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The Independent Critic

Hallie York, Brian Cheng, Eric James Eastman, Jessica Coles
Elana Mugdan
106 Mins.

 "Director's Cut" Review 
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Director's Cut is an independent film.

Filmed on an estimated $20,000 production budget, likely less than Avatar's toilet paper budget, Director's Cut is a frequently entertaining and tremendously promising cinematic effort from writer/director Elana Mugdan. Mugdan made her first low-budget feature film when she was a mere 11-years-old, according to IMDB, a feature that starred her cat Skylo and other neighborhood animals. Since then, she's directed and produced a trilogy of sci-fi/fantasy home movies between 2005-2007 and since Director's Cut has completed two short films, To Live For and Draconis Olim.

Director's Cut
is the story of Cassie Thompson (Hallie York), a college drop-out and ex-film student who decides to make a movie in an effort to turn around her dead-end life.

As nearly anyone who has ever made an ultra-indie would tell you, it ain't gonna' be easy.

From budget issues to equipment problems and fussy actors to logistical chaos, Director's Cut gives a funny and occasionally touching glimpse at the unpredictable world of the micro-cinema filmmaker. Much like the movie that they're making, Director's Cut itself practically serves as the textbook example of the ultra indie. When you take away Hollywood's usual mega-budgeted films and their technical prowess, you're left with a stripped down cinematic adventure where actors have to rely on talent rather than editing and technical glitches/issues are the rule and not the exception.

Certain people, this critic included, can embrace these kinds of low budget films despite their inevitable flaws and abundant challenges. People who require cinematic spoon-feeding and distraction less movie going, aren't likely to be fans of these super low budget films with all their quirks and flaws.

So, let me just put that out there up front. Director's Cut is a flawed film. As is nearly always true with these films, the acting can be quite hit-and-miss and the sound mix can be quite uneven. Films like Director's Cut are the breeding grounds of up-and-coming filmmakers, actors, writers and tech crew. While none of these folks are household names, there's a pretty darn good chance that some of these folks will burst through to solid acclaim on the indie scene or, for the fortunate ones, an actual career in Hollywood.

Mugdan's script, which she co-wrote with Chris Morcom, is a little gem despite its rather formulaic approach to the foibles of filmmaking. While the story's structure may be predictable, the characters are a delightful mix of quirky, sweet and funny with Mugdan and Morcom doing a nice job of balancing their quirkiness with some genuinely human moments. Among the film's ensemble cast, there are a couple performances worth really noting including Jessica Coles' hilariously sweet turn as Arielle, an A.D. on the film who can never quite seem to figure out what she's doing. As the film's D.P. and tech everyman, Eric James Eastman is a terrific mix of attitude and humor.

The film's real D.P., Dave Dodds, does a nice job lensing the film given its incredibly modest budget and, for the most part, manages to avoid the usual ultra-indie plagues of excessively fuzzy or blurry shots. Llana Barron's original score complements the film perfectly, while Karina Rose's production design gives the film a low-key authenticity that fits it quite nicely.

The dilemma with many low budget indies, including this one, is how to balance an honest critical evaluation while encouraging all involved for their persistence, talent and commitment. It ultimately comes down to acknowledging that, yes, Director's Cut has some flaws that would prove too distracting for your average American moviegoer who is used to highly edited mega-budget films. While Director's Cut unquestionably has its flaws, it's a promising flick from Elana Mugdan and it should be interesting to watch her grow as a filmmaker in coming years.

Currently on the indie fest circuit, Director's Cut has screened at the New Hope Film Festival, where it picked up the Indie Spirit Award, and the Filmshift Film Festival along with a few other indie fests. For more information on Director's Cut, visit the Director's Cut Facebook Page or the Shivnath Productions website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic