This doco is a wonderful demotivator for anyone who wants to make an independent film. It follows the fortunes of three small aspiring American independent film-makers as they try to make their dreams of creating their first films a reality. The films are "Personal Foul", "Only a Buck" and "Beirut: The Last Home Movie". The film-makers work their guts out and put a great deal of their own money and time on the line. They face endless wearying troubles trying to convince distributors to carry their film, many of whom resemble divorce lawyers in the way they manipulate and exploit their clients' hopes. Needless to say all three film-makers fail to become stars after losing their shirts. Of the three, only Jannifer Fox ever made another film, and that wasn't until 12 years later.
Gerry Cook was the most upbeat and happy of the trio, and his comedy film seems to have got a good reception, even if he did return straight back to obscurity. The intense and serious Jennifer Fox took the endless discouragements to heart, but it didn't seem to faze her determination to get her film released. With her somewhat slurred speech, she didn't come across as very bright in this doco, but maybe she was just tired.
The saddest of the trio was Ted Lichtenfeld. His sad drama about a loser teacher seemed to mirror his own life vis-a-vis this movie. He seems to have lost a fortune on his movie. This doco climaxes with Lichtenfeld securing a premiere of his movie in Rockford, Illinois, the town where it was filmed, at a small and unglamorous suburban cinema. After the screening, the doco makers interview some of the old folks who had been persuaded to see "Personal Foul". Their responses were hilariously memorable, and were the motivation for me to review this doco. "How did you like like the film?" was the question put to one old lady. She tried to be kind, but her facial expression and hesitant tone of voice gave away her true feelings that she had unpleasantly wasted two hours of her limited remaining time on this earth. When asked what she liked about the film she replied, in one of the great examples of damning with faint praise, that it was good to see Rockford in a movie. Another unexcited film-goer expressed the same hilariously limp sentiment. Lichtenfeld's doleful insistence at the end that it was all worth it and that he was satisfied with what he had done rang very hollow indeed, like he was desperately trying to convince himself.
This wasn't a riveting doco, but if you can laugh at other peoples' misfortunes and shattered dreams, you may get something out of it.
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