“I always wanted to know what that mysterious comedy process was,” James Franco said during his introduction for Saturday Night — his new documentary about a typical work week at Saturday Night Live — before the New York premiere of the film on Sunday May 2, the final day of the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.
The process becomes the protagonist in Franco’s documentary directing debut, which is shot in an observational, fly-on-the-wall verite style reminiscent of the Maysles brothers or D.A. Pennebaker. What began as a short seven-minute student film assignment (Franco is currently an MFA film student at NYU) about SNL cast member Bill Hader morphed into an unprecedented feature-length look behind the scenes of the television comedy institution. (Legendary documentarians Pennebaker and Ricky Leacock apparently asked Lorne Michaels for permission to film a similar documentary about SNL in the 1970s but were denied because, Franco guessed, “there was more to hide with that incredible cast.”)
“They’ve done docs on SNL in the past,” Franco, who has hosted Saturday Night Live twice, told the audience during a Q&A session after the film. “But they didn’t get access; they just got interviews and people talking about the process. I had an assignment to do an observational documentary. I wanted people to feel the process and go through the process, rather than hear it.” Read the rest of this entry »