More Info On The Reboot Movie

By Josh Tyler 2007-07-25 00:42:14discussion comments
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Early yesterday the news first broke here that Rainmaker studios was resurrecting their computer animated series ‘Reboot’ (in fact it was the first computer animated TV series ever) for download as a feature length film. Their plan involves using MySpace-like Web 2.0 technology on a social networking site for comics and genre film fans called Zeroes 2 Heroes as a way to involve fans in the creative process. In short, they’re actually letting fans help create the film by commenting and voting on various pitches their writers will present to them. To me it sounded like the awful American Idol formula applied to making movies, but in an attempt to wipe out my skepticism Zeros 2 Heroes president Matt Toner graciously invited me to listen in on a phone conference held earlier tonight between Rainmaker/Zeros 2 Heroes staff and hardcore ‘Reboot’ fans.

What I learned didn’t exactly allay any of my fears about where this sort of fan voting mentality might be headed, but the folks at both Rainmaker and Zeros 2 Heroes at the least sound committed to doing their very best to get it right. In fact, according to members of the Rainmaker team present during the conference, they aren’t even getting paid for the extra work they’re doing to create ‘Reboot’ content for the website. The artists are investing their own time and energy to come up with something for fans to interact with, and the art work you’ll see on the site when it goes live Thursday to coincide with Comic Con is going up untouched by studio or executive notes. It’s straight from the artists to the fans.

But what could there possibly be to be gained by allowing fans to have so much control over developing a property like this? Rainmaker/Zeros producers and execs used Star Trek as an example, blaming the failure of the film’s odd numbered efforts on producers who “didn’t get it” and presumably, in their opinion simply needed to listen more closely to their fanbase. Except with Star Trek, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact the best Star Trek movies, like Wrath of Khan for instance, were developed with a mindset of making a good movie first, and a Star Trek movie second.

Another example cited during the conference to prove their point was Peter Jackson’s interaction with fans online during the filming of Lord of the Rings using TheOneRing.net. But again, Lord of the Rings works because it is so willing to take liberties with the property that many times, fans didn’t like. There are hardcore LOTR fans out there still weeping and gnashing their teeth because they miss Tom Bombadil, but when translating the books to a movie, the property was better off without him. The key to making a great movie isn’t pandering to fans, it’s turning the thing over to talented, dedicated people who care deeply about the property, want to get it right, and then letting them do what they want with it, without interference from executives or over-excited fandom.

You’re probably getting the idea here that this press conference didn’t do much to allay my fears. To me, this sort of filmmaking represents everything that’s become wrong with modern entertainment. Unfortunately for us (and luckily for them), even though it usually results in a crappy product, it’s also proven to be extremely profitable in other forms of media, television and the internet in particular. What they’re doing with Reboot as a movie seems like the next natural evolution of entertainment by committee that already powers and degrades the quality, and raises the profit margin of modern television.

Television by the way, may end up being where the Reboot “feature length film” is headed. I think the big question everyone has had since the Reboot movie announcement is whether this will actually be something that hits theaters, or if we’re talking about something that’s going direct to DVD. The truth is… Rainmaker’s people don’t know. They’re very early in the development process. They don’t have any financial backers and they won’t even have any idea what sort of movie they're making until they launch their website and turn everything over to the fans to decide for them. They stressed during the phone conference that they’re keeping their options open. They aren’t ruling anything out. The idea, for the time being at least, is to put something together with the fans behind them and then take it to someone with deep pockets and see what sort of deal they can get.

They say, “There’s a whole way of distribution options we can pursue… Premieres on cable or satellite with some select theatrical releases we don’t know.” Sounds like they’ve been drinking Kool-Aid with Mark Cuban. “We know we want to do a trilogy and we want to do feature length stories,” they insist. And for now that’s all there is to know about Reboot until you, the fans tell them where to go with it.

They say, “You’re never going to please everybody, but the idea is that we’ll get a pretty good idea of where the prevailing winds of fandom are blowing us.” I don’t know where it’s blowing them either, but as someone who likes Reboot, I hope that when the fans stop blowing they land somewhere good.
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