It’s American Idol for filmmakers—a highly competitive, strut-your-stuff television show that provides amateur filmmakers with the tools, toys and teachers that comprise a mini-film school. Okay, it’s better than American Idol, because there are a million greenbacks involved and no one cares what you’re wearing or what your eating habits are. What compels the “On The Lot” audience is whether or not these aspiring auteurs can entertain Hollywood-style.
Last week, we ventured out to CBS Studios in Studio City for a behind-the-scenes look at the struggling series. When we arrived, we found a long line of audience members waiting in the hot sun for their ticket to “action film” night. After waiting in the green room while the audience was seated, we were escorted into a glowing theatre lit with flashing marquees, wall-to-wall movie posters plugging contestants’ films and an energized emcee touting movie trivia for Starbucks cards.
Just before showtime, regular judges Carrie Fisher (actress, “Star Wars”) and Garry Marshall (director, “Pretty Woman”), along with guest judge Antoine Fuqua (director, “Training Day”) stepped into the spotlight, but were quickly swarmed by makeup artists and soon upstaged by host Adrianna Costa, who traipsed about in 6-inch clunkers and a teeny-tiny disco dress that pushed out enough cleavage to boost saggy ratings. The scintillating get-up was almost enough to distract people from noticing she read verbatim from teleprompters and feigned flirtation with the all-male cast of contestants while urging “America” to call in their votes to the box office.
Five filmmakers, neatly dressed according to their personal style, sat to the side of the stage while screening their action flick and then went front and center to face the judges’ gavels. The audience booed Fisher’s harsh critiques and laughed aloud at Marshall’s kooky witticisms. Fuqua commended the filmmakers for focusing on wild chases, skateboard rides and running rampant instead of depending on violence to drive the narrative.
As the crowd took their exit, we caught up with Adam Stein (who was sitting out this round, but you can catch him screen his romantic comedy Tuesday, July 24). He obliged us with a snapshot, but was reluctant to speak with us since interaction with the outside world is forbidden. It’s probably better for morale since ratings are so low, but even if “America” isn’t watching, the industry certainly is.