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STUDIO: Docurama
MSRP: $29.95
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 250 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Fuck-all

THE PITCH

Watch student-filmmakers punish themselves for their art for your enjoyment.

THE HUMANS

The principles: Alrick Brown, Leah Meyerhoff,  and Vincenzo Tripodo.  Also some guest lip-flapping from Amy Hecklering, The ‘Rat, Spike Lee, Martin Scorcese and many more.

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"And then I realized I was suffering from on-set Female Tigrabetes."

THE NUTSHELL

Along with USC, NYU’s film school has to be the most prestigious film school in the United States, with many of the graduates going on to bigger and better things in the industry (see: the famous names above).   This series follows four of the NYU students as they make their student films (Meyerhoff’s is a biographical piece about growing up with her Mother who has MS, Tripodo’s a whimsical fable about a man with a fake rubber spider finding his one true love and Brown’s is a comic book stylized retelling of the police shooting of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo) and all of the complications that arise whilst doing so.

THE LOWDOWN

Having gone through the process of making a student film myself*, I can understand the hectic nature of creating a concept, trying to capture it visually, then making whatever was in your head pop out of Final Cut Pro (or Avid, or Windows Movie Maker, if you’re a stay-at-home-filmmaker) as a shiny finished product.  It’s this nuts and bolts aspect to filmmaking and being able to watch people passionate about making a project work that propels you along throughout the entirety of Film School, propelling it past its weaker moments.

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Twenty Questions doesn’t translate well into Italian, I guess.

It’s just interesting and entertaining to watch a filmmaker work at their craft if you’re a film aficionado, and even when it’s student filmmakers it’s no different.  Perhaps even more interesting, just to see the hoops they have to jump through (and the hoops you imagine IFC helps push them through) in order to get their film made on a shoe-string budget.   Where the series falters is its attempt at inserting reality TV tropes/the dreaded ‘human element’ where it really needn’t bare its ugly maw.  The useless subplot of Alrick’s sorta-girlfriend and their disintegrating relationship feels shoehorned into the series, as though the creators felt obligated to add some sort of love interest into the plot dynamics.  What makes it even more unnecessary is the fact that whatever drama unfolds naturally over the course of the shoots is so much more interesting. 

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"I wear my K-Swiss when I’m corpse."

The ridiculous aspiring producer couple that Vincenzo hires to wrangle up money for his shoot strain believability when they come back to Vincenzo from a trip to Hollywood with $120 dollars (twenty of which came from Henry Winkler’s pockets) to offer as well as the sex scene Meyerhoff is shooting with an underage girl causing trauma throughout her crew are both examples of moments that are genuine because they feel integral to telling the story of how these films came to be.   And while at a certain point you’d wish they’d stop recapping the short films the students were making (take a shot whenever you hear a dramatic music cue followed by the explanation that Meyerhoff’s mom suffers from MS) – when there’s only a couple episodes left you have to imagine there are no more stragglers coming aboard to see what’s afoot – it’s a minor quibble in what is a generally interesting and entertaining reality show. 

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Amanda was proudest of the Garry Shandling in her "Stool Samples of the Stars" kit.

Perhaps it’s just because the show is centered around something I feel a deep affection for (although, in the interest of disclosure, I’ve avoided On the Lot like water balloons filled with AIDS blood), but I felt that Film School was compelling reality television in a way that most shows currently out there are not.  You get the impression these kids (and 30-plus year old Italian man) would still be busting their asses to make something they’re passionate about even if there wasn’t a show being filmed, unlike so many other shows where you feel like these people only truly exist if a camera is fixed on them.  And while it needlessly conforms to maudlin necessities of other shows, it doesn’t dwell on them long enough to sink the proceedings.  Recommended (although a major caveat for this DVD set will be noted below) if you’re a fan of ‘the process’, or well-made reality television.

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It’s a Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch and Judy show.

THE PACKAGE

The cover is whatever with the little animated characters from the opening credits** (although not including one of the original four is something of a SPOILER ALERT, but who cares) and I can’t think of anything better (generic film iconography or Treat Williams beating the shit out of a kid with a Bolex comes to mind).  The video quality is solid and the 2.0 audio is fine, the show doesn’t really merit anything more.  However, there are absolutely no extras and this is the part where I spew a little righteous indignation: you give me an entire television series based around these students toiling to create this final product and then don’t include the fucking films on the DVD?  This is like a kid masturbating for four hours and then his mom walking in right before he can finish.  What a crock of shit.  The series is alternately silly and fascinating, but not including the short films themselves (issues with entering them into festivals*** be damned) is infuriating.  Hence this:

5.0 out of 10

*Although the veracity of UW-Milwaukee’s claim of being the best avant-garde film school in the country I leave up to you, and, for the record, nothing so large-scale as what the filmmakers here are working on.
** The quoted “Charming and feverish” on the cover also strikes me as a bit odd, like saying “Cute, but there was blood in its stool!”
*** What I imagine would be the reasoning behind not including them in the set.