Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Official Rejection"

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might get what you need.”

The Rolling Stones

At some point in the not-too-distant past (I can’t exactly remember when or even find that old post), I recommended a then brand-new documentary called “Official Rejection.” The post was based on seeing the film's snappy and intriguing trailer, but came with the caveat that I had not yet actually seen the entire film.

This gaping hole in my movie-viewing resume was recently filled, so I can now add a few figurative exclamation points to that early recommendation: This is one terrific film.

I could try to get cute with the usual “I laughed, I cried, I wet my pants” kind of drivel, but that’s not quite true – I did not cry, nor did I wet my pants while watching Official Rejection. I did laugh, however – a lot – but as the film progressed, the prevailing emotion that welled up from within was a profound sense of empathy for the filmmakers profiled in this wonderful documentary. Unlike so many movies-about-movies, Official Rejection opens well after the drama of actually shooting a film has played out. Rather, it begins at the point where all the artistically creative work is over and done -- that magical moment when the filmmaker finally sallies forth to offer the world a completed movie ready to be screened in a thousand theaters.

In a truly just world, this would be a day of triumphant exultation, the jumping-off point for an artist to engage an audience, and -- with a little luck -- kick off a successful career. In that bright, clean, and highly fictional world of our dreams, important film festivals would accept every worthy entry without prejudice, ego involvement, or the unseen web of back-door connections that make the decidedly grubby real world go 'round.

But in this, and so many other ways, ours is not a just world.

Official Rejection
follows the travails of Scott Storm and Paul Osborne as they strive to enter their newly-completed feature Ten ‘til Noon on the festival circuit -- Sundance, Slamdance, Tribeca, and all the others.... right on down to the Phoenix, Riverside, and the San Fernando Film Festivals. Accompanied by the commentaries of several festival circuit veterans who know the pain of that quest all too well, theirs is a grueling odyssey of endless frustration and dogged endurance, a vertiginous plunge through the looking glass of what ought-to-be into the utterly unreal Alice-in-Wonderland world of what really is -- a Bizzaro Planet of film festivals where up is down, down is up, and the hapless filmmaker is so often sent helplessly spinning through space.

If you thought making a film was the hard part -- writing a decent script, scrounging up the money, assembling a cast and crew, filming on a shoestring, then enduring the quiet ordeal of editing and the entire post-production process -- think again. It turns out that's the easy part, the fun part. The really hard, ugly, slit-your-wrists-depressing part comes much later, when your only goal in life is to put that movie up on screen for an audience.

After watching this film, I have a tremendous respect for these guys -- what they willingly put themselves through in the quest to get their movie seen by an audience was fucking brutal -- but they did it, and keep on doing it, because making movies is what they really want to do in life. In chronicling their journey to Hell* and back, Official Rejection delineates the hard but unavoidable truth staring all would-be indie filmmakers in the face:

"When the shooting stops, the war begins."

Everybody out there contemplating a dashingly romantic career as an independent filmmaker (ahem -- that would be just about all of you film students...) seriously owes it to him/herself to see this funny, poignant, and sobering-but-ultimately-hopeful documentary. Anyone interested in the process of making movies will certainly enjoy it -- indeed, anybody who just likes to watch a good movie will have a great time with this one.

A good film is a good film, regardless of genre, and this is one very good film.

It's on Netflix. Do yourself a favor and add it to your queue.

* Actually it was Chicago. But don’t get angry, good people of the Windy Second City – just watch the film and you’ll see what I mean...


Sandra said...

Jeez, I take it you don't like post-production then? Some of us in Editorial would like to think that at least a little artistically creative work goes on here.

Michael Taylor said...

Sandra –

Sorry if this one came off as disparaging to post-production – that was not my intent. Truth be told, the magic of Dede Allen (and other great editors) had a lot to do with luring me to Hollywood in the first place. But having spent a lot of time in a variety of editing bays over the years – mostly on student films, but there was a four month stint as a low-paid assistant editor on a very low budget feature – I finally realized I needed to be somewhere else.

That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and respect those who toil in post -- many a bad film has been saved from disaster by the alchemists in the editing room, turning cinematic lead to gold. It just wasn’t for me, that’s all. I couldn’t sit in a dark room staring at a screen all day. I needed to be out on location with the cameras, lights, and actors, doing the physical work of creating raw material for the editing room.

The irony is that in the past fifteen years, I’ve spent a lot more time at a keyboard than I ever did at an editing table – sitting at a desk staring into a screen -- and writing is a lot like editing: trimming here and adding there to shape a sentence (shot), or paragraph (scene) into something that tells the story in a way that connects with the reader (audience).

It seems I didn’t do a very good job on this one. My bad – no disrespect was intended. Maybe I’ll have to do a post on my misadventures in the editing bay one of these days...

Sandra said...

Mr. Taylor, I appreciate your long reply, and realize now that the tongue in my cheek was probably not audible from the bare text of my comment. In truth your comments about post made me laugh, and reflects a pretty common sentiment throughout Production. I love the post process, so that's why I'm here*.

Love the blog, keep'um coming. We have thick skin, we can take it.

*Editorial dept. of Justified

Michael Taylor said...

Sandra --

I'm a huge fan of "Justified" -- as far as I'm concerned, it's the best show currently airing on TV. Your whole crew -- writers, actors, first unit, and post -- are doing a terrific job. Having never worked on anything half that good, I'm jealous...

Thanks for getting back to me -- and tell the rest of your crew how much I appreciate their excellent work.