Movies about creative collaboration?
August 18, 2009 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Examples of movies about people collaborating on creative projects?

I'm looking for examples of movies that are about groups of people working on creative projects together. I'm teaching a class for artists and designers that focusses on collaborative creative work, and may show some of these movies in class.

A couple of examples I've come up with so far: My Best Fiend, about the troubled working relationship between director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski, and I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, a documentary following Wilco during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I think documentaries would be most useful for my purposes, but feel free to suggest fiction as well, or even other media if you think it might be helpful.
posted by oulipian to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hearts of Darkness -- documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now.
Also, Let It Be.
posted by bunny hugger at 7:51 AM on August 18, 2009

i think they kind of do that in drumline.
posted by lester at 8:13 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: I haven't seen it, but Topsy-Turvy is a well-regarded Mike Leigh film about the Gilbert & Sullivan partnership.
posted by dfan at 8:16 AM on August 18, 2009

Young @ Heart - the documentary about a group of seniors singing covers of rock songs. Maybe a little outside what you are looking for, but definitely highlights many of the challenges and triumphs of collaboration.
posted by messica at 8:41 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Lost in La Mancha is a documentary about Terry Gilliam's failed attempt at filming "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote."
posted by Eumachia L F at 8:51 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: The Sundance Channel did a reality TV show called Architecture School
about a group of students from Tulane University who design and build a house in New Orleans.
posted by at the crossroads at 8:55 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Beautiful Losers is a documentary about "a loose-knit group of likeminded outsiders who found common ground at a little NYC storefront gallery. Rooted in the DIY (do-it-yourself) subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip hop & graffiti, they made art that reflected the lifestyles they led. Developing their craft with almost no influence from the "establishment" art world, this group, and the subcultures they sprang from, have now become a movement that has been transforming pop culture."

Disclaimer, I've not seen it but the trailer looks good.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:05 AM on August 18, 2009

Waiting for Guffman comes to mind.
posted by usonian at 9:23 AM on August 18, 2009

Last Dance.

About a dance theatre production involving Maurice Sendak. Very beautiful.

Better yet---Man On Wire.

Maybe less what you're looking for, but it is too awesome not to mention.

(Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure sort of fits your guidelines....)
posted by Darth Fedor at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Concert of Wills: Making the Getty Center is an interesting documentary about the all the different stakeholders and competing creative visions involved in the conception and building of The Getty Center.
posted by extrabox at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2009

Robert Altman's made a few fictional films on collaborative artistic subjects: Prêt-à-Porter (fashion) and The Company (ballet) spring to mind.
posted by hnnrs at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2009

The first that comes to mind is The Great Escape. The second is School of Rock.
posted by knile at 10:57 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, John Waters' demented Cecil B. DeMented follows a group of anarchic film makers trying to make a movie. Seriously recommended.
posted by hnnrs at 11:30 AM on August 18, 2009

Playing for change!
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2009

From the '30s/''40s:
-Renoir's "The Crime of Monsieur Lange" concerns a factory collective.
-King Vidor's "Our Daily Bread" depicts collective farming.
-Any number of MGM Andy Hardy films (Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: "Hey kids, let's put on a show in the old barn").
-Marcel Carne's "Children of Paradise:" a theater company in Paris (filmed under Nazi occupation).

More recently, the Canadian miniseries "Slings and Arrows" shows life in Shakespeare Rep. company.
posted by doncoyote at 12:00 PM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions so far! There's lots of stuff here I would never have thought of. Having read the Criterion Collection thread today, I think I'll also take a look at Symbiopsychotaxiplasm....
posted by oulipian at 12:27 PM on August 18, 2009

Zack And Miri Make a Porno
posted by LordSludge at 12:38 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

American Movie
posted by dogwalker at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2009

Once. Very sweet, low-key film about two people who meet by chance and rather spontaneously begin collaborating musically, eventually bringing in a few more collaborators in an ad hoc fashion. It's truly a study in organic collaboration.
posted by messica at 1:11 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shadow of the Vampire!
posted by EatTheWeek at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2009

posted by rhizome at 2:17 PM on August 18, 2009

I'm not sure exactly what your intentions with the movies are - Synecdoche, NY is wonderful, and explores many angles in the creative process, but I don't know if it would do anything for the class, as it is perhaps mostly about frustrations and difficulties (and it's R-rated, which can be complicated, depending on the school). Also, although there are many people involved, it is very much one man's project, so I dunno if that fits enough with the "collaborative" aspect.
posted by mdn at 2:22 PM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: mdn: Yeah, maybe I should have been a little more specific, because I'm not likely to show Zack And Miri Make a Porno or Synecdoche, NY in class, but I suppose they do fit the criteria. I would like to find movies that most of the students would not have already seen, so I'm mostly looking for less Hollywoodish stuff. I think that documentaries work best for my purposes.

Personally I was pretty disappointed by Synecdoche... it started out well, but it just got completely tiresome and tedious by the end. Maybe I should give it another shot.
posted by oulipian at 3:05 PM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Hearts of Darkness, about the making of Apocalypse Now, is a must, as is Burden of Dreams, which, since you mention My Best Fiend, you've probably seen. For poignancy and schadenfreude in equal measure, there's also Some Kind of Monster.
posted by Beardman at 5:16 PM on August 18, 2009

Would His Girl Friday count?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:25 PM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: Okay, I think this one is perfect: Lars Von Trier's "The Five Obstructions." It's a documentary about the result of a creative challenge masterminded by Von Trier for the maker of his favorite film, Jørgen Leth. (Von Trier has him remake his own film five different times, with various constraints.) It's brilliant.
posted by xo at 10:54 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: xo: That film sounds amazing, thanks!
posted by oulipian at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2009

Full Tilt Boogie is one of the best making-of documentaries I have ever seen. People who normally don't get interviewed (grips, electricians, carpenters etc.) get a chance to speak up about the film making process. It's also very funny.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:55 AM on August 20, 2009

How about Cradle Will Rock, a movie about a controversial pro-union socialist play put on by the National Theater Company (the WPA of the theatre) in the 1930s. The cast and crew struggle to put up the show, only to be closed before opening by the government and their own actor's union, amazingly enough. They're forced to work out a solution that ends up being clever and defiant. The film is a fictitious portryal of real events, so expect some narrative cliches throughout.

There's also a subplot involving Diego Rivera and the Rockefeller Center mural he'd been commissioned to paint (which was similarly nixed by the capitalists), but the core of the film involves the stage production.
posted by Spatch at 3:00 PM on August 21, 2009

There's the "let's put on a show!" genre, ranging from The Muppets Take Manhattan to The Amateurs. A personal favorite is "Noises Off" which will make you laugh until your sides ache.
posted by softlord at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2009

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