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THEY SHOOT MOVIES, DON’T THEY?(director/writer: Frank Gallagher; cinematographer: Curt B. Walheim; editors: D.C. Douglas/Frank Gallagher; music: Curt B. Walheim/Sean Gourley; cast: Tom Paulson (Himself), Adele Baughn (Herself); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Gallagher; Goldhil Entertainment; 2000)
“The film’s critique of a cold Hollywood said nothing new.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This Frank Gallagher directed, written, edited and produced pseudo-documentary most likely emulates David Hotzman’s Diary and follows the marketing practices of Blair Witch.

It tells of 27-year-old aspiring filmmaker Tom Paulson, a college baseball player with pro offers until he blew out his knee and turned to film, who financed his own film in 1996 entitled Mirage with the $250,000 he earned from Universal on a three-year development deal but needs $80,000 before wrapping it up. Tom is also the subject of Frank Gallagher’s documentary, making for a film within a film, who shoots him as he tries to finish editing the film and raise the money needed. It pretends to give us an inside look at the challenges the indie filmmaker is faced with and how difficult it is to get a film made and released. Hollywood is viewed as basically an unfeeling and calculating business with art being secondary, where both the money people and filmmakers say you must go with the flow–if the backer wants a happy ending, then you must compromise to get your film made. In other words, if the backers don’t think they can make money they won’t invest. The running theme throughout is that Hollywood decides what people don’t see, believing they know best what they want to see.

Tom’s obsession with making the film is followed by examining the strain he’s under in trying get the film made. It takes a look at his relationship with actress girlfriend Adele Baughn, who will at one late point leave Tom because the film becomes more important to him than their relationship. The narrative then becomes fixated on Tom’s attempts to raise money through a movie industry executive friend Ari Barak, who agrees to come up with half the dough needed if Tom can match him by a due date. This comes about after a distributor backs out when Tom refuses to cede control of his film. It then gets even more heavy-handed and melodramatic, as it shows how the once easy-going Tom loses his dignity by begging friends and relatives for money when he can’t match Ari’s offer. When told by his would-be backer and his editor that his film, about a guy bored with life who chucks it all to follow his dream despite the risk of failure, is not good, Tom can’t face the music that he not only can’t raise enough money to finish a film about failure but that it has also turned out not to be what he wanted. It leads to a shocking twist ending, as Tom shows how deeply he’s been affected by this setback and how far he’s willing to go to settle things. His extreme reaction to the crisis is what makes the film controversial.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

For those viewers not sure whether or not the film was fiction, it has a greater intensity than for those who realize it’s a “mockumentary” and can take it all in stride. The film’s money men try to keep it alive that it’s all real by even maintaining a website. It might also relieve some viewers to know that Tom Paulson in actuality was played by executive producer Tom Wilson. The film’s critique of a cold Hollywood said nothing new and said it in a leaden way, and when one realizes it’s not a real documentary the acting also becomes problematic. It might work to greater effect for those suckered into believing what they were seeing was true (Hey, isn’t that the way Hollywood usually operates!).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”