FANTASIA 2020 REVIEW: ‘Clapboard Jungle’ (2020) and the Harsh Reality of Independent Filmmaking

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Clapboard Jungle is the quintessential handbook for aspiring filmmakers.


Turning the camera on himself, Justin McConnell’s Clapboard Jungle: Surviving the Independent Film Business, chronicles the hardships of navigating the film industry. Utilizing a mixture of talking heads interviews and guerrilla-style vlogging, McConnell explores how difficult it is for independent filmmakers to navigate the business side of the industry, from financing to distribution. As legendary director Guillermo del Toro states “Making movies is beautiful; prepping them, raising the money, and selling them is horrible.”

Over the course of five years, McConnell documents the ups-and-downs of trying to get his films made. Known for writing and directing genre films such as The Collapsed, Broken Mile, and Skull World, McConnell takes the viewer through trying to get the rest of his slate made, consisting of ideas like Mark of Kane and Tripped. McConnell provides a no holds barred look at his journey into getting his movies made, visiting markets at Cannes and Frontières, along with countless meetings and phone calls with studios and agents. He shows the disappointing but necessary reality of coming to terms with shelving projects because often it is not about the film that you want to be made, but what studios and producers are looking for. Clapboard Jungle also shows McConnell’s successes, depicting the making of his 2018 horror film Lifechanger and its journey around the world’s film festivals and popularity on streaming giant Netflix.

Interspersed with McConnell’s independent filmmaking journey, the director provides interviews with countless titans of the industry such as Guillermo del Toro, Sid Haig, George A. Romero, and Paul Schrader, along with people at every step of the filmmaking process including directors, writers, producers, sales agents, and actors. These interviews co-sign McConnell’s thesis of how difficult it is to get an independent film to market, while also offering crucial advice to aspiring filmmakers.

Despite the film industry being dominated by billion-dollar franchises, Justin McConnell’s Clapboard Jungle shows that independent filmmaking is still alive. However, thanks to market oversaturation, one needs to become a jack of all trades in order to make their movie stand out. Plenty of famous directors admit in their interviews that they still have no idea how movies get made. By showing his own journey of making Lifechanger and interviewing acclaimed directors, actors, and producers, McConnell gives aspiring filmmakers both a textbook and a love letter. Clapboard Jungle tells aspiring filmmakers to hold on to their dreams while also giving the blueprint to getting their movies made. It is a must-watch for anyone looking to break into the wonderful world of filmmaking.


Dir: Justin McConnell

Prod: Justin McConnell, Darryl Shaw, Avi Federgreen, Andrew van den Houten,

Cast: Justin McConnell, Guillermo del Toro, Sid Haig, Paul Schrader, George A. Romero, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Barbara Crampton

Premiere Date: 20 August 2020

Available on: Clapboard Jungle is currently screening on-demand at Fantasia Fest 2020