Almost none of the films in this list are great. Most are not even good.
It’s the story of their making that is fascinating.
#5 – WILLARD: THE YEAR OF THE RAT (2003)
It’s obvious that director Glen Morgan was passionate about remaking the story of a boy and his rat, and tried his hardest to make it count, which makes it extra gutting to watch it all be taken away from him. The doc does a good job at focusing on the invisible crew members (PA’s and such) without becoming meandering – like the From Dusk Till Dawn doc FULL TILT BOOGIE.
Where to Find It: The New Line DVD
#4 – GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE: THE PATH TO VENGEANCE (2011)
I’m obsessed with making-of documentaries for mid-budget failures and no doc does it better than this behind the scenes look of a sequel no one asked for, wanted, or really liked. In the spirit of the best studio making-ofs, the fun is all in the sly editing and the truths between the lines. In that respect, its a bonanza of conflicting interviews, vague behind the scenes footage and a creeping sadness right up till the final moment. At one point one of the directors goes “You watch a film so many times it’s not even in English anymore, so you really don’t know it works or not.”
My favorite clip can only be found in the video commentary for the feature film. In it, everyone gathers around Nic Cage as they try to shoot one of his crazy ideas, and when one of the director sighs “This is going to work…This is going to work…” it pans over to cinematographer Brandon Trost looking into the camera and shaking his head.
Where to Find It: The Blu-Ray
#3 – THE BATTERY: TOOLS OF IGNORANCE (2012)
How do you make a no-budget zombie film that becomes a festival darling? Well, according to this doc, you do everything wrong! A warts and all look into the bickering, unprepared and stressful world of making movies with zero money and zero clue. It’s the kind of doc that dives deep into the combative process of keeping or dropping a single shot.
Where to Find It: The DVD or Blu-Ray.
#2 – HALLOWEEN: MICHAEL LIVES (2008)
I don’t like Rob Zombie’s Halloween (I do like his bonkers second one!), but this doc is great look into the minutia of making a big movie that everyone struggled through. It’s ridiculously long at 257 minutes, but it’s a kind of hang out experience, and you quickly understand why Zombie has said it was an outright miserable experience.
Where: The 3-Disc DVD or Blu-Ray
#1 – NECRONOMICON: HELL OF THE B’s (1993)
This one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s only available on the French DVD and is mostly in French (but I believe fan subs are floating around), but damn, it’s an essential looking into low budget nineties filmmaking. Producer Brian Yuzna wanted to take filmmakers from around the world to make H.P Lovecraft anthology and the result was a massive cluster fuck. First time director Christophe Gans (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) had his DP abandon him the day before shooting began, Japanese director Shûsuke Kaneko left the country the moment his segment was done principal photography even though his big effect sequence didn’t work, and Brian Yuzna (according to the editor) simply didn’t get the material that was needed. Christophe Gans anchors the doc as man who has no time to play nice in his quest to explain how everything went to hell – including a Brian Yuzna bursting into tears when he saw the shitty effects on the climactic sequence.
Where to Find It: The DVD or Blu from France.
A pal of mine Justin McConell made low budget film called THE COLLAPSED and the feature length documentary on the DVD is an exceptional look into the making of a film with almost no money and no time. More laid back then you’d expect.
I did an hour long episode for THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB on my favorite DVD special features, but it’s going to cost you a 5$ subscription to our Patreon to listen to it. Trust me. It’s worth it.