One of the advantages of the documentary medium is the moral equity of the subject being documented is usually inversely proportional to the quality of your overall project. Bad thing = Good movie. This is why there are so many docs about war and death and politics. This is why there's like 100 docs about Bush and Walmart. If you have despicable content, by default you have an interesting story.
This was not actually my thinking in 2006 when my roommates and I followed around a no-budget action movie crew in Queens. But it did occur to me shortly thereafter.
The Cross The Line production was basically a teenage film fantasy come true: Dude wrote a script, rounded up his buddies, found some empty buildings and made a movie. And he, also being co-director and star, was literally living out his dream. Everyone involved in the production worked for free. He appealed to the "let's make a movie" sensibilities of our youth, but like, he was doing it for real with grown ups on the weekends. Making a fucking action movie.
Will, Matt, Andy, Mikey and I documented the production mostly out of curiosity, but also because there was a feeling that something amazing or tragic would happen, like someone would lose a finger or the cops would come and arrest everyone. That, if nothing else, was worth spending a few hungover weekends shooting stuff for no money.
Not having read the script, we only had a fragmented sense of what the movie was about based on what we saw that day. But by the third weekend, it was obvious Cross The Line was the most ridiculous home movie a grown man could make. And by ridiculous, I mean:
(IMDb has a handy little feature where you can contribute info but remain anonymous so NO ONE KNOWS WHO WROTE IT) If the synopsis is too broad, I can summarize it thusly: Hero is a burnt out cop. At war with Chinese drug lord. Kidnapped daughter, dirty cops, etc. It's basically Rapid Fire, but with less Brandon Lee and more bald guy.
Our little doc was called Drawing The Line (clever!) and it was mad cute. Mikey and Andy wrote music for it. I made the producers a copy for inclusion on the movie's DVD, which was the plan all along.
Then our beloved Writer/Director/Bald Star stole our master tapes and stopped returning calls. Literally ripped off a group of nice boys who volunteered to be there for him. It broke my heart. This dude, whose dream project relied solely on the goodwill of others, turned out to be a thieving knob. It would've been a much better story if he was a decent guy. The producer too. Thieves. Which is a shame because the rest of the cast and crew seemed like pretty fun people.
But for him it was probably worth it. He got to be in two movies!
Moral of the story: Unless it's for the Red Cross, never work for nothing. Only the shadiest of shadies offer "exposure," or "experience" as payment. And yes. My name is Captain Obvious. Although I actually did get experience from this as it's technically the first time I got robbed in New York.
An inspiring quote from our main man's IMDb page:
We'll get there!
Look out for Cross The Line like somewhere on the Internet. Bonus: Can't wait for this!
Double PS: Don't confuse this Cross The Line with that Cross The Line because the other one is actually made by teenagers.