Clapboard Jungle review – confessions of an indie horror film director

Peter Bradshaw
·2-min read

Justin McConnell is a Canadian indie director who has here created what amounts to a tiring and self-indulgent video diary of the last five years as he tries to get his passion project made (a fantasy horror called Lifechanger). It is interspersed with what feels like hundreds of thousands of interviews with beaming film people, some very famous (such as Paul Schrader and Guillermo Del Toro), some not so famous, but all giving us their well-meant platitudes about getting your films made by following your dream and realising that it’s all about storytelling.

Clapboard Jungle suffers from a weird mix of information overload and a lack of actual, usable information that might be of assistance to film-makers or of interest to film audiences. To an extraordinary degree, this film is packed with endless selfie shots of McConnell’s face as – zonked with stress or anxiety or disappointment – he trudges through airport department lounges on his way to festivals, placidly listens to music on a bus, or takes calls from producers and distributors passing on his project.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some nuggets of information here about the nightmare of independent film production: the money people won’t commit the cash until the talent are definitely on board and the talent won’t sign up until the money is definitely there. So something has to give and someone has to be lied to. At one stage, an actor who’s worked with McConnell gently reproves him about exaggerating the extent and solidity of the funding while the film was in development. But that is the business.

As ever, people complain about the deluge of “content” which is sloshing over us all nowadays. Advances in digital technology have made it easier and cheaper to make films, but it hasn’t increased film-making talent or increased the number of people willing to watch the finished product. There is some good sense from Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman: “Nobody complained when there were thousands of paintings and drawings and comic book illustrations – why should anyone complain about too many movies?”

Clapboard Jungle is available on 19 April.