If the title itself doesn’t speak to the sheer comprehensiveness of the product, than the 17 and half hour documentary broken out in 8 DVDs certainly does. So much so, that the stack of blue DVDs sent over for review by producer Jay Holben, sat on my coffee table for a month or two while life and work kept me away.
The fact was the concept (a complete and total behind-the-scenes look at a micro budget film from script to screen) just felt too intimidating to tackle. Even though the content was separated into 108 different video modules covering individual topics (ie. Day 2 of the Shoot, Lighting), there was still a HUNDRED AND EIGHT to look through.
Even now as I write this review and having spent a significant portion of my weekend reviewing the content, I can’t say I’ve watched all 17 hours. But what I have seen (about three quarters) is a thoroughly engrossing treat to the ravenous filmmaker in me looking for my next on-set fix.
"Filmmaker In a Box" follows the production of a micro-budget film, "2 Million Stupid Women" from early script conception, through pre-production, budgeting, production, and through post. The story of this film with a budget of $100,000 is weaved together through interviews of key members of the crew including director Jamie Neese, writer Amy Heidish and Producer/Director of Photography Jay Holben.
Although there are some obligatory self congratuatory moments that are typical in all Behind-The-Scenes features, the interviews do seem to genuinely speak candidly about their experiences working on the film. That’s not to say "Filmmaker In a Box" has the manufactured drama that we’ve grown accustomed to from reality based television. But there interviews do seem to be honest about the mistakes and conflicts that arose during their filmmaking journey.
One very striking problem that the producers of "2 Million Stupid Women" faced that I, and many other filmmakers, can relate to is just how hard it is to get any sort of festival attention (something that may come as a surprise to anyone that still holds an egalitarian view of film festivals). With no star names, a genre that skirts the divide between comedy and drama, and two strong female leads, "2 Million Stupid Women" had a very limited festival run.
Unfortunately what plagued the film in the festival circuit may also hurt the case study. Without stars, special effects, or visual wizardry (the film is shot in a documentary handheld style), there’s not a lot for the filmmaking fan boy to latch on to. It’s certainly not a how-to package so ultimately where "Filmmaker In a Box" really begins to shine when discussing the producing aspect of the film (a subject that almost all other BTS products completely gloss over). Included in the package is a disc with all the business documents which can be a real asset to any serious student of the art of producing.
Strangely missing from this case study is some perspective from the actors of the film. Although they may be present as audio commentaries on the DVD of the film (which is included) as a director I would like to learn more about the actor’s perspective and how they prepare when working on a film like this.
And finally, the biggest issue… the price. As of the publication of this review, "Filmmaker In a Box" is priced at just under $400. That is a significant amount of money to ask for a case study of a movie that nobody’s heard of and contains no zombies. As someone who understands the value of the work put into the product, I can honestly say the dollar figure is justified but it’s just seems far too high for the micro-budget indie crowd to bear.
But if you have the disponsable income to spare, "Filmmaker In a Box" is a great look at the world of micro-budget filmmaking, especially in terms of producing.
*** Currently Filmmaker In a Box is reducing their box price. Click on this link to see the latest price