Film: When a Documentary Goes Wrong

The harder Capp tried to help the subject (and the film), the more he failed. To provide some kind of ending to the film he imagined, Zach throws Larry a birthday party where the fry cook, in his sideburns and comb over, clearly looks uncomfortable. 

He tries to get Larry to be judge of an annual Turkey Parade in town but Larry bails. He tries to get him the concession at a Sioux Falls speedway and concert venue, where it appears the band Kiss is on board, but Larry ultimately skips that gig too. It’s not even clear he knew who Kiss was.

As all these failures pile up, the film crew decides maybe what they were seeing unfold was a better film — about a novice filmmaker in way over his head. The mutineers begin turning their cameras to Zach instead of the taciturn fry king. And we learn a few hard-won lessons about first time filmmaking. Among them: 

– When staring your film team, making branded baseball caps maybe isn’t the top priority (but Capp is his name, he insists). 

– When traveling the country, a private jet perhaps shouldn’t be the first choice for transportation.

– After making a point about throwing good money after bad, there’s no need to further illustrate the point by arranging an animated segment (though maybe they’re proving the argument).

Eventually, Capp is so far in the hole financially, he has no choice but go along with the film’s new direction. He just wants to get something out. 

And “The Ringmaster” turns out to be an entertaining enough crowd pleaser about the process. 

The crew is full of thoughtful young professionals who nonetheless admire Capp’s spunk. Some of them are supportive enough that they pitch in to make rings for an all important Vegas tasting party.

The only downside of the effort is that Zach’s relentless effort to put Larry on film may have pushed his subject further into a sad direction that contrasts with the film’s generally sunnier tone.

“The Ringmaster” benefits from some editing by Julian Edward Williams as well as Dave Newborn and Molly Dworsky, who swoop in toward the end to bring some shape to the film. Indeed, Capp himself is listed not as director, but as producer, writer and editor. Sean Brogan extracts himself from the project, and commits what might be the greatest sin to Capp — he returns his branded baseball cap. 

Like a few other films about failed film projectss, this one has a lot to offer. It’s an enjoyable watch that would only be made better with a fresh basket of just the right onion rings.  

‘The Ringmaster’ is available on demand on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vimeo and VuDu. 

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