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Review: Clapboard Jungle – “Anyone who loves film and appreciates the effort to make them will enjoy this documentary”

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Anyone with even the smallest desire for film-making will be tempted to try at least once to make something, whether it be a blockbuster or not, there is something gratifying in making any kind of art. ‘Clapboard Jungle‘ is a behind-the-scenes look at the process and film-making hasn’t changed too much since its inception, but ‘Clapboard Jungle’ manages to retain relevance by focusing on the modern challenges now faced, from funding cuts to an over-saturated market.

Despite incorporating interviews with industry luminaries like Guillermo del Toro, Sid Haig, Barbara Crampton and George A Romero to name a few, it is mainly focused on the director Justin McConnell. Justin specialises in smaller budget horror films and is quick to self-deprecate. Making a film largely about himself he avoids being too indulgent by focusing on the path to making a movie, whether it’s his movie or others. Working as part-documentary and part-manual it’s a delicately balanced film that avoids falling into self-parody.

Filmed over several years, the industry changes constantly. On one hand, there is more opportunity to make movies and have them distributed, on the other hand, the market is filled with directors and artists all hoping to get their big break. Even on more modest budgets, the competition is tight and we sit through call after call with producers, executives and actors who are all waiting for all the pieces to be in the right place. Eventually, Justin goes on the road and attends film festivals where he can meet the right people with the right enthusiasm for his work.

Justin takes a wide breadth of issues facing the industry and manages to cram it all into one and a half hours. Key issues are sometimes mentioned and never really addressed again, for example, diversity and inclusion and the #metoo movement which sprung up in the wake of key industry figure Harvey Weinstein’s crimes has a lot to say but not enough time to do it in. This is not to say that the film ignores these issues but perhaps feels unable to do them the justice they deserve. Instead, the film focuses on the grittier aspects of film-making during pre-production and funding.

At one point Justin and other directors talk about projects that have failed to get off the ground due to funding or picky producers who will put up money if they can get their partner in the film. The genuine love for film-making is juxtaposed with the grinding process of the business side, where if you can just meet the right people and attract the right audience you might be able to make a movie.

The strength of ‘Clapboard Jungle’ lies in the passion of those he interviews, the tireless efforts of Justin to see his passion through and the modern issues filmmakers now face. While the film doesn’t deal with the impact of the coronavirus on the industry it is a breath of fresh air to watch footage from ‘simpler’ times. Anyone who loves film and appreciates the effort to make them will enjoy this documentary.

The film is streaming on ARROW from April 19th & out on Blu-ray from April 12th.

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