Many film students, film makers, and film goers have their “Mount Rushmore” for every genre in movie you could consider. However, when it comes to producing independent movies, the carving of said mountain typically begins — and sometimes ends, depending on who you ask — with Orson Welles.
There is one left Welles’ film coming to theaters, The Other Side of the Wind. If you consider yourself a student of the game and an unadulterated cinephile, your movie snob pants are flying crazy at the possibility of this enigmatic, long-overdue production coming to screens.
Welles famously worked on the film for more than a decade before his death in 1985. This was supposed to be his triumphant comeback to Hollywood. And when he wasn’t making this film, he was making Paul Masson wine commercials to pay for it.
In a great pairing — and marketing — move, Netflix and Morgan Neville created a documentary on the making and completion of that film entitled They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.
(And if Neville’s name sounds familiar in here, it’s because we are fans. He plied his Academy Award-winning craft to the Fred Rogers’ documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor.)
So, what in the world does that mean anyway?
The now-prophetic thought was made when Welles was talking to fellow director Peter Bogdanovich. Basically, Orson Welles never got the helping Hollywood hand when he needed it to make a movie. In prototypical sycophant or legendary fashion, Welles knew there would be a day when those people would live to regret that move.
In a day where independent films didn’t have a movement because they just never moved, Orson Welles was the champion for the movie-making process. And in 1941, he needed another champion — someone that could take on a metaphorical feel to what Welles was feeling in Hollywood. He took on the live experiences (albeit very loosely) of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.
“There’s only one person in the world who’s going to decide what I’m going to do and that’s me.” –Charles Foster Kane
That’s how arguably the greatest film ever made was made. Citizen Kane is the forefather of every independent film created. And Welles is the wind beneath its wings. He was the first individual to be given the cinematic trifecta — a huge contract with a multi-picture deal, a massive budget, and the final cut of his first film. He was beloved and bemoaned for his efforts.
So when the Citizen Kane luster wore off its shine, many people in Hollywood wanted nothing to do with Welles. Wind was to sing his praises again. It ended up being Welles’ swan song.
In a stroke of cinematic genius, Netflix is responsible for producing and promoting both. Wind is going to both sizes of screen. Dead will launch on Netflix prior to the movie’s release to get people amped for viewing. In the wold of independent filmmaking, directors and production houses have to think of grassroots efforts to get eyeballs on their low-budget movies.
Netflix gave the independent film treatment to arguably its most deserving star. The Wrap brilliantly puts it like this:
After the rollercoaster journey “They’ll Love Me” details, it’s enough to make one contemplate: Could Neville’s documentary be, in a sense, what Welles wanted “The Other Side of the Wind” to be all along? Someone else’s movie about Orson Welles’s [sic] movie about a fictional director’s movie which is inside another movie that’s ultimately about all movies?
Will this be the fitting last chapter in the book by one of Hollywood’s true authors close to 30 years after it was intended? Netflix is wishing because now that Welles is dead, we should all love him a little.
Will this strategy work to get film aficionados young and old alike to watch this enigmatic movie and appreciate Welles for the dyspeptic and spellbinding film maker he was? We can only hope because Hollywood owes him a lot.