American Cannibal follows two writers as they pitch an idea for a reality show and the ensuing chaos as it goes into production.
Directed by – Perry Grebin, Michael Nigro
Starring – Sturgis Adams, Mitchell Allen, Chip Arndt, Kevin Blatt, Jill Boniske, Hannah Buchdahl, Kirsten Buschbacher, Trishelle Cannatella, Monique Capelta, Neil DeGroot, Keith Fenimore, Paul Frazier, Debra Ganz, Lisa Ganz, Jimmy Graham III, George Gray, Philip Gurin, Mark Itkin, Jon Kroll, Daniel Laikind, John Lehr, Dr. Richard Levak, David Lyle, Paul Dion Monte, Michael O’Sullivan, Daniel Petrie Jr., Rick Ringbakk, Gil S. Ripley, Fred Risher, Dave Roberts, Rob Sharenow, B.J. Sigesmund, Frank Stallone, Linda Stasi, Karen Sternheimer, Bob Thompson, Ryan Westheimer, Lizz Winstead, Myles Yates
I wasn’t sure what to make of this movie as I watched it and had to spend a portion of my day today checking into the film. The movie follows Gil S. Ripley and Dave Roberts, two scriptwriters who are hoping to get their series picked up. It’s quickly turned down and their agent suggests that they get into reality TV. They reluctantly start pitching different ideas to networks but wind up finding help in the least likely of places from Kevin Blatt. This is the guy who originally marketed the Paris Hilton sex tape. He’s interested in one of their throwaway ideas, American Cannibal. What it boils down to is a Survivor style show where contestants would be starved and will ultimately begin thinking that they’ll have to eat another human being to survive, ya know, just to see who would actually do it without having to actually do it. The film follows production of the series as everything goes wrong and falls apart.
What got me confused in the first place was that I thought the film was made by Gil and Dave, the two writers in the documentary. Everything seems so surreal and I couldn’t believe that any of it was actually happening. When I realized that the film was made by Perry Gribin and Michael Nigro it started to make more sense. All this was real, or as real as anyone can be when they have cameras shoved in their faces. It was their own social experiment with reality. What was so interesting about it is how it shows just how fake a reality show really is. You would assume that they turn on some cameras and everyone goes about their business but the movie reveals how much work goes into ‘making’ a reality show. Shots still have to be set up, hosts are still scripted and events are usually pushed in a certain direction by producers.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that ‘reality’ TV isn’t very real at all. Contestants are picked so that they’ll clash with each other on purpose and just having a camera on someone will change their actions. The creators of the film believe that if they hadn’t been their with their cameras that Kevin Blatt would never have even been interested in Gil and Dave’s idea in the first place. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame and the film shows the lengths that some people will go to to get it. In fact, one of the contestants that signs up for American Cannibal neglects to tell anyone that she’s hypoglycemic even though she knows that they will be starved on the show. Who the hell does that to themselves? Oh, I really need to eat or I’ll die but I’ll go on this show where I’m not allowed to eat for an extended period of time. Yeah, great idea!
This is just one of the many problems that plague the shooting for American Cannibal. Dave and Gil can’t get writer credits on a reality show that isn’t supposed to be written so they’ll wind up with associate producer credits. The host can’t be on the show because SAG doesn’t want him to be but only decides this once they’ve begun shooting on the island. Last, but not least, a contestant hurts herself and is rushed off for medical treatment bringing production to a halt and destroying the show. All of this takes place in the last 20 minutes of the movie.
The majority of the film follows Gil and Dave as they pitch ideas, get one accepted and then try to figure out what the hell to do since they don’t normally come up with reality TV shows. Along the way there are interviews with people in the industry and their viewpoints on reality TV are showcased. I was fascinated by the whole thing. It’s this weird behind the scenes look at how these things are done and nobody loves watching something fall apart more than me. It’s the whole reason I watch reality TV in the first place, to see people at their worst. It’s only interesting when someone is crying or yelling I keep telling my girlfriend as she sits down to watch America’s Next Top Model or The Hills. Call me when someone is angry.
Throughout the whole film I was wondering if this was all real. It seems a little off, like someone is playing a big joke on someone else and serves the point of looking at reality TV. There’s nothing real about it so you’re watching a real documentary about people making a ‘real’ show that isn’t actually real. It spins your head for a moment but boldly illustrates the filmmakers point. They’re trying to show how when reality is packaged for mainstream consumption it almost automatically becomes fake, or non-fiction as their website states.
If you’re into the behind the scenes look at how TV really works then check this out. Since I’m such a huge fan of reality TV myself I couldn’t wait to watch. It surpassed my expectations and I was glued to the screen. Everyone that Dave and Gil seem to come into contact with almost glistens with a coat of slime and sleaze, probably due to the fact that most of the guys they work with are in the adult entertainment industry. Gil and Dave are just trying to get a real script pitched to a network but wind up doing something that they really don’t want to do and watching them struggle with it is captivating. It didn’t change my opinion of ‘reality’ TV but it shed some more light on just how staged a lot of those shows must really be. It also shows just how far anyone will go to get what they want, whether it’s a script greenlit or a big prize at the end of the game show.
Under the marquee – Will