14th Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Clapboard Jungle: Surviving The Independent Film Business’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Featuring: Chris Alexander, Dave Alexander, Chad Archibald, Charles Band, Yazid Benfeghoul, Justin Benson, Zack Bernbaum ana many more! | Directed by Justin McConnell

If you watch independent movies, listen to the podcasts about them and follow the people that make them on social media, then Clapboard Jungle is the movie for you.

Directed by Justin McConnell (Lifechanger, The Collapsed) he films his own story as an independent filmmaker and all of the struggles that go along with it. He shares five years of his life (2014-2019) but also interviews directors, writers, producers, festival organisers, distributors and much more,giving the viewer a kind of ‘survival guide’ for anybody already in or wanting to start in the industry.

Every talking head has something interesting to say from Guilermo del Toro to Heather Buckley to Mick Garris to Gigi Saul Guerrero to Mike Mendez and many many more. They each talk about their own experiences, what they think the dos and don’ts are, things they’ve done wrong and how they got films made. If you are an aspiring filmmaker this is all must watch stuff.

McConnell’s journey alone is a really interesting part of the documentary. He’s far from famous but if you’re a big fan of horror there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of his films – personally I was lucky enough to see Lifechanger a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it.

Lifechanger actually becomes a big part of the story because it is the film that McConnell starts concentrating his efforts on after seeing several other projects get knocked back or delayed. We see him explain his initial idea (which is not liked by the first people he talks to), he then gets to work on the script, we see many ups and downs, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say at the very least, it got a full release. It’s a much needed happy ending, although as McConnell himself explains, there’s never really an ‘ending’ when it comes to indie filmmaking. Just a continuous journey.

Although I felt like I knew and understood much of what is shown here, I learnt a lot more too; and because it’s on film and following a directors life, it all felt much more real than say, reading Twitter posts, websites or listening to podcasts. Many things become much more relatable and at times emotional. You feel the directors frustration when things don’t go smoothly and when things aren’t moving at any pace and you know, through this documentary that the same thing is happening to many many other people.

Indie filmmaking ‘documentaries’ are normally extras on the DVD of a movie but there are a few great ones out there – Zombie Girl: The Movie and Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Film Ever Made are both excellent but very different to this one.

Part bio-pic part documentary, Clapboard Jungle should be shown at filmmaking courses everywhere. It’s an honest roller-coaster-like look at what it is to make films in 2020.

**** 4/5

Clapboard Jungle: Surviving The Independent Film Business screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival, which starts on on August 20th.


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