“Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary”
The first quarter of Berman’s “Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary” is a glimpse into the mind of a dying magician attempting to resurrect his once-prolific career. But around the 20-minute mark, a surprise unfolds. And then another one. And another. By the time the fourth twist rolls around, you’re likely to question if what you’re even watching is a documentary, or a meta-portrait that, in Berman’s own words, “f—s with the form” of the genre.
Coming from the world of directing and editing comedy television such as “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “Tim and Eric,” Berman says he was used to meticulously planning shoots. But this movie, his first feature doc, made him throw that philosophy out the window.
“This is pretty much the best thing I’ve done, and it was due to the reality that things aren’t in your control, so don’t try to force something that isn’t right,” Berman says. “Both in my fiction work and my nonfiction work moving forward, it’s like, ‘Roll with the punches and be observant to the value that’s there in front of you, not what you thought it was going to be.’”
Next for Berman includes a “part true crime” doc, and a project examining the use of hologram performers (think Tupac or Frank Zappa). “Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary,” which premiered at Sundance in January, hits Hulu this summer.
Looking back on making the film, which he debated quitting at points, Berman says there was something special that kept him going.
“As painful as making it was, there was constantly reminders that this is what I should be doing,” Berman says. “It was greenlighting me, it was saying, ‘OK, the story is over here. This is the story, chase this.’”
— Rachel Yang