In as much as The Beta Test is about agencies and the WGA packaging fight, it is also about mysterious purple envelopes and adultery.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The single best parts of The Beta Test are all of the inside baseball that comes with depicting the agencies. How many filmmakers would make a film that tackles the WGA packaging fight? Not many filmmakers, I suppose. This is what I love about a filmmaker like Jim Cummings and I cannot praise the filmmaker enough. There’s a funny meta line in the film about agents not being like what you see in movies and television! Honestly, this may just be one of the best lines in the film.
But when the film is not tackling the agency side of things, we’re watching Hollywood agent Jordan Hines (Jim Cummings) falling down the rabbit hole. He receives a mysterious letter asking him to a sexual encounter in a purple envelope. This takes Jordan into a different world, away from the one he knows.
“What’s great is you’ll hear people in Hollywood, when they see the film or hear about it, like, oh, that’s inside baseball,” Cummings told me during this summer’s Tribeca junket. “We never could have gotten the film greenlit had we gone through the conventional rounds because people hate the idea of us talking about this important issue. It really was the most important thing in recent Hollywood history—that the WGA didn’t have to put up this fight to support creatives and to ensure the future landscape of filmmaking and TV making to support the artists rather than these criminals who are trying to take all the ownership of things.”
Jim Cummings is one of the best indie filmmakers working today. I never heard of him before Thunder Road, which I honestly recommend watching if you’ve yet to do so. He’s so great in the film, too, as Hollywood agent Jordan Hines. This do-it-yourself attitude is what I love about Cummings. Or in this case, he does it with fellow director, screenwriter and actor, PJ McCabe. If they didn’t, we’d be waiting another ten years or so for the film to get off the ground. Watch for my complete interview soon with Cummings and McCabe.
The Beta Test is a wholly original do-it-yourself film coming at a time when studios are churning out sequels, remakes, and reboots.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe
CAST: Jim Cummings, Virginia Newcomb, PJ McCabe, Olivia Applegate, Jessie Barr, Malin Barr