Review: Create or Die

Score:  B-

Director: Sarah Massey

Running Time:  68 Minutes

Rated:  NR

Create or Die could just as easily be called Filmmaking for Dummies. That's not meant as an insult. While not very invigorating as a movie, this documentary serves as a great introduction for aspiring filmmakers.

Director Sarah Massey focuses on David Axe, a prolific if admittedly unaccomplished director of such films Bae Wolf and There's Nothing in the Shed. These are extremely tiny features you've never heard of. Microbudget horror and fantasy flicks made with little hope of getting finished, let alone getting distribution.

But Axe and his faithful repertory players and crew have come together for Acorn, which he believes will be his very meta magnum opus. Create or Die lets all the major filmmakers share their exciting and deflating experiences, both on Acorn and past projects. Some of these anecdotes don't add up to much, but they're extremely useful to anyone hoping to follow in Axe's footsteps and try their hand at microbudget features.

While the film focuses on the nitty-gritty details of the challenges of making a movie, it doesn't focus nearly as much on some of the biggest obstacles: getting funding and securing distribution. While Axe's producer is correct in stating that film festivals aren't the golden ticket they used to be, some illumination on how Axe has been able to get the money to complete seven (admittedly bad) features to date would have been helpful.

There are certainly some parallels to American Movie, but Axe is no Mark Borchardt. He's far more competent but far less fascinating. Once again, this is more of a "I did it and so can you" success story than a "I can't believe the footage I got" failure story.

For most viewers, Create or Die will be a mildly entertaining diversion. But for aspiring filmmakers, it's an invaluable resource.

*This film is available on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Roku.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.