The Other Side of the Wind
Help Fund Orson Welles' Final Film
I've been intrigued by the story of The Other Side of the Wind since first learning of it. Orson Welles began and abandoned many projects throughout the later years of his life, mostly due to financing issues. He simply did not have the social media and crowdfunding tools we have today to complete all the independent films his prodigious mind began (and hoped would be funded by disparate investors). His final film is one that has captivated the imaginations of many filmmakers, frustrated we have never been able to see it.
"The film covers the 70th birthday party of movie director Jake Hannaford (John Huston), who is struggling to make a commercial comeback. It opens with Hannaford's death just after the party, and mostly focuses on the night before his death. We also see extracts of Hannaford's daring new film-within-a-film, The Other Side of the Wind. As we learn more about Hannaford at his party, the audience realizes that he is a far more complex character than he seems, and harbors several big secrets.
The film presents a cynical portrait of Hollywood in the 1970s, parodying the passing of the studio system, and the experimental new filmmakers of the New Hollywood, as well as mocking successful European directors such as Antonioni. It was shot in a variety of different styles — color, black-and-white, still photography, 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film, all rapidly intercut together, and was planned as a collage of these different styles." (The Other Side of the Wind Summary, Wikipedia.org)
If it sounds as though art was imitating life, it's not far from the mark. It might also be seen as a bookend to Citizen Kane, which was half as much about Orson Welles the individual as it was about William Randolph Hearst the icon. The Other Side of the Wind is a reflection on Welles' long, difficult career and was intended as his return to the industry that had abandoned him.
Joseph McBride, writer, film critic and historian, was a member of the cast. In the late 1990s he saw a two-hour cut assembled by Gary Graver (cinematographer of the film) to attract investors for a restoration and completion. He elaborates:
"The film 'serves as both a time capsule of a pivotal moment in film history - an 'instant' piece of period nostalgia set in the early seventies - and a meditation on changing political, sexual and artistic attitudes in the United States during that period." (Joseph McBride, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles - p.175)
Peter Bogdanovich, the director, critic and film historian became a personal friend to Welles and was part of the film's cast. He has said, "Orson Welles....was the first film director to inspire me to direct pictures, as he did for so many others down the years. No matter how much he aged, Orson retained an aura of youth and of promise. I was 16 when I first saw Citizen Kane, and...it had an inordinate effect on me. Again, as it has for many would-be directors.
From then on, I was an abject fan, saw anything he had anything to do with, which was a lot more than directing, unfortunately. He did quite a few jobs purely for the money he could get as an actor, and couldn't get as a director. One of the supreme ironies of American film: Orson Welles couldn't get financed. So he used his acting (and commercials) money to finance his directing." (Peter Bogdanovich's Orson Welles File on IndieWire.com)
Unlike many works in his later years, the production process of The Other Side of the Wind was completed. Welles died before post production could be wrapped (he only finished a forty-two-minute cut) and ownership issues between his heirs and financiers could not be resolved until 2014. We now have a film that could be released, but distributors have asked to see a cut of the film to determine whether or not they want to pay the costs of a theatrical release.
Producer Filip Jan Rymsza explains:
Today, we have tools that were not part of Orson Welles' financial arsenal. It would be poetic justice to see one of cinema's greatest influencer's final feature and for it to inspire a new generation of filmmakers. It only adds to our perspective of his creativity and artistic legacy. With a collection of pledges, together we can make a piece of cinema history available for ours and future generations.
Donations can be made on IndieGoGo here: