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Indie Films a Genre Worth Watching

4 Aug, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

One of my favorite parts of the annual VSDA convention over the past five years has been the growing number and variety of independent filmmakers attending for the filmmaker program.

They have a lot in common with independent retailers when it comes to pluck and passion, and can learn a lot from the independent suppliers at the show.

Of course, a little success can make it all go spectacularly wrong.

I had independent film on my mind after this year's show and watched Overnight, the documentary on Troy Duffy, the bartender who became a self-destructive abusive nightmare after Harvey Weinstein plucked him from behind the bar and into the director's chair for his screenplay The Boondock Saints. He also scored a soundtrack deal for his band, and Weinstein purportedly purchased the Hollywood hangout Duffy had been working at for years.

It's amazing to me how quickly Duffy turned into a jerk, badmouthing everyone from Weinstein on down to his best friends and brother.

Given that, it's not so amazing how quickly it all fell spectacularly apart for Duffy, though he did finally manage to get his movie made.

I watched Boondock Saints after I watched Overnight. People have talked about this movie to me over the years; it definitely has a cult following on DVD, though Duffy doesn't get any piece of that success.

I can see why this bloody actioner has found its following, why at one time a number of Hollywood's top stars were attached to the script.

It's a good script, it's a pretty good movie, and I was surprised to see it was shot pretty well.

But I can also see why I've never, before watching Overnight, heard of Troy Duffy.

According to imdb.com, a Boondock Saints II is in pre-production. I'll believe it when I see it, unless the guy has changed his stripes a lot.

I was talking to one independent supplier at the show last week. His company passed on picking up Overnight for DVD (ThinkFilm has it now), but he did send it with his daughter when she left for film school, telling her to have her teacher show it to the class as a cautionary tale.

As I watched Overnight, I was mentally creating a timeline. The events of the documentary are taking place in 1997 and 1998.

It's obvious to me why Weinstein was ready to take a chance on this rough bartender with a golden idea — Miramax and Weinstein were just coming off their relationship with Kevin Smith, having purchased Clerks about three years earlier. Smith even brokered into his agreement that Miramax spend a set amount of money on indie projects other than his.

To the naked eye, Smith and Duffy are similar. Both are smart guys, both were in the trenches, both had much more under the surface than a first glance would reveal. Both write and create films that appeal to the same kind of age group and similar entertainment consumer.

But Smith took his chance and used it to pull his already tight circle of friends even closer together and created View Askew Productions, the result of which we all know. Mallrats is about to get a 10th Anniversary DVD, just like Clerks, which was an amazing disc.

The 10th anniversary of Boondock Saints is coming up. Bet there are a lot more stories to tell about that film, other than Overnight. But I would venture to bet Saints won't get a special edition release — and even if it did, would Duffy even be invited to be part of it?

I don't know, maybe the guy has learned his lesson, maybe Hollywood will know his name again soon.

In the meantime, in the world of independent film, I'm looking forward to see what the newest generation of Smiths and Duffys are up to. It's rarely dull, that's for sure.

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