Four college film students embark on the riskiest journey of a lifetime to investigate local call-girl escort services for their class documentary project.
Bill (played by Ethan Norris), trying to put his life back on track after fleeing from his violent past, leads his group with bombastic flair.
These leadership squabbles, and a dangerous proximity to their film’s subjects, leads to disaster in this salty, sultry laugh riot.
It’s “The Blair Witch Project” with hookers.
The role and responsibility of the documentarian are viciously skewered in this dark farce.
BackPage is a monumental social statement, a modern morality tale, mockumentary cinema at its finest.
I’m still reconstituting the film’s project on my computers.
I plan to goose the opening scenes to increase the themes of drama and foreshadowing (as well as export an HD version.)
I have an idea for a new scene that will contextualize all that’s being displayed and concisely introduce the plot.
What needs to remain concealed is the bait-and-switch that the film commits. The faux plot is designed, like an M. Night Shyamalan film, is simple: BackPage isn’t about prostitutes; it’s about a man who prostitutes himself. Essentially, it’s about the difference between a whore and a prostitute: a prostitute is a professional, a pro who knows the value of their commodity; while a whore will short-sell, devaluing their service in the market.
BackPage is about a man, a failure, who finally gets his one chance to win. His only goal is to be able to go the distance and succeed by never giving up (like Rocky Balboa.) He just wants to make it to the finish line for the first time in his life. But, since this film is a dark, comic tragedy, our hero ends up giving everything he’s got only to lose himself, like Charles Foster Kane.
That’s why I’ve employed a non-linear scene progression to the plot, to occlude the narrative within a mysterious direction, a style popularized by Quentin Tarantino.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the film’s Consumer/Amateur Aesthetic. We specifically designed it for authenticity.
All of this adds up to the niche market that this film is aimed at: hipster film students and washed-up industrial media producers. Films like Living In Oblivion, American Movie, have succeeded in reaching this target group. They’ve become a secret language, a metaphor they share with each other: it expresses their dreams and laments their failure. This underground clique, hardened in crucible of media combat, understands the experiences represented in this film.
On its face, it may appear difficult to sell such a film (since it criticizes the Troy Duffys, Mark Borchardts, Morgan Spurlocks and Johnny Knoxvilles we all aspire to), but such a roast or lampooning of the industry is often more popular than a message praising it. For every Argo or Wag the Dog, you have dozens of movies like State & Main or Tropic Thunder.
That’s what gives BackPage it’s teeth: nowadays, everyone thinks they can be the next Matt Drudge or Werner Herzog. New Media blurs the line between journalism, infotainment, and Instagram. And that is the message of our film, but with a twisted sense of humour. Think of it as a Tromaville production of an Upright Citizens Brigade script directed by Michael Moore.
And, it’s reaching its audience. The site generates about 100 hits per day (back when we were still blogging it was pulling in almost 500 per day.) 33% of those visitors look at 3 or more pages and spend at least three minutes on the site. The irony is that these are creeps who are looking for the REAL BackPage website. They’re looking for pornography and prostitutes; and finding our concept interesting. Enough of them to buy it on Amazon a dozen times per month. And that number grows each month.
The point is that all this traffic is performed with no marketing whatsoever. Imagine what it could do if it reached its target demographic. I’m writing a lesson plan for professors to teach this film to their media ethics courses. That will sell a few T-shirts.
So, yes, we have some ideas.
− Movie title:
BackPage: The Movie, The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Satire”
− # of characters in the movie ____________43____________________________
− Where did the movie shoot take place? (location) Fort Worth, Texas_____
− How long did it take to complete the movie shoot?
Three months of pre-production, Nine days of shooting, Six months of editing
− What format was the movie shot in?
HDV, DV, DVCAM, Hi8, VHS, SVHS, MPEG4, H.264_
− What type of camera was used for the shooting?
Canon XL-H1, Sony VX3, Sanyo Xacti VCPE1, Sony PD100, Sony TRV 900, Lorex SG4915, Aiptek MPVR
− Is the movie honest, true to its own position?
Sure, it doesn’t cop out with a fake happy ending. Nobody gets off easy. Everybody gets what’s coming to them.
- What is the plot?
Bill is a deeply damaged man who tries in vain to lead his school-group project: producing a documentary on call-girls. He is beset on all sides by idiots, in his group and in his course, from the professor to the militant feminists who antagonize him. But Bill is simply trying to become an adult by learning a new skill in media production while achieving his college degree, after a disastrous tour with the military. His pending nuptials make the third ring in this circus as he attempts to hide his plans from his over-achieving fiancé. Will Bill survive his group team members’ dubious work ethic? What legal ramifications will he endure from such close proximity to sex workers? What’s the deal with him and his mother? All this and more as we find out who answers those creepy sex ads on the BackPage.
Bill ultimately proves the darkness of his ambition and shows everyone just how far he is willing to go, selling his soul along the way and sacrificing all. Nobody stands in his way and it costs him everything.
− What is the moral stance of the film? Is the film relativistic, dogmatic, or both in some combination?
“The medium is the message” as Marshall McLuhan said sixty years ago. The FaceBook/Youtube generation proves the truth of this axiom. Johannes Guttenberg and Bill Gates figured everyone would have the potential to be Geoffrey Chaucer or William Shakespeare, once we simply had their technology in our hands.
Now video production technology for the instant acquisition, editing, and distribution of content literally lie in the palms of our hands. Yet, we have no expectations for anyone in the general populace to be the next DA Pennebaker or Orson Welles. James O’Keefe is the best we can expect. Their intent may be honest, to aspire to Prometheus, but their inescapable narcissism and demonology thwarts them.
Vulgarity is new currency of communication, the old language of modern catharsis. That’s what BackPage represents: this generation’s complete absence of meaning, understanding or context. Every film student wants to be the next Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson. They fail to realize that they resonate more with Thomas Kinkade than Martin Van Maele. We as Americans prefer Kool-Aid to Bordeaux. As ononoligists, we take piss over Perrier.
BackPage’s lead character, Bill, represents the true American everyman. No great war to prove himself, no undiscovered horizon to name after himself. The idiot son of every great hero. Raised in the noise of Saturday morning cartoons and high octane, high fructose/corn-fed McLife. Numb from a life of static, he knows noting but this low signal-to-noise ratio life and so he now shares the same thousand-yard stare of every American looking for meaning in a video screen.
Bill is the polar opposite of the anti-hero: while distasteful, bombastic and acerbic, his dramatic arc is mainly pathetic, not tragic (like Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman.) He is the celebrated vulgarian in every reality series. He’s a perfect fit for the illusion of celebrity, the lie that anyone can achieve fame and American fortune and that by doing so, all problems are solved. That’s what he seeks when he turns his documentary away from an important social topic and makes it a star-spangled stunt starring himself as the man shot from a canon.
The moral core of BackPage is the idea that documentary production involves an investment from the filmmaker. A principal sum that’s almost as valuable as the one that film’s subjects and participants make. This is the guardianship role that all filmmakers must accept. The boundaries of this stewardship extend not only to the protection and honor human subjects of the film, but beyond to audience and their understanding of the issues. That’s where a documentarian gains their authority.
And that is the failing of this generation: It’s not just Bill’s lack of rudimentary skill in visual grammar and rhetorical reasoning; it’s his breathless worship of technology, his exploitation of the vulnerable for his own promotion, and the ever braying spectacle, bordering on pornography, that permeates all.
In Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. He steals the mother’s milk and blackens it to make printer’s ink to scoff at her and glorify ideal women with. Perish the race and wither a thousand women if only the sacrifice of them enable him to act Hamlet better, to paint a finer picture, to write a deeper poem, a greater play, a profounder philosophy!”
The irony is that Bill’s sacrifice will not yield high art worthy of its cost. His fifteen minutes will only leave him washed up and destitute. Unable to return to polite society, unwelcome at any trade or public venue, Bill, the new Kardashian, sits alone with only his fool’s gold for company and consolation. It’s Bill’s blindness to his own consequences that defines him. This is the immorality of his character: in the abdication of responsibility that a documentary filmmaker holds, the wielding of reckless power. It’s his hubris, his prideful and tragic flaw, that is the genesis of his destruction.
− Are there allusions to historical events, literary works, other films, famous people, Scripture, etc. that would give us some idea where the filmmakers are coming from?
The film is full of scatological non sequiturs referencing history , literature, and pop-culture. To name but a few, BackPage showcases the immaturity of the current anti-war movement in protesting George Bush’s Afghanistan/Iraq war/war on terror. The film also criticizes the Salvation Army’s war on homosexuals and the general commercialization of Christmas.
Obviously, Ed Wood and Mark Borchardt are the inspirations for this film: the idea of the successful outsider artist penetrating the bureaucracy of the elite, foiling the conspiracy of the literati. The American faith that good ole’ folk wisdom and country pride defeat conventional wisdom every time.
But, Bill obviously inspires comparisons that are closer to Troy Duffy, from Overnight (and, of course, Boondock Saints.)
What are the chief images of the film? Is there anything interesting about the lighting, the camera angles, and the sound, the timing that would reinforce a particular theme? Are there significant symbols?
As far as a unique film language is concerned, think of the aesthetics of BackPage as “Big Brother” meets “Grey Gardens” meets “The Real World” meets “Cops”.
The camera’s role (and by extension, the audience) is as a voyeur, the spy, and the interloper. The majority of BackPage is delivered via twelve hidden security cameras in Bill’s house. These VGA quality, monochromatic green-grey toned, six frames per second, CMOS images remind one of Big Brother’s ever-present, inescapable gaze from Georg Orwell’s 1984. BackPage is a place where liberty has been exchanged for security and celebrity.
Bill, in his roll as the documentarian and interviewer, takes on the personas of both the aggressive interrogator/inquisitor and the smarmy gameshow host. It’s the classic interview face-off archetype: the pseudo-intellectual fraud confrontation and exploitation of class-warfare (both on-camera and in the classroom), the interviewer as a fishmonger.
BackPage’s most iconic images:
1. The white wedding gown,
2. Newspaper advertisements and headlines with exclamation point and bold, red font,
3. And the stereotypical vestments and regalia of university life: the 60’s lecture hall, a professor in a corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches, the incessant blue flicker of a video screen and furious clacking of keyboards, constant drinking.
PackPage represents the MTV generation’s communication aesthetic: Shaky-cam, non-linear editing, shorthand vernacular, odd exposures and color-corrections, static/distortion, vintage tape whir, lens blur, RF static, low resolution, compression artifacts, smash cuts. It all adds up to style over substance: lots of disorientation, misdirection, nausea inducing vertigo, and lots of blue and orange.
It’s hard to keep a running tally of plays with all these sources. Some don’t list total plays. Others are just links back to my you tube account (I find that very considerate. Some even cite me.) I’m guessing 75k people have seen it?
As for the pop and rock stations that posted it, I’m curious if the song got any airplay?
PS. I love their screenshots:
Oh, and some asshole on YouTube with user name Gao Xiao stole it for his own: