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The mockumentary is arguably one of the more fragile genres of film, balancing faux authenticity with a satirical edge that in the wrong hands, well, falls flat fast. The best of them work by getting its audience not just to laugh at the characters on screen but to identify with them. That’s the point really, to showcase – with an affectionate, exaggerated manner – that these people could be real, that despite their idiosyncrasies and foibles, they might exist. That’s the magic behind filmmakers like Christopher Guest, who has for decades produced some of the most effective mockumentaries ever made, because he makes us care for the people in his movies, no matter how offbeat they are.
Now comes We Make Movies, a wonderfully charming mockumentary from Matt Tory (writer and director) about a group of college students who try to make a movie before their hometown film festival, all while being recorded by independent ‘documentarians’ of their own. The crew is led by Stevphen (not a typo) Bixby (Tory), whose name he modified to help all those people who constantly ask him how he spells his name because, you know, that’s a thing people do in his mind. And that right there is where this film is playing, the writing and tone razor sharp throughout. See Stevphen has an idea for a film, one that steals, or rather ‘homages’, directly from successful Hollywood movies and combines them, therefore having every genre covered. Imagine Forrest Gump falling in love with Princess Leia and escaping on a flying bike across a full moon and you get the idea. It’s a terrible idea of course, but Stevphen is blinded by his own hubris. That and the presence of his female star Jessica (Anne Crockett).
She’s a small marvel in all this as well, joining the misfit band of boys and by the sheer nature of her just being there, throws off their game. It’s a brilliant bit of writing and casting by Tory in having a girl completely derail Stevphen and his lead actor Leonard (Zack Slort) – a quasi-thespian method actor who prefers one pronounce his name “Leo-nard” – compete for her attention as she sits and texts all day. Meanwhile, she goes on dates with Garth (Jonathan Holmes), another actor on set who is probably the most sensible of the bunch, just wasting time before his upcoming dentist appointment. It’s that kind of fun Tory has with these people that really grounds it in a sort of surreal sense of authenticity. He makes Stevphen so full of himself that he’s like a train wreck, impossible not to stare at in awe and yet he feels just like someone we all know.
We Make Movies is purposefully amatuer looking but don’t let that fool you for a second because every line of dialogue and every bit of action is delivered like a pro. When Stevphen says on camera that he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself while shouting off screen to his mother to make sure his lunch is packed, you can’t help but feel for this guy but more so recognize that this is some funny writing. Much like the very real documentary American Movie, a film that features a man committed to making a homemade horror movie, We Make Movies is filmed with inspiration and adoration for those with movies in their blood. While it’s about twenty minutes too long, as an independent film it’s a small gem of comedy with plenty of well-earned laughs that’s not to be missed. It’s available now on most VOD streaming services.
Movie description: We Make Movies is a 2016 comedy chronicling the ups and downs of a group of college students who spend their summer making a movie for their town's Film Festival.
Director(s): Matt Tory
Actor(s): Jordan Hopewell, Matt Tory, Zack Slort