The Rise and Fall of The Shooting Gallery
As we put the film together we quickly noticed the story of TSG (open from 1991 to 2001) mirrored the obvious change in independent film in the 1990s, especially in New York, where an infusion of capital changed everything. When we started, both Sundance and Miramax were a few years from becoming the titans that they became in the 1990s. For example, when “no-budget films” like El Mariachi were all the talk in the media, The Shooting Gallery did Laws of Gravity for $38,000. When purchase prices for indie films started to explode, The Shooting Gallery sold Sling Blade to Miramax for $10 million. And, unfortunately, when “new media” was all the rage, TSG followed, dealing a lethal blow to the company.
What makes Misfire so powerful is that it isn’t just the story of The Shooting Gallery… but the story of independent cinema of that period. Many participants make a parallel between The Shooting Gallery and Miramax since they were both cultural hubs of East Coast cinema, huge tastemakers for the entire industry and had dreams of world domination. But whereas Miramax eventually had Disney dollars backing every exorbitant purchase and misplaced expenditure, the Shooting Gallery remained damnably independent. This is a period of recent film history that has been woefully under-explored (perhaps best chronicled in Peter Biskind’s book Down and Dirty Pictures and one that still impacts us today; just ask anyone who attends Sundance Film Festival how much it’s changed in the past two decades.
Misfire is a provocative film that takes the story of a very personal disappointment and reminds a generation of what we have all lost along the way. In the end, Misfire is a portrait of a group of artist who found that artistic integrity could be a slippery and ephemeral thing. Many reviews of this film, as it has played film festivals around the country, have focused on its “limited commercial prospects” and lack of real juicy dirt about the fraud that was perpetrated. These reviews are exactly what Misfire pushes back against- the reduction of art into commerce and the exploitation of the truly talented by the truly venal and mediocre. Those reviewers miss the true center of Ransick’s film. For viewers with the right eyes, Misfire is not just a cautionary tale or entertainment business expose. Misfire is almost Gatsby-like in its melancholia and never once lets the audience forget that the enemy is not simply the money, the douche bags or the avarice of the human soul. In the end, the enemy, as always, is often our own selves.
In Whitney Ransick's documentary Misfire: The Rise and Fall of The Shooting Gallery, it's as if the whole of the 90s is condensed into the 10-year history of the production company. We get the boom of indie film and the boom of the internet, and the twin stories of the decade careen out of control and crash--the tech bubble bursts and takes The Shooting Gallery with it while the indie bubble goes through an irreversible metamorphosis. Misfire is the sign of the times, and yet there's a common tension that recurs in all stories of artistic endeavor: the creative people vs. the money people.