The Schadenfreude Maintée- My 5 Favourite Documentaries About Failed Movie Making


If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I tweet a lot about what I'm watching. My favourite genres of tv shows are documentaries, or reality tv, so two absolute opposites. I love long, detailed, complicated documentaries, which I'll follow up with 45 minutes of watching Megan McKenna stick her bottom lip out like a spoilt child (I flipping love Megan McKenna).

I currently have Netflix again for a spell, as they are showing the new ninth season of 'RuPaul's Drag Race', airing the new episodes on Saturday mornings (it airs on Friday nights in the US), so I've rewatched 'Making a Murderer' and some other documentaries on there. I may well do a post about the best documentaries they have to offer, but my list today has films from them, some I've found hosted free online, and some you have to buy or rent from Amazon to catch.

I can't recall how I stumbled upon the 'failed movie making' genre, but I gathered a nice little selection of documentaries showcasing what can go wrong in Hollywood, from budget spirals to actor meltdowns to attacks of extreme narcissism which demolishes a fledgling career before it gets started.

1. 'The Death of Superman Lives. What Happened?'

This documentary is just so much fun. Tall tales that will make you laugh from Kevin Smith and Tim Burton about their failed superhero movie project. I don't like superhero movies, but loved every minute of this documentary.

 Free in all it's glory here.


2. 'Lost in La Mancha.'

Whilst liking 'Brazil', I'm not a huge Terry Gilliam fan otherwise, but I enjoyed this look into his failings to bring 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' to the screen. He and Johnny Depp battle weather, fighter jets & the lead not being able to sit down on a horse, amongst other set backs.

 Watch it on YouTube







3. 'The Sweat Box.'

This is a really hard to find, never actually released documentary, that legend says Disney tried to get banned. After the success of 'The Lion King', Disney started to put together a feature length cartoon set in Peru, with a prince and the pauper style storyline. Sting was brought on board to do the music, and so his wife picked up and camera and started documenting the process in the footage we see as the film 'The Sweat Box'.


The movie begins as being called 'The Kingdom of the Sun', but 31 minutes in you start to see why Disney never wanted this behind the scenes film to see the light of day. Bosses screen the work so far and basically hate 90% of it. Characters, storylines and songs are scrapped. The chief writer looks like he's going to cry around 40 minutes.

The film ends up being what was released as 'The Emperor's New Groove', you know, the Disney film that's no-one's favourite.

 Watch it for free here.

4. 'Lost Soul. The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr Moreau.'

In the late 90s, young, hip, indie director Richard Stanley wrote a script and was given the reigns of Dr Moreau to be his first big break in Hollywood. The concept art and ideas that are talked about in the first 20 minutes of this documentary about how it all went wrong, look really cool, and I would have loved to see the finished movie, had Stanley taken it that far.

Unfortunately things unravel as Stanley doesn't have the authority to stand up to bully lead actor Val Kilmer, and he breaks under the pressure of the studio's demands & the bad luck of poor weather on location.


Already a train wreck (but such a fun one to watch), the real fun starts when Marlon Brando arrives on set about two thirds into the documentary, and begins to mess with the stand in director by changing the script and suggesting ideas. I've never actually seen the finished 'Island of Dr. Moreau' that was released, but it's worth going into this documentary knowing the movie that was made has been named one of the worst films ever seen on screen.

Catch it on Netflix. 


5. 'Overnight.'

'Overnight' is pure schadenfreude from beginning to end. Immensely unlikeable oik Troy Duffy is an ordinary guy, who happens to bump into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who likes his Irish gangster script 'The Boondock Saints'. Harvey buys the script, bringing Duffy on to direct, but also says he will sign his band for albums, and buy a bar for he & Duffy to split and run. Troy's band is made up of his long suffering friends, and brother.

Troy Duffy goes on to completely alienate and infuriate all friends, family and well wishers over the next couple of years. His arrogance and actions will amaze you. He is king of the pr**ks. He wastes the opportunity of a lifetime for himself and his friends, by being stubborn, rude and at times repulsive.

You will enjoy finding out how many albums they sold at the end.

I couldn't find a free version, but it's worth renting and streaming on Amazon video, trust me.


So if you are loving this genre there are a few more documentaries I can suggest, some I have seen, some I haven't. 

'Hearts of Darkness', a study of the perils of producing 'Apocalypse Now'  is one of the most famous troubled making-of documentaries, watch it for free here. There's also 'Burden of Dreams' a documentary about the famous documentarian Werner Herzog. 


If you want something more lighthearted,   'Doomed!' visits the lovingly pathetic 90s' Fantastic Four reboot attempt, which looks incredibly dated beside our new franchises of Superheroes of all descriptions.

I haven't seen 'Jodorowsky's Dune', but having neither read or watched the original Dune, it's not on my to view list, but it might be your kind of thing- free copy here.

Finally two films about the trials of aspiring filmmakers, 'American Movie' and 'Kingdom Come'. I haven't seen either of these, so if you do give them a spin, let me know what you think.