I’ve always, and continue to, have a disdain hatred for reality shows. Although, I admit, at times, I’ve experienced that guilty pleasure of being caught-up in one of these shows – like a good “fuck” scene in a porn flick. Yep. I am ashamed that I was once an “American Idol” whore, that I always got a kick out of watching “has-been-but-now-fat” celebrities trying to get fit, And that I do continue to wonder if Flavor Flav will ever find love.
But the recent premiere of Fox’s “On The Lot” got my nuts in a knot. With my love of film, its process, as well as its artistic influence on the masses of the people, my curiosity was heightened with wonderment about what kinda flicks are these aspiring filmmakers are going to make. I believe I might of begun watching the first episode of the show with the gullibility of expecting something on the level of a documentary (which is an antidote to any reality show), but finding myself, again, caught-up into TV viewer’s fascination with non-actors caught on camera (with no script) dominating most of their screen time with melodrama. Why do we enjoy watching the suffering of people who we don’t have real personal connection with, yet talk about them afterwards as if we do personally know them? We are becoming more of an embittered, and insecure, society with no balls to take chances and have new ideas. Have lunch date conversations become this boring?
By the second episode, you must wonder if the quick eliminations of the number of contestants from 50 to 36 was strictly out of convenience for the show’s time contraints. As viewers, we didn’t even get a chance to see any of the work these eliminated contestants had to offer. But, with the remaining contestants, we got glimpses of their shorts they had produced within, apparently, a 24 hour period. But, I’d wish the show itself didn’t inter-cut the showing of these shorts with reactions of the filmmakers themselves, which causes an abrupt realization that you are only watching a reality show. This makes one curious, who are the directors and editors of “On The Lot”, and why aren’t they contestants of the show?
Then there was the 2 hour premiere last Sunday. There were 18 contestants left (again, this felt like the numbers were cut out for convenience without allowing us viewers to ever get an idea of the works of the eliminated.). Within a couple of hours (including commercials), we get treated to each of the contestants own one-minute short created by the filmmakers. Although, I felt there were a couple of good (but not great) ones – “”, the works only showed the creators’s potential of being good commercial writers/directors. You no doubt can find better short films on atomflims.com, You Tube, or even MySpace. *cringe* Despite having the skills and resources to use the tools in the creation of a film, the filmmakers apparently don’t have the strong storytelling skills. Or, at leasts, they weren’t apparent on “On The Lot”.
I’m sure there are rules and limits to content allowed in making the films for “On The Lot” to a public TV viewing, family-oriented audience, equivalent to a PG-rated (or MA-14 for TV) flick. Basically, no one is allowed to take big risks on the level of movie makers like, let’s say, a Tarantino or a Kubrick.
And, the judges don’t fair well either. You’d figure these experienced big wigs of Hollywood know a thing or two about the sweat, blood, and tears that makes a filmmaker. But how many times can one count each judge saying to every contestant,”I thought it was well made and you’re very talented.” In light of all this, maybe Simone Cowell isn’t such an asshole, huh? As goes the comment from Entertainment Weekly’s Gregory Kirschling – “Over the course of the summer, is On the Lot inadvertently going to show us why so many movies today are so safe and so bad?” (ref: EW.)
But, my advice, since you’ve read this far, if one wishes to see what an entertaining struggle to be a filmmaker is, go grab a copy of Chris Smith’s “American Movie“, and track Mark Borchardt’s inspiring rise into movie history.