are composited and the footage roughly rotoscoped, you suddenly get the feeling that, waitaminute, maybe you can polish a cinematic turd; anything is possible.

So overall, I think Let’s Make a Movie succeeds in its message of at least doing something, rather than just talking about it, and I appreciated what could be callously disregarded as the naiveté to the idea that the finished film is not what it’s about, but about the act of creating itself. In other words, this film wears its heart on its sleeve. Oh, and it positively name checks Film Threat Magazine at one point so, you know, those fictional filmmakers REALLY didn’t know what they were talking about…

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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