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The 15 Best Documentaries About Making a Film

Written by on February 25, 2015 

Full Tilt Boogie

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Following their respective break-out features, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed for the pulpy B-movie From Dusk Till Dawn and filmmaker Sarah Kelly was there to capture virtually every facet of the production. Talking with the grips, AD’s, extras, craft service, drivers, personal assistants, and more, it gives us a strong sense of the energy on set, particularly when it comes to a young George Clooney in his break-out role. Things get interesting when tensions rise over the use of a non-union crew, who greatly enjoy partaking in alcohol after a long day’s work. Some of it may seem too self-serving, but it’s worth it just to see Rodriguez with his stylish fanny pack. – Jordan R. [Watch on Netflix]

The Godfather Family: A Look Inside

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As we continue to hear troubled production woes on the sets of the latest blockbusters, it’s always fascinating to go behind the scenes of some of cinema’s iconic classics that suffered similar roadblocks. One such example is a young Francis Ford Coppola and the tumultuous crafting of his masterpiece, The GodfatherJeff Werner‘s The Godfather Family: A Look Inside is a 73-minute documentary that was created around the release of The Godfather Part III, which accounts for the candid footage from that production. It also dives into the creation of the first two films, featuring interviews with Coppola, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, James Caan, editor Walter Murch and more. Along with candid audition tapes (from Martin Sheen and more), they discuss everything from the iconic horse head scene to the first film’s unforgettable ending to the specifics of Pacino’s character arc in the trilogy. – Jordan R. [Watch here or on Blu-ray]

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

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The greatest film about film? It’d be a strong possibility even if the picture around which it centers, Apocalypse Now, weren’t a masterpiece, what with all the mordant amusement that comes with a first-row seat to this horrifying set of circumstances: a director unsure of how to finish his story while everyone waits on him; a lead actor who suffers a heart attack; a supporting actor who fell into terrible physical shape and didn’t learn his material; equipment that was taken away in the middle of a shot so it could be used to kill people; the same director threatening to kill himself. It’s essentially a template for any and all subsequent stories of on-set catastrophes — but for as often as those might seem to happen, you’ve still never seen anything quite like Hearts of Darkness. – Nick N. [Watch on Blu-ray]

Jodorowsky’s Dune

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Never before has there been a documentary about lost cinema quite like Jodorowsky‘s Dune. Riding off the success incurred by career-defining films in the early 1970s (El Topo and The Holy Mountain), Alejandro Jodorowsky was primed and charged to make his most ambitious film to date, a grand scale adaptation of Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi masterpiece, Dune. It never happened. From having Pink Floyd agree to the soundtrack, Salvador Dalí in line to play the galactic emperor, and Orson Wells signed on as the villain, Dune’s ensemble of talent was uncanny. But the real inspiration behind Jodorowsky’s Dune is the passion this director has for the love of filmmaking, making it a must-see for aspiring filmmakers and film lovers alike. – Raffi A. [Watch on Amazon]

Lost in La Mancha

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Long before he even approached the elusive Moby Dick of his film career, Terry Gilliam was a living embodiment of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Tilting at ultra-expensive windmills the likes of Brazil and Baron Munchausen, Gilliam eventually met a giant he couldn’t topple in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. With Johnny Depp playing a moderner wandering around in Quixote’s Spain, the film was a much awaited dream, that for film fans, one day failed to materialize. The truth behind the production, and the near biblical disasters it faced, was a much more real and viscerally painful affair for the affable for seemingly fated Gilliam. Sure, Gilliam’s still out there occassionally tipping his sword to the sky and promising us a real Quixote film, but Lost in La Mancha may in fact be a far greater movie than the one we would have gotten. With an sad and undeterred look at a whimsical director under fire, Lost in La Mancha shows us a wizard nobly moving forward when he’s been stripped of his enchantment. – Nathan B. [Watch on Netflix]

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