Fantasia Film Festival 2020 Screening – Justin McConnell has dedicated most of his life to filmmaking. Even as a student he was writing and trying to produce his own independent films. He made his first feature in high school. But somewhere along the line, things changed for Justin. He lost his dear friend and writing partner, Kevin. He gained quite a bit of weight. He fell into a remarkable depression. Filmmaking was the last thing on his mind. Not to mention, filmmakers he looked up to and considered lighthouses of the business were railing on how Hollywood was dying. The Hollywood Justin wanted to be a part of didn’t exist anymore. CLAPBOARD JUNGLE is McConnell’s documentary about his slow climb – from debt, mistakes, and shortcomings, to the ultimate success of his film, aptly titled Lifechanger. Along the way, between clips of grueling phone calls with financers, writer’s meetings, and tons of networking, are poignant comments and interviews with well known filmmakers. Guillermo Del Toro, Tom Holland, Mick Garris – icons of the genre film – all there to share their advice and wisdom. Not a single one of them without their own shortcomings, their own “blown deals”, their own mistakes. CLAPBOARD JUNGLE is a love letter to what is easily one of the most flawed industries – one that one moment browbeats you, and the next moment lifts you to heights you couldn’t even imagine. McConnell doesn’t beat around the bush – as much as filmmaking is his passion, it’s also at times his biggest burden. Largely composed of McConnell’s own video blog footage, CLAPBOARD JUNGLE is a time capsule of McConnell’s life, undoubtedly, but also of the immense changes that have occurred in the film industry over the last five years. As I watched I was reminded of how much work I myself have done in the last five years as a filmmaker. Like McConnell, film is in my blood, and I’ve been at it in a professional capacity for a decade. Also like McConnell, I have moments of losing hope – moments of feeling lost – and moments of wondering if the door I am fighting so hard to reach is locked from the inside. Even so, CLAPBOARD JUNGLE remains optimistic, and highlights the heights that even the most low budget, independent filmmakers can reach – a goal we all aspire to. Honest, but optimistic, CLAPBOARD JUNGLE speaks fondly of the magic of Hollywood, while pulling the curtain back on the illusionists behind the scenes. No one is guaranteed a shot in this business, and sometimes the hill seems impossible to climb, but in somehow we keep carrying on – and maybe someday, like Justin McConnell, we will see our lives changed.
Makeup Artist, Monster Maker, Educator, Producer, Haunt-lover, and all around Halloween freak. When Miranda isn't watching horror films, she's making them happen. When she's not doing either of those things, she's probably dreaming about them. Or baking cookies.