"THE UNKINDEST CUT: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card" by Joe Queenan

"THE UNKINDEST CUT: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card"

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Despite the lame, misleading title, a wry, even occasionally useful, real-life satire on low-low-budget moviemaking. With Robert Rodriguez's alleged $7,000 budget for El Mariachi in mind, film critic Queenan (If You're Talking To Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble, 1994, etc.) often joked about making a movie for $6,998. But this goof turned serious when, in one three-week burst of semicreativity, Queenan actually cranked out a 90-page script, a satire of the recovery movement titled Twelve Steps to Death. Directing classes soon followed, and Queenan wore out his VCR looking for good scenes to steal from other films. Using only utterly nonprofessional actors (his Tarrytown neighbors), semiprofessional technicians, and dubious rented equipment, Queenan set off on a nine-day film shoot. Despite his amateurism and a host of disasters, he kept a fairly firm grip on the production in every area except the budget. By the time the film premiered as the only entry at the self-sponsored Tarrytown International Film Festival, Queenan had spent nearly $60,000. Winning the festival's coveted award, Le Chevalier Sans Tˆte en Or (The Golden Headless Horseman), was thin compensation. Still undistributed, the film has yet to earn back even a penny of its cost. While Queenan, a poor man's P.J. O'Rourke, has a well-turned sense of humor, both this book and the movie it is built around (the full-length script is included) fall substantially short of Hollywood's three-laughs-to-a-page standard. But Queenan is to be commended for showing the lighter side of such expensive pratfalls and for airily distilling so much practical how-not-to advice. Along with Final Cut and The Devil's Candy, one of cinema's great cautionary tales.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1996
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Hyperion