Do you like stories? Do you like telling stories? If you answered yes to either of those questions, two films which showed at this year’s Fantastic Fest should be on your must-see list. They both provide joy for movie fans and lessons for filmmakers.
The films — King on Screen and Lynch/Oz — explore the evolution, inspirations, and techniques of two of the most influential storytellers in the world of film.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country, shows horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit into standard genres. The 2022 edition screened primarily at Austin’s iconic Alamo Drafthouse Theater — South Lamar. It also used online options and other venues to give fans more ways to watch.
King on Screen
Ninety-five percent of King on Screen consists of directors and screenwriters speaking about their interactions with Stephen King and his stories, interspersed with clips from the films and appearances by King. Don’t let the thought of all those talking heads scare you off. I was not bored for a moment.
All the talking about King on screen is bookended by a cute, spooky story which incorporates names, places, and spoofed scenes from films based on King’s work. This bookend story starts with a lady driving into a city named Salem’s Lot, and going into a store named Creepshow. At the end, she leaves the store and walks out into The Mist. The little skit is funny and scary.
The film covers an amazing number of topics. How Stephen King gets his ideas and writes. Tidbits like how he tossed Carrie in the trash and his wife saved it. What it was like to work with him as a filmmaker. Why his stories were so good, and how they differed from what came before.
I kept saying to myself, “Oh, Stephen King wrote that, too!”
Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption and creator of The Walking Dead, gets the most screen time. His insights into the storytelling and filmmaking process will spark your creativity. He remarks, “Remember: You will be remembered for the kindness you show or the art you create, not for how much you leave in your bank account.”
I believe I left this film as an improved storyteller and that you will, too.
To find out when and where you can see the film, check its Facebook page.
This film, by director/writer Alexandre O. Philippe, takes a completely different approach to exploring a filmmaker’s work. That approach also works, which in itself is a lesson. King on Screen is 95 percent talking heads. Lynch/Oz presents not one such scene. Instead, the filmmakers divided the film into six chapters, each narrated by a different filmmaker or critic talking about the work of David Lynch.
During the Q&A after the film, producer Kerry Deignan Roy shared how they began the production process by doing a series of interviews. Then they built the script around what the interviewees had shared about Lynch.
So, what was on the screen and where did The Wizard of Oz come in?
Lynch, whose works include Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks, was heavily influenced by The Wizard of Oz. Lynch/Oz suggests it was one of his most enduring obsessions. He said it was one of the first films he remembers seeing in a theater as a child. (I have the same memory — thanks, Mom and Aunt Mary.) One might think, “Yeah, a lot of people liked that film. So?”
That is where what showed on the screen comes in. Both visually and in terms of story structure Lynch/Oz explains the influence of The Wizard of Oz on Lynch and other filmmakers. For most of the film the screen is split, with The Wizard of Oz on one side and another film illustrating a point on the other. The very first sequence shows the Scarecrow falling while dancing on the left, and James Stewart from It’s a Wonderful Life taking a tumble on the right. The scenes are almost identical.
My first reaction was, “What a coincidence.” By the end, the film had convinced me that wasn’t so.
It’s About Home
But beyond visuals, the film examines structure, invoking The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. That’s a name you hear on the first day of film school and many more times until you graduate or run away to make a movie. The dictum is: “When you write your script, follow the structure explained by Campbell.”
But The Wizard of Oz does not follow that structure. A short explanation: The “hero’s journey” starts with a challenge to which the hero responds, decides to go off and fight, then usually returns to his home victorious. Lynch/Oz shows that many of Lynch’s works and those of many other filmmakers do not follow that outline. The Wizard of Oz‘s structure takes the hero and throws them into a strange or upside-down world (yes, that was a Stranger Things reference), from which they must struggle to get home. If you find yourself in this situation, always remember to click those red shoes together.
However, Lynch did not struggle to escape from The Wizard of Oz. In fact, the film lets us hear Lynch saying, “There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about The Wizard of Oz.”
Lynch/Oz is screening currently at film festivals, More info on can be found at the production company’s Facebook page.
To get updates about future Fantastic Fest events and ways to view its films, check its website.