115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hollywood, Auteurs, and The Playground of Trash Movies

Sam Johnson, Wenatchee Valley College

This presentation examines the role paracinema played at the start of some of Hollywood's most financially successful and critically acclaimed filmmakers.


Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, John Sayles, and many more all started their careers working on movies that can arguably be called trash or perhaps more appropriately paracinema.

Demonstrating the connection these critically well-received and frequently financially successful filmmakers have with paracinema isn't difficult. If you look at the IMDb page for any of these filmmakers you'll see titles like Alligator, Piranha II: The Spawning, Duel, Dementia 13, and Dead Alive. These are not mainstream award-winning productions, nor are they billion dollar (or even million-dolor) box-office blockbusters. They are, however, the result of early creative endeavors from some of the best known directors in the history of filmmaking.

However, I do not want to merely highlight the difference between the kind of films these filmmakers started out making and the films they eventually became known for making. Instead, I'm interested in exploring the motivation for starting out a filmmaking career with paracinema and how paracinema may actually hold greater value in the ecosystem of filmmaking than is generally thought. That is, I want to see if there are attributes of paracinema and paracinema production that is in some way conducive to the development of skills and insights that will one day emerge as award-winning and/or financially successful.

Essentially, I argue that the narrative and stylistic freedom and flexibility inherit in paracinema production coupled with various dedicated fan-bases results in a kind of filmmaking experimentation that aided in the formation of some of Hollywood’s best known filmmakers and filmmaking practices.

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