Review: Clapboard Jungle (2020) – Fantasia 2020
There have been many films made about the business of film making, such as Wolfman’s Got Nards about the making of Monster Squad. Or Survival of the Film Freaks, which covers low budget horror in general. Especially the world of low budget, cult and genre film. Clapboard Jungle is a bit different, however. While most of the other films were made by journalists or fans, this one was made by an actual filmmaker.
Justin McConnell is probably best known for directing Lifechanger and The Collapsed, but he has a long list of credits in various roles on a variety of projects. He has plenty of practical knowledge on the subject. So instead of just the usual talking-head interviews, we see footage that’s a sort of video diary of his own efforts to get projects off the ground. From his efforts in 2014 to get an adaptation of Michael Prescott’s “Mark of Cain” filmed through the process that led to Lifechanger getting filmed and released.
That footage is intercut with interviews featuring a wide range of people connected to the film business. There are the expected big names like the late George Romero and Larry Cohen. Troma’s Lloyd Kauffman and Richard Band from Full Moon turn up as well. Mainstream directors like Guillermo del Toro and Paul Schrader are heard from as well.
But he doesn’t just talk to filmmakers. Need help getting a deal to make your film? Or get it seen after you’re done? Clapboard Jungle has that covered. Festival programmers and organizers such as Fantasia’s Mitch Davis and Peter Kuplowsky, who programs TIFF’s Midnight Madness as well as produce films like The Void and Climate of the Hunter. The behind the scenes, folk who work in project acquisitions and packaging are interviewed as well.
Of course, there are plenty of filmmaker interviews ranging from Richard Stanley, Sam Firstenberg and Larry Fessenden to Gigi Saul Guerrero and Izzy Lee. Even cinematographers Karim Hussein and Dean Cundey turn up. And there’s a long list of names in the credits of those interviewed that didn’t make the final cut. They will be used in a proposed series intended to take a more in-depth look at film making. McConnell fills Clapboard Jungle with a lot of different personalities and perspectives.
All of this is nicely formatted so you can compare McConnell’s experiences with what they have to say on the subject. That makes a nice change from the usual documentaries on the subject. The thread of his experiences also gives the Clapboard Jungle a core that collections of interviews don’t have.