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Create or Die

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Feb 26, 2024

Film Reviews
Create or Die
Directed by:
Sarah Massey
Written by:
Sarah Massey
David Axe, Mike Amason, Aaron Blomberg

A low-budget indie documentary about low-budget indie filmmaking – it’s indie-ception with Sarah Massey’s Create or Die, a heartfelt and heart-filled documentary featuring filmmaker David Axe – a cinema romantic who believes in the importance of creativity in the face of adversity as he strives to realise his visions despite the limits put upon him.


Across its 68 minutes, the film features contributions from Axe himself as well his cast and crew as they bring to life his passion project ‘Acorn’ in the Georgia backwoods. They discuss the process of low-budget filmmaking as well as their motivations for pursuing what feels like a thankless endeavour – knowing the hours and money they commit may lead to little recognition. But through these testimonies, the brilliance and necessity of the indie space is evident.


Create or Die is both a character study of its subject David Axe and a look behind the scenes at the world of independent filmmaking. Axe is positioned as the indie world’s equivalent of Uwe Boll or Ed Wood – albeit with considerably more self-awareness. He knows his films are no good and accepts it. But his drive and love for the art of filmmaking pushes him during the production of Acorn, a film about a director desperate to make a great movie before their death (psychiatrists must have cartoon dollar signs in their eyes). Despite his avowed lack of ability behind the camera, in front of it Axe makes for a genuinely motivational and inspirational figure, with unrepentant and insightful commentary on the indie scene and process.


His cast and crew similarly exude passion for their work, with commitment evident through their own interviews. The multi-faceted angles the audience receives from the crew is where the film begins to engage on the actual process of low-budget filmmaking. Combined with Axe’s experience as director, his technical crew and acting talent give their own stories and detail how they came to work on their films. Particularly moving is actress Morgan Shaley Renew’s experiences that echo those of her character’s, as strong evidence as any that there is as much passion in tiny projects as there is in larger ones.


There is ultimately a limit to the analysis, and the film’s purpose is to celebrate passion and commitment as opposed to a close examination of filmmaking. Massey’s close ties to Axe from previous projects mean this was never going to be an interrogation, but the film’s sympathy to Axe, his crew and their combined dreams never feel unearned or unwarranted. Yet even despite his self-deprecative nature, there is some genuinely good advice on display – such as not straining your resources to outperform a budget. Axe may not be a critical darling, but his experience is still valuable.


To realise a film in spite of scant budgets, critical revulsion and pandemics requires uncanny perseverance and heart – regardless of the quality of the final product. Create or Die captures this sense impressively – and is a worthy acknowledgment of the passion of David Axe and his team, even if it is in itself better than anything they have ever produced. Hopefully director Sarah Massey is not quite so modest about her own work – because it is a genuinely excellent example of what one can do with a vision and a camera.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Documentary
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