Writers: Steve Markle & David Julian Hirsh
Director: Steve Markle
Budget: $60 000(canadian)
Gross: ? (television)
i woke up early one morning last week (way before my alarm was set to go off) and was flipping through the channels. i was exhausted and ready to head back into dreamland before i actually did have to get up, when i landed on ifc (the independent film channel) just as Camp Hollywood was about to start. needless to say i didn't go back to sleep.
the film, directed by steve markle is a documentary about the highland gardens hotel in los angeles. what makes this hotel so special you ask? is it a big, expensive, ornamented hotel where big movie stars stay? nope (although it is the hotel where janis joplin died). it is a regular looking, sorta rundown hotel where no name actors stay while they are in l.a. looking for their break to become big stars one day. to be even more precise, it is the hotel where mostly canadian actors stay. canadian comic/actor steve markle was one of them a few years back when he decided to make a documentary about the place and the people. although it all sounds pretty regular, this was really a fun, entertaining and interesting film for many reasons.
first off were the characters. from the hot starlet (who steve gets a big crush on) to the ex-con to the old british actor and his wife to the guy who has been perusing his dream for over thirty years without much success. and that is just a few of them.
the film takes place over the course of a few months during the pilot season in l.a when the town swells with actors trying to get a role on a tv show (as does the highland gardens). the problem is that all these actors are small fish in a very big sea, which means a lot of disappointment and some great drama. however, that is also what the film is all about. it is about perseverance and dedication and failure and success and having a dream and not giving up (although not everyone is strong enough for that, but that is what it is to be a struggling actor).
on a more personal note, i enjoyed looking at the film from the perspective of now, knowing most of the projects that they were talking about. the film was made in 2004 so most of the television shows and movies that we hear the characters talk about auditioning for were familiar to me. this was interesting in that there were a couple times where actors got a role, or came very close to getting one, on a show that i knew had been canceled after very few episodes. i found myself watching one girls excitement knowing it wasn't going to last. sure enough the next time we see her she is sitting in her room telling us how the show was just cancelled on the day her episode was to air.
the movie is steve markles only film and it is really well put together. the editing and the music are good and his ability to get truth from the people he interviews is appreciated (although many of them are actors so it probably wasn't that hard to get them on camera).
with a topic as wide as this, there are many ways the film could have gone and i did have a few questions that i would hav eliked answered that markles doesn't address. however, for the most part the movie felt complete and i found myself hopping on imdb right after it was over to see what the people had been up to since the film was shot. some have actually gone on to get a number of jobs and some consistent work, while others not so much - but that is the life of a struggling actor searching for fame and work, and Camp Hollywood is a fun and interesting look into that world.