DIY FILMMAKERS: JASON WISHNOW’S “TATOOINE OR BUST”

“Tatooine or Bust” is a documentary that follows the rerelease of “Star Wars” in 1997. Jason Wishnow staked out the true fans who spent the night to be first in line to see the Special Edition. The 13 minute documentary is smart, funny and offers real insight into the social phenomenon that is “Star Wars.” And now, the filmmaker, in his own words…
[ SO, WHAT’S YOUR STORY? ] ^ I’m not exactly a documentary filmmaker. I think of myself as a filmmaker in the generic sense. I experiment with different styles and genres, choosing whichever is most suitable for the subjectmatter at hand. When I directed “Tatooine or Bust” I was attending Stanford University where there’s a real documentary spirit, that definitely influenced me.
[ WHAT DOES THE TITLE MEAN? ] ^ We didn’t shoot with a title in mind because we didn’t know what to expect. There was one guy in San Francisco with a hand-made “Tatooine or Bust” sign, and that did it for us. “Tatooine” is a copyrighted planet from “Star Wars.”
[ ARE YOU A “STAR WARS” FAN? ] ^ I’m a big fan of going to the movies. That’s what “Tatooine or Bust” is really about. “Star Wars” is the catalyst. People feel passionate enough about “Star Wars” to make a pilgrimage. I recorded it, that’s all. I wanted to bring some more depth to the phenomenon than the TV news crews could. Pop culture drives today’s society, and the gravity and the kitsch of “Star Wars” fascinates me.
[ WHAT WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR? ] ^ As foils to the filmgoers, we interviewed people off the street who weren’t waiting to see “Star Wars.” We also interviewed the TV news reporters. They were like straight men to the fans, not very interesting in comparison. They never made the final cut.
[ BUDGET, SCHEDULE, STATUS? ] ^ We shot at five theaters around the country, simultaneously, with rented DV equipment. Since I could only be with one crew, I set up a web site for all the crews with detailed instructions down to the interview questions and camera angles (for consistency). We had groups of questions to choose from — we’d gauge how serious the fans were about the movie then ask whatever was most appropriate. All the crews were versatile and resourceful, that’s what made “Tatooine or Bust.”
[ DID YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING BECAUSE OF THE BUDGET? ] ^ I avoided using “Star Wars” clips and sound bites, primarily to convey the same sense of anticipation the fans were experiencing. What’s more, it would have been a cliche to use the theme from “Star Wars.” Not much of a sacrifice, especially since the music I did use is so high energy — by a new swing band called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. It was such a treat to work with these guys, they rock.
[ WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE MAKING THE FILM? ] ^ I learned that the majority of “Star Wars” filmgoers are twenty-something white males. Sometimes, they’d bring their girlfriends.
[ WHY DID YOU DO IT? ] ^ I didn’t set out to make a comedy. It just sort of happened. Zealots are funny. If I made a film about organized religion it would probably turn out the same way. People would take it more seriously, though. Because it’s so commercial, “Star Wars” is a really cheesy topic, on the surface, at least.
[ WHAT’S THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE FILM? ] ^ Starting in March, “Tatooine or Bust” will tour L.A., Seattle, London, Rio, the N.Y. MoMA, and Cleveland (among other cities) with the D.FILM Digital Film Festival. Also in L.A., “Tatooine or Bust” is playing at a store called “Things from Another World” at Universal Studios City Walk.
[ ANY ADVICE OR PEARLS OF BRILLIANT FILMMAKING WISDOM? ] ^ Movies aren’t made in a vacuum. My advice to all budding filmmakers: work with talented people. Good partners in crime compensate for equipment problems (but never the other way around).
[ WAS IT WORTH IT? ] ^ So far, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback. Mostly from my mother. I’ve attended the D.FILM festivals in San Francisco and San Diego and I was thrilled with how well the audience responded to “Tatooine or Bust.” That’s what it’s all about, you know, being in a room where the laughter is contagious, sharing the movie-going experience.
[ WHAT NEXT? ] ^ I’m working with D.FILM now, setting up a web site venue for movies designed specifically to be shown over the internet. I’ve been working on the site for a while now.
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Posted on March 9, 1998 in Interviews by
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