Brace for The Beta Test
This is not a drill. Jim Cummings is going after Hollywood. Hard. Ever since he made his first feature film, Thunder Road, Jim Cummings has been telling the same thing over and over again. When he tried to get his first film made in Hollywood, he found himself pitching his ideas to clueless people, who just couldn’t help him and pushed him to do everything on his own. Instead of giving up control and ownership of his own material to strangers, he turned the table and asked strangers from all over the world to fund his films – green-lighting himself and his crew with the help of hundreds of people with money to spare and an internet connection. Now, for his third feature film, he’s exposing clueless, established Hollywood executives in a riveting story of sex, violence and mischief. A true American thriller which looks and sounds like a much more expensive film than its production budget might suggest – a big film about what’s going on inside Hollywood made way outside of Hollywood.
The Beta Test is nothing short of amazing. It was made for $300,000 as an independant film in so many ways. Jim Cummings literally did it all himself with co-director and co-star PJ McCabe providing much-needed help all the way through, but consider this: Jim wrote it, read it as a podcast to convey his own take of the whole script, went the crowdfunding route to fund it, cast it, prepped for it and rehearsed it, starred in it, shot it, cut it all by himself and then went on a world tour to help release it by talking to just about anyone, even adding unscheduled Q&A’s here and there. When we met Jim at two Q&A’s in Paris, he looked upbeat and genuinely happy, always on top of his game, but he began to slowly lose his voice. And when I insisted on how hard it must have been, to perform all these tasks himself to make his own movie happen with the world on lockdown, he finally admitted how brutal it all was. But how exhilarating and unique an experience it is, too.
See, even multi-talented directors like Robert Rodriguez, who shoot and cut their own films, have helping hands here and there to manage the gigantic workload of making a film. Most films have a lead editor and editing assistants to edit the film for countless hours and days, then submit the cut to the director, who watches on a screen and gives back notes to fine tune the edit. Jim Cummings, the actor/director, was also the sole editor of the film – he did all the clicking himself. The Beta Test is really a unique film by any standards.
Check out our interview with Jim Cummings as part of the SEFFF right here.
It’s been a crazy three years. On September 12, 2018, Jim Cummings’ first feature film opened in French theaters just four days after winning a prize at Deauville Film Festival. And here we were, at noon, sitting down with the actor/director after a 9 o’clock viewing at UGC Les Halles (which the not-yet famous director/actor failed to attend, unable to explain to the clerks at the theater that it was indeed his own film with his own face on the poster, and couldn’t gain access to meet viewers and hang out). Little did we know the film would be an instant success with its first-ever release, recouping its production budget in 10 days in just one country. This was just before it all happened.
And amazingly, three years later, almost to the day, here we were again sitting down with Jim in Strasbourg, France. The writer, director, editor and producer of his third feature film, The Beta Test, an experience he shared this time with PJ McCabe. A magnificent thriller featuring another great performance by Jim Cummings, portraying a troubled Hollywood agent having a life-changing experience. As folks on the internet said, three films, three hits. This man won’t miss!
By the way, here’s another cool video, the Behind The Scenes documentary released by Jim Cummings on his own YouTube channel on November 5th, 2021, as The Beta Test opened in US theaters and streaming services.
After watching The Beta Test at a theater or online, you might have a few questions. Come check out the Q&A with Jim Cummings from mid-september in Paris (France), at Champs-Élysées Film Festival, a French film festival celebrating independent films from France and the USA. That’s where Jim was first introduced to French audiences for his now-classic short film Thunder Road, back in 2016. Five years and change later, Jim Cummings came back to the festival as a feature film director for the French premiere of The Beta Test on September 16, 2021. Here is a video of the Q&A which followed the sneak preview of the film. The Beta Test, already out in the UK and the USA, opens in French theaters on December 15, 2021.
Jim’s second feature film, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, presented at Strasbourg and in various festivals this season, never made it to French theaters, so we had to watch it first on a TV screen thanks to Jim, who watched it himself for the first time at Star Saint-Exupéry theater in Strasbourg this year as part of the European Fantastic Film Festival of Strasbourg (FEFFS in French for Festival Européen du Film Fantastique de Strasbourg). The Q&A for this film will be available shortly right here, in the meantime, here’s a short take from our interview focusing just on The Wolf of Snow Hollow.