Mirage, n - an optical effect that is sometimes seen at sea, in the desert, or over hot pavement.
The ecstasy and the agony of independent filmmakers plying their craft in the shadow (however hazy) of Hollywood is convincingly, if melodramatically, captured by Frank Gallagher in his film about the making of the one.
“Who decides what people aren’t seeing,” bemoans director/writer/producer Tom Paulson as door after door of financiers (notably Ari Barak, whose tough-love investment protocol seems built more on three-dollar bills than shrewd business practice), friends and family are eased close or slammed shut. His life’s work, Mirage, has been shot but requires eighty large to finish post production. Self-financed up to that point (Paulson made a bundle by doing nothing at Universal Studios for several years—a good company man), Gallagher and his tireless crew follow the hapless independent for weeks as he tries to cobble together the cash, but ends up losing his editor (Craig Lachman) and girlfriend Adele Baughn, yet both filmmakers bring their stories home.
The notion of winning and losing, from Paulson’s injury-truncated career on the field of dreams to putting solo on the carpet, to rolling the dice of destiny in a different sort of Mirage, set up the film’s strongest metaphors. All business, no-interest-in-art producer, Aled Davies reinforces the “truth” about the movie industry in a number of intercuts that hammer home his passion-lite, cash-rich point of view: “It’s a business … no deeper level”—the bane of vrai artistes everywhere.
That jaundiced notion is nicely balanced by screenwriter wannabe Tony Colt who also laments money as motivator but wouldn’t mind getting one big cheque rather than a lot of little ones for her efforts.
Strategically inserted visual aids including James Dean and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams canvas and a hosing down of the Hollywood Walk of Fame complements the original guitar-laden score of Sean Gourley and Curt B. Walheim, which more than makes up for some voice-over muckiness and occasional off-focus shots.
More importantly is Paulson’s stated goal to take “my painting and put it down on film.&rdquo Aha! All is revealed, because the two art forms are so completely opposed to each other (one frame, versus thousands), that the filmmaker’s failure is totally comprehensible and, er, deserved. (Note to newcomers: Mixing your arts can often have the same result as mixing beverages …. If only careers could start with the second film!)
Still, there’s much to savour in Gallagher’s work. The near freeze-frame reaction from self-proclaimed “Ice Queen, Princess Bitch” Adele after blurting out “Maybe you know something I don’t,” is worth the price of admission alone. JWR