Despite its intriguing concept, Jonathan Baker’s documentary BECOMING ICONIC fails to live up to its initial promise

Jonathan Baker and Nicolas Cage in BECOMING ICONIC

Despite its intriguing concept, BECOMING ICONIC fails to live up to its initial promise

It is often said that if you want to be successful, copy those who have come before you. That’s the premise behind Jonathan Baker’s new documentary BECOMING ICONIC.

Exploring the perilous process of filmmaking through the eyes of some of Hollywood’s most iconic directors, BECOMING ICONIC sees Jodie Foster (LITTLE MAN TATE), Taylor Hackford (RAY, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN), Adrian Lyne (FATAL ATTRACTION, FLASHDANCE) and John Badham (WARGAMES, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER) share stories of their first time making a feature film in the director’s chair. Taking on their advice, Jonathan Baker then sets out to make his own first feature film INCONCEIVABLE starring Nicolas Cage and Faye Dunaway.

In many ways, BECOMING ICONIC is a film of two halves. The first features a series of interviews with top directors in Hollywood who discuss the process of directing studio movies and give advice to Baker who is about to direct his first film. The second follows Baker’s journey as he directs his first film INCONCEIVABLE and the struggles he encounters along the way, including difficulties with the studio who threaten to remove him from the project and the financial investment Baker has to make.

Yet while the premise behind BECOMING ICONIC is certainly interesting, it doesn’t really live up to its initial promise. As Baker strolls around various locations in New York, talking about his neglected upbringing, his love of films and the mentorship he received from Warren Beatty, it’s clear from the outset that this is his story. Baker is open and honest in his desire to make it to the top. He wants to be rich, famous and ‘iconic’. As such, he dominates the film to the point where it becomes far too much of it is about him and not about his learning experience or those who have something to teach.

Some of the editing techniques used in the documentary are also questionable. The decision to add a vintage, washed-out, old video effect across every still in the film becomes tiresome and distracting after a while. Several sections are also repeated in a way that diminishes rather than enhances the overall production.

That said, BECOMING ICONIC is a fascinating treatise on big budget directing. With directors like Foster, Hackford, Lyne and Badham lending their names to the project, there is a lot of wisdom to be mined here, particularly regarding financing, pre-production, working with actors and holding true to your vision. Adrian Lyne in particular stands out for his laid back, thoughtful approach which makes a change from some of the egotism on display.

2.5 out of 5 stars

BECOMING ICONIC screened at the Manchester Film Festival on 4 March 2018.