By Phil Hall | October 19, 2011

The problem with film school is that it focuses solely on how to succeed in the movie business. Very few (if any) film schools offer lessons in how to fail.

No worries – indie filmmaker Luke Bittel offers his own experiences on how to fail very, very badly with “Some Assembly Required,” a documentary on the disastrous production of his 2003 comedy feature “Help Wanted.” Starting this endeavor with “a very little bit of money” ($3,000, if you can believe that), Bittel and his band of cranky actors and wise-aleck crew members created an environment where Murphy’s Law was taken to new extremes.

How bad did things get? The screenplay author demanded to co-direct alongside Bittel, but neither men shared a common vision for the project. The dialogue was atrocious – lines such as “I just pushed out a bowel movement the size of New Jersey” punctuated the film. The camera operator was more interested in videotaping the backside of two attractive young women who were barely involved in the film (one operated the clapboard, which she somehow managed to break). Scenes were inconsistently lit, the sound recording was horrendous, and boom microphone made a conspicuous surprise appearance in one scene. “Help Wanted” somehow got finished, but no wanted to release it.

A few genuine professionals, such as actors John Collum and his son JD Collum, somehow got entangled in the mix, though and they managed to keep their sanity. Character actor Mike Haley, who had a small role, recalled the production as being a “shouting match.”

To his credit, Bittel and most of his creative collaborators look back on the endeavor with good humor and patience. (The pissy screenwriter refused to allow his name, face or voice to be used in the film.)  “Some Assembly Required” is a funny lesson on the mishaps that can sink an indie film production, and any aspiring filmmaker who thinks he can be the next Tarantino should watch and re-watch this inspiring tribute to filmmakers whose enthusiasm runs far ahead of their abilities.

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  1. JW says:

    Wow, Gundy, how’d you see either of them? I’m interested in seeing the doc.

  2. Gundy says:

    This doc should be required viewing in any film studies class. I actually suffered through the actual film and it makes the doc make more sense.

  3. Phil Hall says:

    My bad, Mr. Cullum. And thank you for reading Film Threat and taking the time to correct the error.

  4. JD Cullum says:

    JD Cullum and John Cullum – note corrected spelling.

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