A brutal Survivor-style reality show produced by the publicity-obsessed promoter of the Paris Hilton sex tape was shut down suddenly in September 2005 when a contestant was critically injured. Closely following the train-wreck production and the industry that spawned it, this film documents the human cost of popular entertainment.Written by
I saw the film at Tribeca on recommendation of a friend. Good recommendation! I love the documentary space, and like many I'm sure often find truth stranger than fiction.
The film documents the journey of two writers in their effort to find work and to bring their ideas to the big (or little) screen. The documentary changes directions multiple times - it seems impossible to imagine that the filmmakers could have ever guessed the path these writers might take, or how it would unfold. A dynamic pitching duo, the two find opportunity in the interest of one Kevin Blatt, a porn promoter. Blatt becomes interested in one of their ideas, a rather off-color, semi-sexual reality TV show. In a quick twist of fate, his interest moves focus to another idea - one the writers had pitched maybe more as a joke. It is so radical in form and function (or even unimaginable), the writers are a bit taken back themselves, not sure they even WANT to pursue such an endeavor.
But it is work - and it is provocative work. And so the production ramps up, gets funded, and begins to form. A cast of colorful characters are involved: Kevin Blatt, with his impossible-to-deny underworld charisma, Gil and Dave, the writers, with their own emotional charged, thoughtful, excited, exhausted personalities. The segment producer of the pilot, Myles, a memorable and somewhat robust, verbose, and off-the-wall existence (maybe typical for segment producers), George Gray, well-known for his work on the weakest link, being his standard high energy reality TV show host self; Neil DeGroot, acting as director of the pilot, traveling along his own emotional roller-coaster alongside the production; and finally, the cast of characters - those who audition for the show and those who are chosen - who run the gamut for Survivor-esquire reality TV contestants, and are wild and wacky and motivated and willing to do ANYTHING to get on TV.
What transpires within this melting pot of characters, set within the context of a reality TV pilot that is so unbelievable it will make you do a triple-take, is, at minimum, entertaining, interesting. But I guess what makes this doc rank highly for me is that it is IMPORTANT. Seeing producer after producer comment on the nature of reality TV, and then watching this pilot go from idea on a napkin to production on a faraway island - poses vivid questions concerning how far popular culture has come, and to what point reality TV (being a symptom of popular culture?) has arrived - and to what point it may go still in the future.
I highly recommend the film. It is well-executed, and certainly full of comedy, and so is entertaining on its own. But you may find yourself leaving the theater thinking long and hard too. Making you laugh and think at the same time is kinda hard, and this doc definitely does both.
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