Kingdom Come is the BEST worst-sales-pitch-for-being-a-filmmaker ever. “Do you wanna whore yourself out for years to no avail while your world crumbles around you and your brace against the crushing despair is the hard anvil of truth that your vision will likely never come to life?” If you answer “Did you say likely?” then you, Lloyd Christmas, may have what it takes to be a filmmaker.
No matter what your answer, if you have ever appreciated even an ounce for how difficult it is to make any film, then you should see Daniel Gillies’ foray into the madness, hilarity and anguish that comes as he tries to make his own indie project, documentary Kingdom Come for around nine hundred thousand dollars.
Woven within Gilles’ endeavors is stories from other actors and filmmakers about their experiences making an independent project and especially focusing on money, and how hard it is to come by. Mark Ruffalo’s story about a Lebanese investor is worth the price of admission itself. My personal hero Bruce Campbell telling tales of the making of Evil Dead was also fun and a bit depraved. But I think they may have caught Thomas Jane right after a beloved pet died, for he was the doom-bringer, he all but said “Filmmaker? Just [email protected]#$ing kill yourself.” Even Ed Burns managed a few smiles despite the coals he has been raked over in trying to make his own films.
Some of these stories you may have heard before, or at least variations of the same (especially if you’ve read Rebel Without a Crew), but when the economy and housing market tanked, so did the last glimmer of those halcyon days when Hal Hartley and Alison Anders were having their way with the studio system. So to find the money, they had to dig deeper, which unearthed sociopaths, possible drug runners, and a British Bernie Madoff, to name a few. No one should have to go through with what these guys did, as Kevin Smith put it, “just to get your thought across” but it sure as hell is fascinating to watch it happen.
I have seen other recent documentaries about the struggle of artists today such as Indie Games, about the strife of independent video game makers whose worst nightmare is the same as Gillies’: That their project will never get made. Hell with money, hell with anyone ever seeing it or appreciating it. The worst, most apocalyptic outcome is that their artistic expression will never happen.
This passion comes with a price, as you will see, and it ripples outward to some heartbreaking moments for the people involved. This doc is not just about making a film, but also how much more difficult it is not only to survive financially, to feed yourself as an artist in the 2010’s (even though Gillies started before then, his bad luck has followed an indelible economic arc downward, auspiciously paving the way), but how much fewer opportunities there are for independent filmmakers to find the money when overzealous Wall Street people aren’t handing out checks and indie studios are closing up shop.
Films such as Burden of Dreams and even Overnight are also great making-of docs, but Kingdom Come stands apart in that it is a raw, honest, funny and sometimes infuriating look at what happens before the wannabe filmmaker steps behind the camera. It manages to be relevant in so many ways, and the stories and observations from the chorus of other indie film artists remind you that somehow, someway, against all odds, they made it happen. This doc is for anyone who has ever wanted that struggle or ever appreciated the struggle of those that do.