Behind the Glitz and Glamor, Filmmaking is a Brutal Business
Hollywood is a land where many dreams come true and that’s why, deep down, everyone wants to get into the filmmaking business. It’s not all bright lights and after parties though. In fact, recent events have shown that there’s a lot of horrible things that happen behind the scenes. In this case, though, I think it’s better to hate the players than the game. After all, beneath the corruption and scandals, filmmaking is about creating stories to share with the world. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the best behind the scenes movies that focus on the making of those movies we love so much. The only rule was that I couldn’t pick actual documentaries, because 1) It’s a bit too meta for me and 2) that’s kind of cheating. So, before you pack up your bags to make it big in Hollywood, be sure to check out this list of movies to get an idea of what you might be in for. They might not be accurate, but they do share some universal truths about the process. Be sure to let me know if the comments below which movie is your favorite!
10. Get Shorty
Ah, the movie that made me fall in love with filmmaking. In all seriousness though, I have no idea why I love this movie so much. I guess it’s probably because deep down it has the message that anyone can make it in Hollywood, even ex-loan sharks with a penchant for violence. Honestly though, with the recent headlines in Hollywood, a few producers or actors getting roughed up might not be the worst thing in the world. Plus it’s from back when John Travolta was still a bankable leading man. It’s such a great twist on the “strong-arming” that goes on in tinsel town I have to hold out hope that it’s partially true.
9. Shadow of the Vampire
One of the best early horror movies was Nosferatu starring Max Schreck. It’s essentially one of the first vampire movies and insanely creepy. So, how do you make a creepy behind the scenes movie? Well, you cast Willem Dafoe as a real live vampire the filmmakers get to star in the movie. It sports a stellar cast, including John Malkovich, Eddie Izzard, and Catherine McCormack as the cast and crew trying to make a truly terrifying silent film. Just a quick heads up, this vampire definitely doesn’t sparkle. Instead, he looks… Well, he’s played by Willem Dafoe, so I think that pretty much sums it up.
What’s better than one Nicholas Cage? How about two Nicholas Cages! As most people know, writing is the first stage of filmmaking. It’s also probably one of the least exciting parts of the process. As one who has some experience putting letters together to form words and sentences, I can tell you it’s not always as easy as it seems and Adaptation proves exactly that. In it, Cage stars a screenwriter trying desperately to adapt a novel (and his twin brother). With writer’s block eating him alive Cage sets out to try to find a way to make a truly great adaptation and ends up stumbling onto the story of a lifetime.
7. The Disaster Artist
Anyone who has seen The Room knows that it’s one of the weirdest things to ever come out of Hollywood. Often called the best bad movie ever made, The Disaster Artist takes a look at the filmmaking process behind it. The film stars the Franco Brothers (James and Dave), who might seem like they could be a bit much, but manage to really knock it out of the park as Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, the two men responsible for The Room. Honestly, even if you haven’t seen The Room before, I’m pretty sure you’ll get the gist of it before the end comes. All I’m going to say is that the performances border on just plain eerie at times, which only makes it’s all the more worth while when Franco steps out and delivers the famed “Oh hai, Mark” line.
6. Singin’ in the Rain
One of the truly great movies about filmmaking is Singin’ in the Rain, a musical about making a musical. I’ve always been more team Gene Kelly than Fred Astaire, just because he seems like the kind of guy you’d love to get a beer with. He’s just got that charisma that rubs off on you after a while. Joining him is Debbie Reynolds as a fellow actor trying to adjust to the newfound “talkies” all the kids are talking about. The two decide the best way to transition into the new age of sound is to put on a musical rather than just another talking picture. If you haven’t had a chance to catch this one, trust me it’s one of the best musicals of all time.
5. The Big Picture
One thing they never seem to show in movies about filmmaking is that Holywood can chew you up and spit you. Kevin Bacon stars as a film school grad who manages to have his dream of making movies come true after he wins an award. With bright eyes, he sets off to make the movie he’s always dreamed of. The bright lights though blind him to the studios and producers manipulating him and pretty soon he’s completely lost sight of his movie and himself. Luckily, he manages to get his act together and rid himself of his new slick Hollywood side to go on to create the movie he always wanted to.
4. 8 ½
The audacity! How could I put a Federico Fellini film at number 4!?! Do I know even know who Federico Fellini is!?! Yeah, I know. I heard all about him in every class I ever took at film school. I’m not going to knock the guy. He was a hell of a director, but his movies weren’t… Fun. 8 ½ is less a movie about filmmaking and bit more about a filmmaker. It tells the story of a wildly successful director who can’t get a moment’s rest from people wanting things from him and soon he finds himself worn out creatively. Most of the film follows his life and career in flashbacks as he dreams of the good old days.
3. The Player
The noble Hollywood producer. A pillar of morals and kindness. In all seriousness though, producers have it rough in Hollywood and not just because most people have no idea what a producer actually does. In this Robert Altman flick about filmmaking, Tim Robbins stars as a producer being blackmailed as he tries to juggle his personal life and professional responsibilities. It’s a pretty picture of the Hollywood scene as Robbins navigates it in an attempt to find the person behind the threatening letters to him. He falls dangerously far down the rabbit hole before the end though. A great movie for those looks for “mild satire.”
2. Boogie Nights
Porn might not be high art, but a film is a film. Boogie Nights shows us a different side of filmmaking as it follows Mark Wahlberg through the booming porn industry of the 1970’s. Paul Thomas Anderson assembles an outstanding cast of actors for his comedy showing how the porn industry is surprisingly similar to Hollywood. Along his journey into fame, Wahlberg encounters all manners of characters in the industry from an aging director just looking out for him to a pornstar simply known as “Rollergirl.” I won’t say it’s fun for the whole family because watching it with your parents is going to get really awkward, really quickly.
1. The Artist
One of the more recent movies on this list, The Artist doesn’t necessarily follow a specific film being made. Instead, it follows the life of a silent movie era film star at the height of his fame and fortune. However, like Charlie Chaplin did, he finds himself struggling with the invention of talking pictures and soon his career starts to suffer. It’s a unique look at filmmaking because it focuses on the aspect that affects the actors more than anyone else and that’s just how shallow Hollywood is at the end of the day. If you’re not hot and desired, well then you aren’t going to be making movies for much longer.
Honorable Mention: The Disaster Artist
While I haven’t had a chance to see The Disaster Artist yet, the buzz it’s been generating has me incredibly excited too. From what other critics and fans have been saying, I would be surprised if this movie doesn’t earn a spot on here.
Of course, there are plenty of other movies about filmmaking, but the ones above stand head and shoulders above the others. However, I want to know what you really think. Let me know if the comments which of the movies above you like the most and tell me what your favorite movie about filmmaking is! I’d also love to hear what other Top 10 lists you would like me to tackle in the future.