Setting the Record Straight

In the film Overnight, which is a documentary about the well-deserved downfall of first-time filmmaker and raging narcissist Troy Duffy, there is a scene that takes place in a Boston University film class. This was a class taught by Ray Carney and attended by yours truly. Duffy is speaking to our class about his film, Boondock Saints, which he finally got made but his studio buried it and no distributors wanted to buy it. So he was bitter. And already had a working-class Boston chip on his shoulder, and a grudge against what he probably percieved was a bunch of privileged film students with opportunities he never had.

There is a shot in this scene where Duffy points to and insults a member of the class. The reaction shot after he lobs this insult is of a young male student. This is incorrect. The person he was actually insulting was *me*. But they had only one camera in the room and it was on Duffy, so I guess in the editing room they had to choose someone to be the recipient of the insult, and they chose this kid Elon. But don’t be fooled. It was me. There are no shots of me in the scene though. In one you can see my hair, but none of my face.

But beyond my own connection, it’s an interesting film. Partly for the schadenfreude, I suppose, but mostly because of the fact that the filmmakers started out as Duffy’s friends, making a happy movie about his good luck in getting a film deal, and eventually, as he begins to alienate everyone around him, the film takes a turn and we see the friends/filmmakers’ opinion of the man (and the tone of the film) change, in real time, as Duffy’s belligerence gets worse and worse. By the end of the film it’s clear the filmmakers are no longer Duffy’s friends. And I would hate to have been in the room with Duffy when he saw this film, assuming he saw it.

The structure or arc of the film is somewhat similar to DiG!, though I’d say DiG! is a better film. And the raging personality disorder of Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre is actually much worse (and more creative) than that of Duffy. And it follows that Newcombe is more of an artist as well. Newcombe is a hippy with a personality disorder, Duffy is a Masshole with a personality disorder. But somehow the music world is more supportive of its psychotics, and Newcombe is still making music independently. The film world, though, left Duffy blackballed and unemployable.

At least according to this film. I think a personality like that is, for better or worse, irrepressible, and we will be hearing more of him eventually.

Postscript: A good interview with the directors of Overnight about Duffy and his reaction to the film is here.

5 Responses to “Setting the Record Straight”

  1. Aaron
    June 9th, 2005 | 4:51 pm

    That’s crazy, but totally believable. I think Overnight is actually a crying shame because the filmmakers had such a great story to deal with, and personally, I think they mangled it, especially letting their personal feelings affect their editing choices too much. When I wrote about it back in October, I called it, “n overdone documentary that leaves too many loose ends and unanswered questions, hiding behind snazzy editing and sound effects but ultimately telling very little,” and, “an amazing Icarus tale.” It could have been such a better doc and film with people who actually knew how to make a film.

    I think you’re right though: it does bear certain similarities to DiG!, although I think Duffy threw away more guaranteed opportunities than Newcombe necessarily ever had for purely arrogant reasons. And for that matter, BJM music is relatively awesome, while The Boondock Saints is mostly just a Reservoir Dogs wannabe, albeit an OK one. Have you seen it? Boondock Saints, that is.

  2. cynthia rockwell
    June 9th, 2005 | 5:09 pm

    i only saw clips of the film that he showed in our class, and haven’t seen the whole thing. the clips were enough, though, to show that the film was silly. and i don’t know much about BJM’s music but have heard it’s brilliant, and that is one word that no one would use to describe duffy or his film, so i definitely agree with you there.

    i didn’t see many loose ends in ‘overnight’ though, what questions did you still have after seeing it?

  3. Lisa
    June 10th, 2005 | 9:52 am

    I must see the movie. I remember that day when Duffy came to class. I seem to recall thinking that both Duffy and his film were a little too full of themselves. Damn, I wish I didn’t live in this little po-dunk town. It’s hard to find any film that doesn’t have Ashton Kutcher or a completely animated cast.

  4. cynthia rockwell
    June 10th, 2005 | 10:07 am

    it’s on dvd now, you can rent it! that scene is so bizarre, all our classmates on screen–elon, lots of beth e., beckah, rebecca, and other familiar faces whose names i can’t recall. but none of you or me!

  5. Lisa
    June 10th, 2005 | 10:51 am

    We must have been wearing our invisible cloaks that day.