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Hey folks, here's a totally different type of reality... The reality of striving for it and accomplishing it... overcoming trying times and acheiving your dreams. Uplifting documentaries like CARVING OUT OUR NAME are very helpful on days when all seems lost. And the fact that Darrin carved out the time to write about this today... well it is good to see people moving forward... continuing with life and being functional... here we go....

Hey Harry,

Given the horrific events of today, I'm a little delayed in delivering the Carving Out Our Name review I promised. Here it is:

Carving Out Our Name

Great documentaries are those that break the barriers of pre-scripted narratives, working instead with the wavering screenplay of real life. It's the brave soul that walks the directorial tight rope without a net, taking risks with few resources and a powerful will, allowing the story to form itself.

Tony Zierra is one such individual. Carving Out Our Name is his documentary about four friends Wes Bentley, Brad Rowe, Chad Lindberg and Greg Fawcett who are pursuing their acting dreams in Hollywood. You'll recognize most of them now, but they were no-names when this project started five years ago.

True, Zierra has been blessed with some good luck. He follows Rowe, Lindberg, and Bentley as they experience their big breaks: Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, October Sky and American Beauty, respectively. While this gives the film some definite marketability, it also opens our eyes to scenes that don't make it on the Entertainment Tonight reels. There's a shot at the Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss premiere where an overwhelmed Rowe walks away from a red-carpet interview, exchanging his smiling face with an expression of thinly concealed panic.

As the documentary develops, we see how ephemeral Hollywood success can really be. This theme has been explored in countless riche-to-rags stories, but Zierra humanizes it by showing how it affects people who are close and dear to him. Rowe and Lindberg start to go through some lean times, while Bentley ascends with the success of American Beauty. We also see a lot of loneliness, best conveyed when Bentley is shown alone in a barren Canadian wilderness while on location filming The Claim. We also see the uncertainty and instability that comes with an actor's life, best articulated when Rowe breaks down while discussing how he has it all but has nothing.

Then there's Greg Fawcett - eternal optimist, shameless self-promoter, and least famous of the bunch. Although he toils in obscurity, he consistently interjects comic relief into this film. He cooks up a theory about how good-looking actors never get the big gigs, because Hollywood only goes for guys like "Tom Hanks and -- [very long pause], uh, Woody Harrelson." His good looks thus become a stumbling block, although he still likes to showcase a meticulous glossy of his smiling mug when passing out his C.V.

Fawcett's loved ones keep telling him to look at other avenues, and his stubborn resolve to maintain his acting dream is both comic and tragic. At one point he describes a personal epiphany where God tells him that he's going to be O.K. It sounds far more absurd than any of Oral Roberts‚ wild visions, and is augmented by Zierra's colour-burst interpretation of his experience.

Although Zierra claims he only let the cameras roll to tell this story, it simply isn't true. When pressed in a post-film Q&A session, he admitted he mixed up seven different film and DV formats and culled over 200 hours of footage. Zierra cleverly uses his different filming formats to enhance and contextualize the myriad emotions that flow through this story, and the editing is top-notch. The sparse soundtrack, particularly the Ima Robot tracks, augment various tension-filled scenes in an understated manner.

As for the ending, let's just say it involves some of the rawest improv I've seen on the big screen this year. It's the icing on the cake to a moving and highly entertaining piece of work. See this film when you get the chance.

BTW, the Q&A session was quite funny. Many people wondered how Fawcett was doing, and his sense of humour was as strong in person as it was on screen. Hopefully this film gets a good distribution deal so he can get a little more recognition. If not on the big screen, this film will do well on the small screen ˆ this is the type of juicy 'reality' content that most channels would love to produce or showcase.

ˆ Darrin

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