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Dumbass Filmmakers, but Funny Show

TV Show Review by Evan Kayne (From GayCalgary® Magazine, August 2012, page 21)
Bobby Tulane (Justin Schwan) auditions
Bobby Tulane (Justin Schwan) auditions
Image by: Jean Kim
Amalia Sousa (Barbara Costa) fights for her part
Amalia Sousa (Barbara Costa) fights for her part
Image by: Jean Kim
Dumbass Filmmakers, but Funny Show
Image by: Jean Kim
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A new web series now available online, Dumbass Filmmakers, stars Hunter Lee Hughes as wacky installation artist Harrison DeWinter, a man with a vision of making a movie which will inspire others to save the environment, protest injustice, and embrace bisexuality.

While it is a comedy, a lot of the elements are drawn from the experiences Hunter has had in Los Angeles as an artist. He, along with co-producer Elizabeth Gordon, had just produced their first short film - Winner Takes All- and to a certain degree they felt like dumbasses. "There’s just such a steep learning curve with filmmaking. You just throw yourself into the deep end and see how you swim. There were so many occasions where one or both of us felt like we don’t know what we’re doing," and their previous experience provided the initial idea for the new series.

Dumbass Filmmakers! - Official Trailer

The character of Harrison is drawn from a personality that Hunter has encountered many times – someone with little talent but an over-abundance of enthusiasm. "I definitely think that Los Angeles is filled with people like Harrison. What makes Harrison a winner...even though he may not be that smart or, as you say, may not be that competent, he is going after his dream, and he’s doing it in a way that feels authentic to him." Hunter admires the character for that reason, and it doesn’t make him quick to judge his objectives. The series has hit a nerve - many people have told Hunter similar stories of running into their own "Harrison DeWinters".

Yet while we may laugh at him, the hope is we sympathize with the main character. "It was important to me that he be a three dimensional character. There are things about his experience and his life that I relate to. I’m an artist also, I’m not a millionaire...I’ve fallen in love just like he falls in love. So there’s a lot of ways we are similar. I think as an actor you have to set aside how everyone else may perceive that character. You just love the character and go for the things that are human and similar about the two of you. That’s the way you build a character that people end up relating to or laughing at." The fact Harrison comes up against his own limitations (and seems oblivious about it) is part of the comedy.

Something to which we can all relate, I’m sure. Furthermore, as Hunter tells me, in Los Angeles there is a divide between people who are involved with slick, multi-million dollar Hollywood productions and all the other artists and actors who are just scraping by. Many of the artists in this latter category may have real skills, but because they haven’t been recognized yet, are asking that same question - "am I good enough? Do I have that level of talent?"

It’s kind of dangerous when you start relating to a ridiculous character like Harrison, because then you’ll ask those same questions of yourself, Hunter says.  That what he’s aiming for - the type of humour that makes you think.

As with other web series I’ve watched, it is interesting to see productions realizing that we’re living in a time where the cost of recording equipment has dropped and the Internet, a large distribution network, is at their fingertips ready to be used. You can make a series at a fraction of the cost it took ten, even five years ago.

While Hunter won’t get into specific numbers, he does tell me it’s getting easier. When he made his first short film Winner Takes All, it was 17 minutes. Less than 2 years later, making Dumbass Filmmakers (which runs 68 minutes when all the episodes are added up) cost less than half that of the first film. "Definitely, if you want to do something yourself, it’s possible now, and really there’s no excuse not to anymore."

That being said, Hunter, like many smaller filmmakers, is completely aware that he cannot compete at a higher level of spectacle. So, while production values may not be at the same calibre as Hollywood blockbusters, he and other filmmakers realize there is a demand for good stories. "What I can do is invest a lot of my time and energy developing a story and developing characters so they’re three dimensional, they’re real, they’re interesting. Sometimes I feel like because they can, some Hollywood studio movies pay so much (attention) to spectacle that weirdly enough they don’t put enough time or energy into really figuring things out with the story and the characters."

"I think there is a new aesthetic being developed where...the production value is a little lower but the characters, the story are more quirky and more interesting. The people might actually...end up valuing that more than that blockbuster experience. There’s something about that blockbuster experience that feels too empty, too perfect."

That may be because people putting together these blockbuster spectacles are "very far away from the real lives of people like you and me. It’s hard for them to be in touch with that part of themselves anymore because they’re dealing with so much money, they’re dealing with so much power politics that it’s hard for them to relate to an everyday human experience. People who are closer to that experience are going to be better at telling stories about it."

Funny enough, after watching the first few episodes, I have to say that all the characters, even Harrison, do grow on you. It’s witty , well done, well scripted, well acted (it doesn’t hurt that the male leads are cute) and overall a great piece of entertainment. Maybe this film won’t make you want to save the environment, protest injustice, and embrace bisexuality like the character Harrison would want you to do, but it will make you want to tell the actor Hunter "thanks - for creating a great story."(GC)

Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim
Image by: Jean Kim

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