Shaun Rose is an independent filmmaker located in New York. His film Upstate Story released on his YouTube channel in 2018 and has more recently seen awards success in festival runs. This documentary actually tracks back his process to 2012, before ever dreaming up Upstate Story (previously titled “I”) and talking about an ambitious (and since abandoned) project Dog Days.
So, hand on heart here, I reviewed Upstate Story and thoroughly enjoyed it (here’s a link to my review of it which contains a link to the film you can watch for free on YouTube). I’ve become friends with Shaun on social media since (I was even rather humbled by being thanked in the credits-sincerely appreciated). I bring this up not to outline any personal bias of my assessment here, but to go into the intimate nature of Making and Unmaking. It’s a film about independent filmmaking, but it’s also a journey about how one grows alongside your process.
I was honestly struck not just by Shaun’s absolute determination in seeing something through no matter what life threw at him, but also how willing he was to call in favours of friends and family members. His ex was going to be the star of Dog Days, his father is in several earlier projects of his when he was at school. His current girlfriend is heavily involved with his work. This isn’t some Kevin Smith-esque nepotistic thing-like all filmmakers he utilises the tools at his disposal. Independent filmmaking is just a much more personal experience all the way around, and it helps go over their natural rough around the edge-ness as you see every facet poured into doing something for the passion of it (though I’m sure most of them wouldn’t say no to larger budgets!).
And yeah, that rough edge-ness adds to the charm. It’s not some glorified piece about the tortured artistry of the low-budget filmmaker, it’s a personal story of the last 8 years of one guy’s struggles to make a feature. While I feel the Dog Days bit at the start doesn’t flow into the Upstate Story stuff as seamlessly, I like that it’s there to show the trials and errors of making movies, and the humbling reality that sometimes your ambitions cannot reach your material realities.
The only real issues I had was a kind of low energy pace of certain moments. While I don’t think the movie itself has bad pacing overall, certain scenes can drag a little bit in the moment and I felt there could have been a bit more of a rhythmic flow to them, especially the more interviewed portions. At the same time, however, I feel its Shaun’s fullest personality put out there, and his willingness to be contemplative and careful when pouring out very personal details of his life (purposeful vagueness here-watch the movie). And it’s this intimacy and blunt forwardness with the process that makes it a good watch for anybody looking to work in film without as much resources, especially if you feel like giving up.
Making and Unmaking is a humble but insightful look into the life and struggles of an independent filmmaker. It shows a lot of trappings and even tips for those who work on low budget work or even wish to (such as stunt driving!). But at its heart it tells the story of a man who poured a lot of spirit and life into what he does, and how he powered through to get this film out with life stuff continuing to pile onto him. It’s definitely a doc worth shaving the beard off for.
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