Monday, May 17

Love is Everywhere: The Rise of the Fan-Made Film Documentary | Film

DCommentators on movie making used to fall into one of two categories. Either they were studio-approved bean bag pieces, typically found among DVD extras, or tales stranger than fiction (Hearts of Darkness, Burden of Dreams, Lost in La Mancha) from productions that got out of hand: more break that realization.

Today there is a middle ground where fans take over on the celebration side, and movies don’t need to have suffered a painful delivery to be worthy of attention. This new crop has been made possible by cheaper technology, as well as crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The rise of streaming platforms and the decline of physical media, which is where such movies once found a natural home, hasn’t hurt either.

Films on which fan-made feature-length documentaries have been made range from Back to the Future (Back in Time) and RoboCop (RoboDoc) to Fright Night (You’re so cool, Brewster!) And even Troll 2 (Worst! ! Film, directed by the former child star of the film). Fans of Ghostbusters will be satisfied with Cleanin ‘Up the Town, which is 20 minutes longer than the 1984 comedy, while fans of amateurs of Ghostbusters has Ghostheads, about the enthusiasts who dress up as the heroes of the movie. Scholars of the Police Academy series can look forward to what an institution! And the 1990s are catching up, with Galaxy Quest (Never Surrender) and the original It (Pennywise) among the recent recipients of fan view.

Part of this explosion is Lisa Downs, whose Life After Flash movie was behind the scenes of 1980’s Flash Gordon, as well as catching up with her once-troubled star, Sam J Jones. Shortly after finishing that movie in 2017, Downs began thinking about turning the Life After format into a brand that mixes nostalgia with human-interest stories. “There are several moving parts in a Life After documentary,” he explains. “It has to be a movie that I love, and the main characters have to be available, like Sam was. Nostalgia is great, but we wanted a different USP, in which we also follow someone’s life. “

She found the ideal theme in Flight of the Navigator, an endearing 1986 fantasy about a boy who walks through the woods, falls into a ravine, climbs, and returns home, only to find that he has been missing for eight years. (To sum it up: he was abducted by aliens.) Despite the brief appearance of young Sarah Jessica Parker, the highlight of the film is a heartbreaking lead performance by 12-year-old Canadian actor Joey Cramer. He clearly had a promising future ahead of him. What happened?

An internet search reveals a childhood star family trajectory: drugs, crime, prison, recidivism. Cramer was in his 40s and serving time for attempted bank robbery when Downs wrote to him. They became friends, and once he was released, she visited him for a series of candid interviews.

Cramer tells me why he agreed to participate in Life after the Navigator. “I was at a point where I wanted to share the positive moments in my life instead of focusing on the negative things,” he says. Not that he had no reservations. “What would people think of me when they found out about all the difficult times I’ve been through and the horrible things I’ve done? I was scared of what my friends or family would think, or even my fans. My hopes were that by sharing those dark moments and showing that trauma and shame can be overcome, it would inspire other people.

Flight of the Navigator fits especially well with the Life After treatment. The plot corresponds so movingly to the protagonist’s own life that it is impossible to see the original film without seeing it as a metaphor or an omen. Like his character, young Cramer felt out of sync with the world around him. After filming the movie, they made fun of him and harassed him. “When I tried to go back to school as usual, it was anything but normal,” he says in Life After the Navigator. “Before I knew it, my childhood was gone.”

The Cleanin 'Up the Town poster
The Cleanin ‘Up the Town poster. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy

Downs is currently making a movie about The Neverending Story and its teenage star Noah Hathaway, but not everyone works that fast. Claire and Anthony Bueno, a British brother and sister team, spent 12 years doing Cleanin ‘Up the Town. Why did it take so long? “We financed the movie ourselves,” Claire tells me, “and all the people we needed to talk to were in America. We didn’t have a vacation for that long, so we were able to afford to keep flying. ” When they ran out of money, a Kickstarter campaign was started.

Did you never think of quitting? “Never,” Anthony says. “We had interviewed all these people and we owed them something.” Several interviewees died before the film was completed, including Ghostbusters star and co-writer Harold Ramis. “What helped us was that we had these things that we knew the fans would love. It was always, ‘It will be done next year. 18 months, maximum ‘”. The long process has not weakened his love for the film: “It has gotten stronger! ”. Claire insists. They are now in post-production on a movie about Ghostbusters II, which they promise will be ready by 2033.

Since working on Beware the Moon, a 2009 documentary about An American Werewolf in London, the Goodies have seen the genre proliferate around them. Anthony cites Room 237, the movie about the theories surrounding The Shining, as inspiration. “It showed that you can make a documentary on any subject as long as you follow the fair use copyright rules.” For Claire, the Comic-Con phenomenon has helped crystallize demand. “Those conventions have exploded in the last decade. The actors who show up to sign things are the people we care about and they’re all there in one place. “

The nostalgia boom has been a curse rather than a blessing for a movie mistakenly caught in it. Elstree 1976, released six years ago, is a thoughtful and brooding portrait of 10 actors who have worked in a lesser capacity in the original Star Wars or, in the case of the late David Prowse, also known as Darth Vader, who have been hidden from view on the screen. It is unequivocally a criticism of fan worship, rather than an example of it.

“Elstree 1976 was never intended for Star Wars fans,” says its director, Jon Spira. “But it was marketed to them, wrongly, wherever it was released. They were raving about that, ‘OMG, Star Wars stories we haven’t heard!’ And I was thinking, ‘Why do you care what the fifth Stormtrooper on the right has to say? When will you let this go? I was seeing the detrimental effect that fanaticism has had on the lives of these actors. Fandom itself It can be this endless abyss. Maybe as a society we want something that is not there. “

Room 237
Inspiration for the genre… Room 237.

The image was misunderstood by sales agents, distributors, bloggers (“They all used the same line: ‘This is not the movie you are looking for’”) and even, initially, by one of their own subjects. “Dave Prowse threatened to sue us,” recalls Spira. “There was a line in the trailer that said, ‘Ten disparate people …’ He thought it was ‘desperate.’ We were like, ‘Dave! Do not! It’s a different word! ‘”

Aside from the tribulations of her own movie, Spira is wary of the fan-made documentary. “If you’re going to be a filmmaker, you have to stop being a fanatic,” he says. “They are different things. With anything creative, you have to ask a question or make a statement. I find it frustrating that you no longer see things like Hearts of Darkness or Lost in La Mancha, movies about making movies that have that level of intelligence. Now everything is aimed at a different market. It’s content and fans love content. “

Can nostalgia for cinema thrive indefinitely? Anthony Bueno is doubtful. “We are inundated with blockbusters. How will people nostalgic for Marvel movies feel when there are so many? The thing about Ghostbusters and Back to the Future was that they were original concepts. In the early 2000s, it was all a comic, a sequel, or a remake. “

Downs agrees. “I felt like the 1980s was a true decade of storytelling. You didn’t have ET 7, and it wasn’t just about franchises. “With that said, he’s happy to see the Life After series run and run.” I’ve been trying to figure out what happened to the boy from Omen, but I can’t find him, “he muses. , with a distant look in his eyes, “Life after the omen would be good …”

Life After Flash, Life After the Navigator, Cleanin ‘Up the Town, and Elstree 1976 are available to stream on Amazon and other digital platforms.

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