Upcoming Crowdfunded Films Preview Part One: Beyond Clueless

There are a three crowd-funded films I’m pretty excited about: Beyond Clueless from Charlie Lyne; Elstree 1976 from Jon Spira; and The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie from James Rolfe. All three are extremely talented people who opted to crowd-fund their projects, and succeeded way ahead of their target dates.

Crowd-funding is a double-edged sword. In an ideal scenario, you get the money you need to complete your project and ensure you have an audience of backers who are all on board from the start, getting e-mails on a regular basis updating them with all the latest progress as it happens. It also gives you a bit of impetus to finish it on time as you have 100s or 1000s of people to keep happy.

The negative side of crowd funding is that you can end up highly embarrassed if you fail to get enough backers and your project falls flat on its face. There have been some big-name stars who’ve fallen foul of this for a variety of reasons, usually because they set their target too high (see Bjork’s failed Biophilia app campaign) or they didn’t come up with enough interesting rewards at appropriately-pitched prices.

These boys have got it right so I thought I’d write about them and give them the attention they deserve. I’ll start with Beyond Clueless, with the other two covered over the next week.

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I’ve been a backer of this campaign for almost two years now and thus feel wholeheartedly part of the journey that all backers have gone on with writer and director Charlie Lyne, who makes a living as a columnist to The Guardian and as the editor of film blog Ultra Culture. With regular updates to all the backers and exclusive videos and artwork sent out to us all (and preview screenings), this was a crowd-funding campaign that has been executed perfectly by Lyne and maintained my interest throughout, and this in turn has evidently generated a lot of buzz around the project.

The film is essentially a review and dissection of the teen movie genre narrated by Fairuza Balk (American History X, Almost Famous). The press release states “Beyond Clueless is a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 modern teen classics”. I’m a big fan of many of the films covered, including Mean Girls, Clueless, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club (to name but a few). The film promises to draw comparisons by interlinking scenes of different films and commenting on the themes and critically analysing all the films it covers – no easy achievement considering the breadth of the subject. Judging by the backer updates, Lyne is clearly very passionate about the subject matter and so everything will be dealt with the utmost respect.

The soundtrack is provided by the excellent Summer Camp and I’ve been listening to bits of it already and it’s absolutely perfect for this film. Plenty of it is available online and it’s well worth a listen. This is complimented by the highly stylised illustrations surrounding the film, provided by Hattie Stewart. She has done wonders to create a brand for the film and help nurture the buzz, and this can’t be underestimated.

Having read some reviews, there has been some criticism of Balk’s narrative and also of the cutting techniques used by Lyne to produce the final edit. This all remains to be seen when the film arrives locally – I’ll be at the QUAD screening in Derby when tickets and times are released. On a side note, there is a mini tour going on to promote the film and if you get chance to drop in to one of these screenings there’s quite a lot on offer, including Q+A sessions with Lyne and live soundtrack accompaniment from the aforementioned Summer Camp. They start on 13th January and go pretty much until the general release later in the month.

When it is finally released across the UK, I hope it gets the audience the team behind it deserve.

Beyond Clueless is on a promotional tour, with dates across the UK leading up to a wider release on 29th January 2015. All dates for the tour are on the official website.

Weird Science (John Hughes, 1985)

Screened as part of Mayhem’s The Created Woman festival in Nottingham, I had a fantastic opportunity to revisit a childhood favourite on the big screen. Whilst perhaps of its time, John Hughes’s Weird Science still stands up to my memories and was every bit as enjoyable a I remember it.

The plot centres around two teenage geeks: Gary Wallace (played by Hughes regular Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (played by Ilan Mitchell-Smith). When we first see them, they are on the wrong end of a beating at the hands of school bullies (one of which is an extremely young Robert Downey, yet to add Jnr.). When they return home, inspired by a viewing of Frankenstein – or was it Bride of Frankenstein? – they fire up their Memotech MTX512 and try to create their perfect woman using a few magazine cuttings, some rudimentary computer software, a doll and a hacked power station. What they don’t expect is that this woman will come to life, in the form of Kelly LeBrock, the sexy, British, athletic, intelligent, headstrong woman of their dreams.

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To enjoy the film you have to accept its many faults. There’s quite a bit of unfathomable science going on to get us through the story, with no real basis in science. The computer visuals really set the film deeply in the 1980s and have dated badly. I’m not sure the idea of a 23-year-old woman passionately kissing a 15-year-old boy would pass studio execs nowadays but LeBrock is clearly hamming up and revelling in the “ideal woman” role, where the ideal woman is one imagined by two young geeky teenagers who have never had girlfriends and don’t really know what they want. You don’t have to try hard to put that to one side and accept it for what it is – a classic teen comedy by one of the greatest directors of a generation.

Bill Paxton puts in a hilarious turn as Wyatt’s older brother, who is in charge for the weekend and is running the house like a military camp. His eventual punishment for the way he treats Wyatt is unexpected an quirky, but I’ll leave the surprise for you if you’re going to watch it soon.

Revisiting Weird Science didn’t disappoint me one bit and I’d like to thank Broadway Cinema in Nottingham and Mayhem Festival for allowing it a rare return to the big screen, especially in gorgeous 35mm print form. Keep up the good work!

Weird Science is available now to buy on Blu-Ray. A print of the lovely poster art I’ve used at the top of this article is available at Old Red Jalopy.