6 Movie Making Documentaries

By Christian Bell

It's tough being a filmmaker, we all know it.

But you are not alone.  Many have trod this road before and luckily for us many have been filmed whilst doing so.  Here is a collection of six of the finest documentaries on filmmaking that I have seen.


Lost in La Mancha

Lost in La ManchaThe ultimate filmmakers tragedy.  Terry Gilliam was forced to battle impossible obstacles as his dream project, an adaptation of Cervantes' Don Quixote fell apart around him.  Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, plus a little extra for good measure.  Eventually production shut down just days into the shoot.
    The documentary crew were originally brought in for a run of the mill behind the scenes featurette (in as much as any Gilliam production is run of the mill) but soon saw that they were going to be capturing so much more. 


Going to Hell: The Making of Soul Searcher

Soul Searcher You are unlikely to have heard of Soul Searcher, which is a shame as it is perhaps one of the most ambitious low budget films made in the UK in the last 10 years.  The film features extensive, impressive martial arts sequences (one of which takes place on the roof of a speeding train), hordes of demons and even features Hell itself in all it's lava soaked fiery glory.  All for the sum of 25'000 British Pounds.  Even if low budget action fantasy isn't your thing, you would do well to get yourself a copy of the extra packed DVD and watch Going to Hell, a warts and all documentary charting the whole films creation whilst also giving invaluable advice and lessons to filmmakers.



Heart of Darkness

A Filmmaker's ApocalypseSubtitled A Filmmakers Apocalypse, and rightly so.  Eleanor Coppola's documentary of her husband Francis' journey through the tortuous shoot of Apocalypse Now is a riveting examination of drive and obsession that parallels the trip taken by Martin Sheen's Captain Willard.
    This is a brilliantly illuminating insight into a totally unique production and the toll it takes on Coppola.  Much of the material in the documentary was secretly recorded by Eleanor and reveals Francis at his most vulnerable and despondent.  That the shoot produced such incredible results is nothing short of a miracle.


American Movie

American Movie Perhaps one of the most entertaining documentaries made about filmmaking, even if it doesn't actually feature that much filmmaking.  What aspiring filmmaker can fail to identify with Mark Borchardt?  He's a dreamer, a big talker just waiting for his shot at making the great American movie.  Throughout the film we see his ambitions crumble from shooting his feature project Northwestern to completing his short film Coven, begun years before.
    American Movie is endlessly quotable, relatable and features a cast of characters so bizarre that you just couldn't make them up.  Mark's ambition and enthusiasm is so infective that by the films end you'll find yourself reaching for your camera.


The American Dreamer

American DreamerAt the Tail end of the 60s, Dennis Hopper revolutionised cinema with Easy Rider.  A confused and powerless studio found themselves dealing with an audience they just didn't understand and in their confusion gave Dennis Hopper unlimited control on his shambolic follow up, The Last Movie.
    The American Dreamer follows Dennis Hopper during the editing of The Last Movie, whilst he takes various substances, fires guns into the empty deserts of Taos New Mexico and wanders naked through suburban neighbourhoods.  Sadly both this and The Last Movie remain unavailable on DVD, though bootleg copies occasionally crop up on ebay.  As one of the rare people who have seen both, I can say it's worth the search.


Official Rejection

Official RejectionRejection is tough.  It's a feeling that filmmakers get accustomed to though once they send their movie off to the festivals.  This brilliant documentary charts the journey of acclaimed indie film Ten 'til Noon as it goes from festival to festival.
    Ten 'til Noon director Scott Storm sent his film off to Sundance, wide eyed from the legends of directors like Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino, only to have a big red rejection stamp slammed right over his dreams.  Not content to sit back and do nothing, he made this documentary which shows the dirty hows and whys of film festival acceptance.  An absolutely essential documentary for anyone about to send their film to festivals.


Any greats that I've missed?  Let me know.

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About The Author

Christian Bell A graduate of the Metropolitan Film School, where he made short films about tortured misunderstood artists, Christian now devotes his time to the Raindance cause in the hope that he can somehow make amends for his crimes against cinema. 

He spends all too much of his time watching films no-one has ever heard of and then preaching the word to all who will listen.

The rest of the time, Christian is an editor and he has recently launched Raindance's new Post-Production Services.  Take a look here.


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6 Great Movie Making Documentaries