THE D.O.A. FILM FESTIVAL
Welcome to the D.O.A. ("dead on arrival") Film Festival. I've long wanted to start this much-needed addition to the glut of boring festivals that litter the country (the world?). My festival would be unique in that unlike all other festivals that showcase new and exciting material, we would be devoted to highlighting unfinished films, the ones that were begun and ran into some kind of production difficulties, forcing them to be abandoned. The films can be from any era and I have a feeling there'd be plenty of new material as well as old, given how easy it is for people to shoot a movie on their phone and edit it on their computer. Yet it is this very ease that I suspect causes people to begin projects and casually discard them. Fear not, failed filmmaker. You will have a home at the D.O.A. Film Festival.
We'll be showing a few of the classic unfinished debacles--the Charles Laughton/Josef Von Sternberg "I Claudius", the Orson Welles "It's All True", the Terry Gilliam "Don Quixote", the George Cukor/Marilyn Monore "Something's Got To Give". But we'll also dig deep into the vaults for some of the forgotten ones, resuscitating the dailies of abandoned cinematic fiascos and allowing them their day in the sun.
There will also be script readings of movies that almost got made but never quite got to the first day of principle photography. This is a sticky category for, let's face it, most screenplays never get to the first day of principle photography. In order to qualify for this category, the movie has to have been put into active pre-production. Actors need to have been cast, director/line producer hired, crew gearing up before the film goes in the tank for whatever reason. Recently HBO had a wonderful 'failure to proceed' when Al Pacino walked on the Sandusky movie (which was deep into pre-production), causing Brian DePalma and the rest of the crew to pack up and go home without having shot a single foot of film. This must have cost them a million bucks or so. Maybe we can get Pacino to show up for the reading.
Finally, we will present one of the lucky newcomer failed filmmakers with the Palme D'Or of the D.O.A. Film Festival, the "Orson Welles Award" for best unfinished film--Welles was the undoubted king of the genre, having failed to finish at least half-a-dozen movies. We will celebrate the foolhardiness of all of us who leap into the void, hoping against hope that the bond company won't shut us down, the actor won't pull out at the last second, the money won't mysteriously vanish. Let's kick off with the marvelous BBC documentary on the abandoned Laughton/Von Sternberg "I Claudius". There's terrific footage of Laughton having breakdowns on the set and the whole explanation for why the film was scrapped still seems a little thin. Possibly the producer Alexander Korda saw the movie gradually disintegrating as Laughton fell apart and when co-star (and Korda's wife) Merle Oberon was in a car crash, he quickly moved to take the insurance and send the filmmakers home. Above is a clip of Laughton melting down. Below is the full doc.
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 1:44 PM