Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Does the Name "Laurent Bouzereau" Mean Anything To You?

If you are like me, you probably saw the headline to this post and said to yourself: "Wait a minute. I've seen that name somewhere before. Why does it look so familar?" Perhaps then you immediately looked at the photo below, before you even read this first paragraph, to see if you could possibly identify this guy (an endeavor which I am pretty confident didn't help you much). If, on the other hand, you immediately knew the answer to the above question, then you, my friend, are a better person than I am. Laurent Bouzereau is the unsung hero of "making of" documentaries.

Not too long ago, after finishing one of the bonus features on a DVD, I found myself doing something that I hardly ever do: watching the credits. Now, I ALWAYS watch the credits of a movie (even if it means I'm the last one to leave the theatre and I get dirty looks from the employees who want to start cleaning), but rarely do I find myself with the desire to sit through the credits of a DVD's "making of" featurette. As it happens the name of the person who directed the featurette I had just finished stood out to me because it was a rather unusual one: Laurent Bouzereau. Shortly thereafter I saw his name on the special feature of a different DVD. I began to get intrigued. The possibility occurred to me that perhaps this Bouzereau was the industry's "go-to guy" when it came to DVD behind-the-scenes featurettes, which got me wondering how many of these things has this dude directed? Well, I got on the IMDB and the list is staggering.

Currently, Laurent Bouzereau is the best-known home video/movie documentary filmmaker. His name has appeared in the closing credits for over 150 "making-of" documentaries and featurettes thus far, and he has only been in the business for 10 years as of 2005.

HOLY COW! 150 documentaries in 10 years? That's an average of 15 a year (or a little over one a month). Did this guy find his niche or what? I'm telling you, The Burns brothers got nothing on him! In fact, he may very well be one of the hardest working filmmakers in the business today! Granted, a rather sizable portion of his work would be classified as shorts (since featurettes are often no longer than 10-15 minutes), but I have little doubt that the studios place tight restrictions on how long their DVD extra features should be. According to IMDB:

Almost all of his first films were of feature-length including "The Making of 1941," "THE LAST PICTURE SHOW: A Look Back" and "The Making of Steven Spielberg's JAWS" to name a few. Unfortunately, as the DVD format changes, there is more demand for shorter documentaries to appeal to the masses. This resulted in having to personally cut down the JAWS documentary for the 25th Anniversary DVD. Now, the majority of his work it split up into three or four featurettes rather than one documentary. As for "The Making of JAWS," it's finally being released onto DVD uncut, with the release of the 30th Anniversary DVD.

As if this weren't enough, Laurent Bouzereau has also found time to author some books, including The Art of Bond: From Storyboard to Screen (The Creative Process Behind the James Bond Phenomenon), Ultraviolent Movies: From Sam Peckinpah to Quentin Tarantino, The De Palma Cut: The Films of America's Most Controversial Director, Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind The Man (which he co-wrote with Hitch's daughter Patricia), The Cutting Room Floor: Movie Scenes Which Never Made it to the Movies and several others.

Apparently this fellow's career started when he collected film memorabilia for classic Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma films at the time of their release. It was clear that he loved films, and would hopefully get to make them in the future. He first started in the "film business" when he came over to the United States from France to work in film distribution. This was then followed up by several writing gigs for French magazines including L'Ecran Fantastique and Globe. At one point Bouzereau had heard that The Criterion Collection was making a Laserdisc for Brian De Palma's Carrie. He called them up and told them he had some collectibles they may be interested in. As it turned out, some of those at Criterion had already read his book and wanted his input on the Laserdisc, so he recorded a very informative audio commentary track to be included on the Laserdisc. This was his first foray into the home video circuit. Bouzereau then produced another Laserdisc for Criterion, Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail. Universal Studios subsequently contacted Bouzereau and from here on in, he would produce some of the best making-of documentaries for home video and eventually for DVD's. Anyway, I ended up feeling ashamed that I did not know ANY of this. I realized that I was no better than the folks that, despite my better efforts, I have a tendency to feel superior to: those who have no problem enjoying a movie but could care less about who was behind it. I was enjoying this man's documentaries, but I didn't care a fig for who made them. I had a big old, fat helping of "humble pie."

I guess it is somewhat of a comfort, however (though certainly not an excuse), to know that I was not an unusual case. A number of movie-lovers have unknowingly benefitted from his work. Again, if you visit the IMDB you'll find that there are only five threads on the boards of Laurent Bouzereau's profile (the last entry of which was made in July of '06). You may also notice that they have the year of his birth and his country of origin (France, 1962) but no other information. So, I was, at least, not alone in my ignorance. The lesson that I have learned through all this (aside from the ever-present "never get too full of myself") is a significant one and I can't believe I hadn't already learned it: namely, never stop pulling back the curtain. I love movies and I love to learn about movies. Hence, I love documentaries about the making of movies, but somebody has to make these "making of" documentaries and the fact that they require just as much work and skill to produce as any other movie is something that I took for granted. The director of a "making of" featurete (whether it's 15 minutes or two-and-a-half hours) is just as much a filmmaker as whoever he/she happens to be interviewing.