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Documentaries on how movies are made

Over the past week, I watched a documentary, Who Needs Sleep, and a docuseries, The Movies that made us. They give an inside look into the movie business. Who Needs Sleep was produced by award winning cinematographer, Haskell Wexler. Wexler was born and got his start in film in Chicago.

Who Needs Sleep, released in 2006, delves into the decade long fight for production crews to get a twelve-hour day. Up to that time, production crews, including writers, cinematographers, make-up artists, trades people, and anyone who was not an actor/actress, worked 14–19-hour days, sometimes seven days a week. Depending on the location, they may have to drive hours to get home, rest, and go back the next day.

There are interviews with crew members on the hardships on their families and lives working such long hours. There are dangers too. The issue at the time was budgets. Most movies had to be filmed over a set number of days. This was set by the studios.

Wexler documents the resistance of the studios, unions, and professional associations to get involved. He interviews the various stakeholders, including actors/actresses, directors, producers, union and association officials. It is an inside baseball look at how movies were produced on a strict timeline without regard for workers.

The Movies That Made us is a three-season docuseries about making several popular movies and how they made directs, producers, screenplay writers famous. Movies included, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Pretty Woman, Coming to America, Forrest Gump, and several more.

The docuseries shows how movies that may never see the light of day were made into blockbusters. It is a very detailed series, right down to the small intricacies, like finding specific fabrics for costumes, makeup casting, and lighting, script reading and rewriting, It delves into the fight to get screenplays on the big screen.

Stars, directors, producers, writers, special effects artists, executives, brokers, and a host of other people in the movie business. Some scenes are like watching the proverbial sausage being made. You find out things you may not even wanted to know but are interesting. For example, for one horror movie, they reveal the ingredients used to make realistic looking blood or how they made various slashings and stabbings look so, well, horrible.

Some stories relate the background of the various people involved and how they started working in the film business. The series also tells how some, including directors, producers, and actors/actresses shot to stardom after making some of these films.

You also learn about the movie business and some of its cutthroat actions, especially when it comes to financing and budgets. There were fights to get financing, disputes over budgets and cost overruns, and distribution.

“Who Needs Sleep is free on Vimeo. “The Movies That Made Us is on Netflix, so you need a subscription.

If you are interested in how movies re made, including the sausage making, both documentaries are well worth your time.

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