If I learned one thing from "We Want the Airwaves," it's this. Things have a way of working things out - but usually not in the way you imagine they will. For example, this flick from filmmaker Scott Ryan is the perfect way to showcase a project that was never greenlit, all while retaining its own identity. This film perfectly demonstrates the power of a story or ideal that can mutate into something else - it's also is a reminder that like dreams themselves, never let go of your old footage.
Essentially, Ryan's film focuses on the creation, production, post-production, and alterations of a potential television series that, in the end, never materialized. Eventually, shopped to around 53 different companies, the series "Manifesto!" was a reality-styled show that focused on real people's stories. Its genre/style today would be instantly recognized, but way back in the early '00s, it was near unheard of. It never got past the pilot stage - was never picked up. This film, "We Want the Airwaves," is the story of "Manifesto!" in documentary form - and features everything you probably imagine it does. Animations, mixed footage, and of course, the talking heads. In this case, the "talking heads" are mainly those involved with "Manifesto!" and the people the original show idea was going to focus on. In case you're wondering, this is not another of those fake documentaries chronicling a fake filmmaker's journey - this is the documentary that those other ones wished they could be. Like "Manifesto!" itself, this is a real story, and it's interesting as hell. Typically, this isn't a story that would usually interest me, but with this film, I was hooked.
Some real work went into this film, and it really, truly shows. It looks polished but also effortless - and anyone who knows even the most minor thing about filmmaking knows that anything that "looks" easy is generally far, far from it. But "We Want the Airwaves" is more than just a slick-looking doc, more than just a story of some struggling filmmakers. There are threads of other stories within this film, such as the story of the Charity Water Project. It's those minor diversions from the main that really give this film an edge. Yes, it can be interesting to witness the hurdles a filmmaker must hop through. It can be interesting to see the strain such a project can put on people and their relationship, but the little side-steps a movie sometimes take are what really make or break a film. There are a lot of those in this movie—a lot of depth to go alongside and add life to the main event. At first, you may think of "We Want the Airwaves" as a cautionary tale, but in reality, it ends up being one of those "don't give up on your dreams" style of film.
It's slick, polished, and entertaining - what more could an audience ask for? The backbone of the story that is pretty much the telling of "Manifesto!" was an interesting take on this "want to be a filmmaker?" documentary, and the inclusion of multiple detours was just the gravy over the potatoes—assuming you like gravy - of course. "We Want the Airwaves" was a great diversion, and honestly? I would have no problem recommending this film - even if you don't generally like documentaries. But who doesn't like documentaries? Easily, a solid four stars - well done.