9 mind-boggling, gut-churning illustrations of why moviemaking is hell

Who remembers American Movie, the documentary about the hapless arc of aspiring no-budget filmmaker Mark Borchardt? Well, if you enjoyed that film, you’ll love Demon Lover Diary, a cringe-inducing primer on how not to make a movie. In the 1980 documentary, the producer/star of the horror film—forever wearing a single black glove—half admits to financing the film by lopping off his own finger in an insurance scam, to name one of the funniest/most horrifying moments.

In the spirit of the film, here are our favorite illustrations of why filmmaking is hell:

  • Living in Oblivion. This low-budget indie about the making of a no-budget indie was just about the truest representation of “the life” in New York independent film circa the late nineties I’ve ever seen, complete with the boom operator with the script and pretentious dream sequences. Those were the days when so many of us were driving around the city in a C&C Rental truck, truly living in oblivion…
  • Final Cut. How do you bring down a whole studio? You truck out into the desert and shoot millions of feet of film without a clear plan. Steven Bach gives us a scathing portrait of how the making of Heaven’s Gate destroyed United Artists.

  • Hearts of Darkness. The subtitle, “A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” says it all about this depiction of the legendary production process behind Apocalypse Now. Check out the film for reasons why when you’re going out to the jungle, getting stoned out of your mind and casting lunatic actors, you don’t want to give your wife a camera to document it all. In contrast to Heaven’s Gate, this nightmarish process produced a masterpiece. Discuss….

Kinski was a very "hands-on" actor

  • My Best Fiend by Werner Herzog. The claws come out in the acclaimed filmmaker’s portrait of his troubled relationship with madman/collaborator Klaus Kinski.
  • A Pound of Flesh by Art Linson. In case you were harboring any ambitious of being a producer, Linson’s tales of working with some of Hollywood’s biggest egos, as well as a gun-toting Hunter S. Thompson will disabuse you of your fantasies.
  • The Devil’s Candy. Julie Salamon, film critic for The Wall Street Journal, was given seemingly unlimited access to the production of Brian De Palma’s film version of Tom Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. Echoing the frightening tale laid bare in Final Cut, DePalma’s bloated production quickly went way over budget without a clear plan. My favorite part is where the crew burns through thousands of dollars while waiting for a once-in-a-lifetime shot they can’t guarantee: the Concorde framed miraculously against the setting sun.
  • Force Majeure by Bruce Wagner. This is the first novel of a masterful Hollywood satirist, and though not as strong as some of his later work (see I’m Losing You), it is a pretty funny and twisted story of the hapless misadventures of failing screenwriter/chauffeur Bud Wiggins.

Buy tickets to Demon Lover Diary: Sun Feb 22: 2:30

Explore posts in the same categories: Film Comment, on @ the walter reade

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