A humorous, melancholy and affectionate look at the global obsession with movies, "TINSEL - The Lost Movie About Hollywood" was lost for 30 years and never shown publicly. An outside-in, inside-out view of the Motion Picture Industry circa 1990, it is a film about fame in general and the love of movies in particular. The film includes new footage offering perspective from the 21st century and examines the uncertain future the industry faces in its second century, as technology and new platforms change the movie-watching experience forever.
79 minutes, Color and B&W.
Thirty some odd years ago (the Spring of 1990) I had a half-baked idea that I would get a small 16mm film crew together and travel from my home base in San Antonio, Texas and find people along the way to tell us of their passion for movies, dreams of fame or about the screenplays they were writing. In these pre-Internet days, we made expensive long-distant calls to places like Hassayampa, Arizona and Deming, New Mexico. We wrote letters to local newspapers along the route placing ads requesting budding actors, screenwriters and anyone fascinated with the movies to contact us.
My grand idea was to make a film that mixed the wistfulness of those that wanted to get “in” the movies with those that were already “in.” Why does the Cinema have such a hold on so many of us? That is what I wanted to take a deep-dive into. Mixed with all of that, I wanted to intercut clips from classic movies to comment and illuminate the documentary, because I didn’t want traditional documentary narration. I figured a movie about the magic of movies had to show a little of the magic.
It turned out that the offers we had to buy the finished film were less than what we would have to pay the studios for the film clips, let alone the considerable production costs. So the film set idle for three decades. “Fair Use” laws evolved finally allowed the clips to be used on a project like this.
I always wanted to go back to the film, and somehow resurrect it for a modern audience. I couldn’t stand the idea of making a film that would never be seen.
It wasn’t until after Agnès Varda’s death in 2019 that I found the real inspiration to “fix” the film. I attended the Cannes Film Festival that May, and Ms. Varda’s photo was everywhere. Her film, CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 is one of my favorite films of all time. I re-watched THE GLEAMERS AND I and other of her later films and realized there was nothing keeping me from resurrecting my dead documentary. If Varda could shoot and narrate her documentaries herself, not with a marketable “high concept” theme, but just about her observations and impressions, I could too. Varda loved life, that was her real theme and her gift to the world.
TINSEL- THE LOST FILM ABOUT HOLLYWOOD is about what was, and what is, but mostly about the magic of a flickering light that tells stories in a dark room.