When you sit down to watch a film, how often do you think about what it took to get the film in front of you? We rarely bother to think about this, but we really should. Typically, most films take years to make it to the screen, and the more limited the resources are, the longer that wait it is. This process forms the basis for Justin McConnell’s autobiographical documentary, Clapboard Jungle: Surviving the Independent Film Industry. Beginning in 2014 and ending in 2019, Clapboard Jungle charts McConnell’s mission to get a feature film off of the ground. Along the way, he falls into every pitfall an indie filmmaker can, and offers a brutally honest look at how tough the film industry is and what it takes to survive.
It’s not just McConnell that takes a turn in front of the camera, as he seeks out various friends and peers from the industry to find out about their own experiences getting movies made. The information gathered within these interviews is vital for anyone thinking of starting a career in the industry, and the whole documentary works wonderfully as a ‘how to’ guide. The scope of the people he sits down with are also impressive. Over the course of the film we get insights from Travis Stevens, Graham Skipper, Barbara Crampton, Guillermo del Toro, Larry Fessenden, and the late Dick Miller and Sid Haig. Larry Fessenden in particular has some lovely (but heartbreaking) things to say about the writing process and those projects that get stuck at script level.