When I was small boy, I used my father’s typewriter all the time. It wasn’t something to play with as he categorically insisted. I sneaked my way in every time I could and loved the sound it made. One time I sat in his chair and told him emphatically I was going to write something serious. I wrote a list that my dear, optimistic mom still holds to this day: a list of titles of movies I would make one day.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t become a movie director. But I remember vividly thinking about my dream. It’s a memory that I will always hold in an intimate corner of my heart. It’s a personal feeling of nostalgia driven by ambition that I use every day to write about films. Decades ago, I figured it was as close as I would get.
Jonathan Baker did follow his dream and did something out of it. His childhood icons were the heroes of Hollywood. Baker had the guts to follow a line and try to make a film in Hollywood, but not before following advice from his mentors. That part of his life modeled him and drove him to make a movie. It wasn’t even a film he set out to do for some personal reason, he was just following a requisite that could maybe allow him to start his dream project.
But what Baker went through left him a scarred man. That descent and all derivatives are examined thoroughly in Neal Thibedeau’s Becoming Iconic, a documentary about Baker’s journey into a world he had always dreamt of and never imagined it could feel so daunting and harmful. Films are a work of passion, but this doesn’t mean Hollywood is necessarily a haven full of benefits and encouragement.
In Becoming Iconic, we meet Baker and his agenda. He’s a corporate executive whose dream was always attached to films. He’s worked in other areas as well, but nothing comes close to the realization he envisioned when he accepted a gig for making a film.
The documentary takes us through the words of some of Baker’s prime idols of the industry. Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford and Adrian Lyne, to name a few. The interesting thing is that Becoming Iconic drifts away from being a documentary on Baker, and sets on course about filmmaking, debuts, and the terror of an industry that doesn’t forgive and forget. At the end, Baker is suffering for his work. Everything his mentors have said has actually happened to him during the making of his film Inconceivable. This masterclass is filled with a curious sense of optimism mixed with a very real issue for auteurs: believing in yourself is not enough.
The documentary gave goosebumps at some point since Baker opens up completely to shed light on this situation we were aware of, but didn’t actually digest it enough. It’s a reality that studios take risks when producing films, no matter the scale. What wasn’t so clear, was the trust issue in regards to filmmakers that are supposedly given the chance to express themselves.
Interviews with admirable directors are not enough to make us lose that sense of fear Baker has expressed with his words. The battle has been won because his film is out there, and we’re sure he’s going to make more eventually. But is it worth it? The payment “misunderstandings” with the producers of Inconceivable are still pretty much alive.
Baker’s personal story is not the most interesting story out there. It’s only that his dream’s materialization is quite relevant, and it’s caused him to suffer. He speaks with the truth of a regular man who’s become passionate with his work and the talent he thinks he has. If his film is not the best film he could have made, it’s not a problem. Sometimes what goes on behind the camera is far more important. When seeing Becoming Iconic it’s impossible to shake off the feeling that Baker’s film went through something unnecessary: a producer with a different vision than the director’s. I know it’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it should be accepted all the time.