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Where has all the originality gone in the modern-day film industry? Too often in the last decade, movies have consisted of a mere retelling, spinoff, or “fresh” perspective on another. Fearing the considerable risk of failure that originality may bring, the Hollywood film industry has been reduced to cobbling together overused tropes and has stripped ideas from other artists. The colossal expense of making movies, from actors’ salaries to the cost of special effects, weighed against the fickle hearts of the masses is enough for anyone to lean toward the safe bet of tried and true tropes. So where does that leave us? Are we doomed to cycle through the same stories over and over until they’ve been so whitewashed that even the simplest minds to entertain catch on? I declare to you now: no. The art of film is still a flourishing, ever-expanding medium of entertainment; we’ve simply forgotten or never knew where to look. This all-pervading ignorance would be the doing of the Hollywood film industry hedging its bets and dazzling the public with a shiny new version of the same old thing, drawing attention away from the genuine originality of the independent filmmaker.
If a viewer takes the time to watch true independent films (not to be confused with B-rate movies that steal from both Hollywood and independent filmmakers), one commonality is a drastically lower budget than most Hollywood films. Most viewers would initially see this as a deal breaker, and upon an initial reaction that is understandable. Why would someone want to watch a low-budget version of something Hollywood has already done? The simple answer is that, in many cases, independent films are not just a recreation of previous movies. On the contrary, the freedom of creative movement stemming from lower budgets allows independent filmmakers to reach further than Hollywood films because they risk less. If the idea falls through, they can get up, brush themselves off, and try again much more easily.
One example of an excellent independent filmmaker who has done just this would be Jason Trost This up-and-coming director, writer, and actor started his career with a unique perspective on the classic sports movie formula. In the small post-apocalyptic town of Frazier Park (The FP), rival gangs vie for control by challenging each other to Beat Beat Revelation, a copyright-friendly version of the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). Under the tyrannical rule of L-Double-E, the FP is in dire straits, and it’s up to the protagonist JTRO to save his beloved town.
Upon my first viewing of this movie, I had mild expectations. I prepared myself for a cheesy B-rate film, and I was ready to overlook minor discrepancies to appreciate the plot and comedy. I was initially disappointed in the lackluster acting in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Between cheesy lines and an absurd concentration of Ebonics, it was absolutely cringe-worthy, and I nearly gave up on it altogether. I resolved myself to continue on and quickly realized the butchery of English was, indeed, intentional for comedic effect. It became apparent that, instead of an ignorance of English, the form of speech used throughout the movie is actually a brilliant application of slang and, perhaps, a logical representation of the devolution of the English language in Trost’s post-apocalyptic world.
Once I’d gained a footing in understanding Trost’s vision in The FP, he began to wield ludicrousness like a rapier, piercing holes through the viewer’s expectations. The viewer is compelled to continue watching simply to see the next absurdity. I was dumbfounded by the actors’ ability to perpetuate a dialogue packed with vulgarity and slang without breaking into fits of uncontrollable laughter, which is a testament to their acting prowess. It’s a comedy so unique and vulgar that the viewer can’t help but burst into hysterical bouts of laughter so intense that I must preach caution, as one of my friends nearly fainted from laughing so hard at this movie. By the end of the film I was left wondering, “What the hell did I just watch, and why can’t I stop laughing?”
Although The FP was a brilliant work of unique comedy, it was seen as a financial blunder. Compared to the budget for the film, the return in sales from a few die-hard fans was abysmal, and although it continues to have a cult following, it is largely unrecognized for the genius that it is. Undaunted by this financial failure, Trost has continued to do what he loves: to make unique and expectation-shattering movies. His next films, All Superheroes Must Die and How to Save Us, have yielded much better returns, and prove Trost to be a superb example of a developing director and actor. Each one of his movies is an excellent display of bursting creativity and drive that brings people stories designed to challenge a viewer’s expectations at every turn.
Most recently, his works have started to drift from formal financial backing into the more flexible option of crowd funding, which offers less financial stress to drag his creativity down and allows him to create something that is truly unique. The only drawback to crowd funding is its dependence upon audience participation and recognition to generate funds for his upcoming projects, but I have faith that the genius of Trost’s previous work prove his future films to be well worth watching and promoting.
The newest addition to Jason Trost’s already expectation-breaking repertoire will be a revisiting of Frazier Park in The Beats of Rage: The FP Part II, where our hero JTRO must save the FP once more by fulfilling his destiny and participating in the Beats of Rage tournament. Having already laid the groundwork for this story in his first movie, Trost will be able to focus even more energy into creating a more developed plot to flesh out his already hilarious world.
Trost has started a crowd funding project on indiegogo.com for The Beats of Rage: The FP Part II and offers a variety of donor incentives, including copies of the film upon release, various levels of Easter egg style recognition throughout the movie, and even participation in the movie as an extra or as a challenger in the Beats of Rage tournament. This film needs participation to get off the ground. Too many people complain that movies lack originality and simply play off of their predecessors, but they fail to do anything about it. This is your chance to be a part of the solution. By supporting projects such as this one, we can break the cycle of overused tropes and bring original ideas into the limelight. As a firm believer in Jason Trost’s abilities as a multi-talented filmmaker, I have no doubts that his is a name to follow. With adequate promotion, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Trost’s endeavors, and his fans’ contributions, well rewarded.