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Hollywood Screen Kiss-Off

My Big Break (2008)

Bryn Mawr College

A young man moved into a house share in the Los Angeles suburbs in the 1990s and — to demonstrate his filmmaking skills with a camcorder, no script and no money — began documenting his housemates. They were also young men, all jobbing actors newly arrived in Hollywood looking for their big break. Two of them, Brad Rowe and Chad Lindberg, got steady and noticed work in films and television, and the third, Greg Fawcett, had an unshakable belief that his turn was right around the corner. The fourth was Wes Bentley.

Director Tony Zierra then turned this prototype reality-show footage into a film called “Carving Out Our Name,” which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001 before being sunk by lawsuits and studio fear, among other things. This movie actually opens with Mr. Zierra smashing up the master reels of that first movie before urinating on them.

It’s a more indicative opening that was intended, as what Mr. Zierra has done with “My Big Break” is construct a new movie with footage shot in the late 1990s, mixed with some new and more thoughtful footage of Messrs. Lindberg, Rowe and Fawcett, none of whom who are currently enjoying acting success. Mr. Bentley is still working, but has distanced himself from Mr. Zierra and the project.

It’s questionable how much is learned about someone by showing them applying deodorant under a tuxedo before going to the Oscars. Most of Mr. Zierra’s roommates spend their time in front of his camera either horsing around or declaiming with slightly false sincerity that they don’t quite believe their good fortune to be working actors in Hollywood who are generating a buzz. Their self-belief seemed to curdle into delusion awfully quickly, but very little is actually learned about them. Impressions are made, but there’s precious little substance. Mr. Zierra just started rolling the cameras without any purpose, and the flatness of his original endeavor hampers his attempts to impose a story on the footage after the fact.

It’s all well and good to have struck lucky with your subject matter, but it unfortunately cannot hide the fact for most of the time he was behind the camera, Mr. Zierra had no idea what he was doing or why. Having let some time pass, he has realized the value of the access and insight he had, and is now engineering his own big break. Let’s wish him luck, but what a pity he hadn’t started out with a plot or a theme — or at the very least, a beginning, a middle and an end.


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