When Maurice Singer’s thesis project Bemoana was approved for production by his NYU film class, many happily signed on to bring Singer’s vision to fruition, believing that his ambitious idea and pocket money—or rather, Daddy’s pocket money—might translate into a finished project that would catch the attention of a big studio. Keir Moreano was there for Singer as an unpaid special effects makeup artist, and when he began to document the making of Bemoana, already a source of much talk at Tisch School of the Arts, he captured a filmmaker’s apocalypse. His documentary Unspooled cuts scenes from Bemoana‘s hectic 12-day production in snowy Vermont with post-mortem interviews with cast and crew, who recall the horrors of not having snow rails, eating barbeque for two weeks straight, shitting into clogged toilets, and watching lead actor Larry Brustofski run through an icy set perilously rigged with stakes and wolf traps.
Moreano essentially captures a bunch of kids in way over their heads but doesn’t really shed any particular light on what Bemoana DP Michael Santo calls the “senseless hope” that rationalizes all the blood, sweat and tears cast and crew pour into a student film. From the glimpses we see of Bemoana, we know Singer was interested in making a slick Hollywood calling card, but a more interesting exposé would have elaborated on the dreams of film schoolers and how Singer’s ostensibly privileged upbringing (his father not only financed the production but comes to its rescue on more than one hilarious occasion) gives him an advantage few in his league ever get. The doc’s ending, which not only explains the ironic means by which Bemoana was truly ruined but also gives us a few where-are-they-now snippets from the lives of some of its crew, hints at what drives so many to pursue a career in film before quitting when the going gets too tough, but it’s too little too late and certainly not enough to elevate the film to anything beyond the type of behind-the-scenes feature you would find on a DVD release.