We’ve all heard of the famously shady Hollywood accounting. You know, the kind that moves numbers and dollar signs around until even Titanic somehow fails to make a profit when it comes time to pay out the backend points. Low Budget, a new feature-film-turned-web-series on KoldCast TV from Canadian production company Capital j. Films, has a concept inspired by just such accounting practices.
The series revolves around actor/writer Jaye Wolfgang (Pat Thornton) and director/producer Jason Rosa (Neil Green). They run a fledgling Hollywood production company that’s never actually produced anything besides a stack of unpaid bills. They’re even startled when the phone rings, assuming it had been cut off. But luckily it wasn’t yet, because the voice on the other end of the line is a naïve Canadian producer who hires them site unseen to make a travel series of vacation hotspots in Canada.
Do Jaye and Jason sell out their feature film dreams for the $100,000 budget of a Canadian travel show? Not exactly. They agree to make the show but decide to do it on the cheap, secretly diverting most of the funds to produce Jaye’s epic sci-fi blockbuster passion project Invasion Q. It’s a smart concept, but the execution is hit or miss.
Instead of playing with the inherent comedic tension that comes with stealing money to covertly make a movie, Low Budget falls into the familiar “worst _______ ever” category of humor. In this case it’s “worst filmmakers ever”. Jaye and Jason cast a lead actress just to sleep with her, hire a Director of Photography with an eye-patch, cover Jaye in weird orange make-up for some reason, shoot all day and admittedly “get nothing accomplished.” Eventually, the Canadian producer does become upset, but it’s just a bump in the road as Jaye and Jason continue being bad filmmakers: hurting themselves doing unsafe stunts, fumbling their way through lame special effects, failing to pay their actors and having to pixilate their faces in a promotional music video. That last one is hysterical.
Low Budget is the creation of director Jedrzej Jonasz and producer Maciej Jonasz. While its difficult to get a true sense of their story arc because these five-minute webisodes are essentially excerpts from a full movie, the “mockumentary” style is apparent. Handheld cameras, low/no lighting, camcorder video quality. It all looks fine for the web, but I can’t imagine it on the big screen. There are no writing credits, just story, so I can only assume the dialogue is improvised around the Jonasz’s story structure.
Thornton and Green are both capable improvisors in terms of generating material, but when it comes to getting laughs, Thornton is the go-to guy in the editing room. The funniest stuff comes from his free-associations and non sequitur throw away lines. The supporting castmembers are drawn broadly as one-joke characters, which is accentuated by the way-too-on-the-nose music that pops up as soon as it’s their turn to talk. For example, whenever the hip hip wannabe Assistant Director opens his mouth, a hip hop track suddenly materializes underneath his dialogue.
In general, it feels a little weird to offer up an opinion of a movie I’ve only seen half of in short 5 minute bursts. But as far as online viewers are concerned these 10 episodes stand alone as a web series, and my thoughts on that web series is that it’s a great idea that could’ve been better executed but is still worth checking out.