Clapboard Jungle (2019) [Fantasia Festival 2020]

Justin McConnell’s “Clapboard Jungle” is essentially about artistic pursuit and the search to grab even the slightest success in a world filled with artists. How does an artist make it in a world where millions of others are working night and day to make theirs heard? How do you thrive without competing or stepping over others? How do you stave off imposter syndrome? And in a climate of consistently rotating and interchangeable titles, is it even possible to deliver anything fresh or appealing in cinema anymore?

“Clapboard Jungle” follows five years in the life and turbulent career of independent filmmaker Justin McConnell who struggles to complete his current film. Supported by dozens of interviews, McConnell poses one question: how does an indie filmmaker survive in the current film business? “Clapboard Jungle” features interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Richard Stanley, Barbara Crampton, Paul Schrader, Tom Savini, George A. Romero, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Frank Henenlotter, and so many more.

“Clapboard Jungle” is a bracingly honest and surprisingly frank chronicle of an indie filmmaker looking for his breakout film. All the while, McConnell is able to grab interviews with a slew of amazing filmmakers and storytellers. The problem with their sit down interviews and recollections of working in Hollywood is that they don’t have the answers to success either. There is a ton of great insight and reflections, particularly from Guillermo Del Toro, and George Romero, both of whom have had great success in spite of Hollywood and the studio system. It’s the uncertainty of filmmaking and the whole artistic endeavor that makes “Clapboard Jungle” very honest, but also pretty stark.

When the film begins McConnell hasn’t even considered the name of his documentary yet and is still thinking over some potential titles. “Clapboard Jungle” might be looked upon as a bit cynical when all is said and done, but its view from an actual independent filmmaker should serve as an interesting exploration of the artistic process and filmmaking. In a world where making a film can be as easy as holding up your phone and downloading an editing app, is there anymore room for fresh voices in the medium? “Clapboard Jungle” is a fascinating and engaging dissection of the filmmaking process, and should be an absolute requirement for filmmakers of all kinds.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs every year, and this year runs virtually from August 20th until September 2nd.