Recently we had the chance to talk with writer/director Rob McCallum about “Galaxy of Hope: An Unofficial and Unauthorized Star Wars Documentary”, a film that centers around collecting rare and unique Star Wars memorabilia which will be then auctioned off to raise money for the Children’s Health Foundation.
So where did the interest in filmmaking come from?
Rob: I used it to get out of doing written reports that I’d have to say in front of classes in high school, particularly French class. My first three films were short films, horribly bad parodies of Evil Dead, but they each meant that I didn’t have to stand in front of the class reading the stories that we were supposed to tell people. The teacher wisely knew that it would take a lot more work to make a film then just do that so she foolishly let me do that and here I am, twenty-three, twenty-four years later, however long it’s been.
Was that what sparked your interest or were you interested already in the idea of making films?
Rob: No, that was the first real spark. When I put the film on in class and saw the reactions that people had for something I had done, coupled with the fun of shooting it and editing it, with my VCR and camera, it was just a really fun process. From that point on I knew this is what I wanted to do, always been into creative writing, always loved going to the movies, I was the kind of kid who could watch the same movie over and over again and actually, I’m still pretty much that person.
Obviously getting a film made at all is no easy task. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Rob: I guess really finding a good concept that connects with me and other people. You can’t make a film just for yourself, you have to have that audience out there and really finding a concept that really drives you and what the audience can connect to is a really hard task. We all have wonderful ideas that would be a great thing to see on the screen but they don’t always hit home. There are always audiences asking for this kind of movie to be made but there’s not always a filmmaker that has that same touch tone within them to make that story.
Ok, let’s say I don’t know a thing about Galaxy of Hope. Give me a description of the movie and what you hope to accomplish with it.
Rob: It’s the most unofficial Star Wars quest ever. You can expect to see a road trip across North America, weave in and out of different cities and comic shops, all together on a very much hero like journey that’s going to bring a lot of good and hope for people that can’t do it on their own. By that I mean specifically, the kids in the Children’s Health Foundation, who are depending on Jay Bartlett and myself to go out in the galaxy of ours, our pop culture galaxy, and secure these artifacts and auction them off for funds that will go directly to them.
Now you use the word ambitious, and that’s a great way to describe this project. What kind of planning goes into something like this?
Rob: Well it’s a fine line because you don’t want to do too much and scare yourself but you want to do just enough so that you feel like you know what you’re doing. With something like this, you’ve got to figure out how many days you can be on the road, travel costs, where you can go city to city, gas, who’s going to do the driving shifts, etc. Basically, you do a lot of travel planning and on the collecting side of it, for Jay’s sake, how those dollars get spent, what he chooses to buy, what he chooses to pass on, what leads get followed and what leads don’t get followed, every choice really matters. Even though the journey is going to take a calendar year to collect these interesting items the clock never stops ticking, so if we choose to go left when we should go right, that’s going to impact people at the end so it’s a series of choices and that’s the hard thing. You can only plan so much because as we discovered with Nintendo Quest things will pop up, opportunity will knock and you’ve got to make a decision right then and there whether you’re going to follow it or be stubborn and stick to the plan that you think is best three months earlier, or whatever it was.
So where did the idea for Galaxy of Hope come from?
Rob: Well, it came from me. Jay and I had done Nintendo Quest, filmed it in 2013 and released three years ago, so we had been looking to do some kind of follow up but nothing felt right. With Nintendo Quest he was doing a dream thing for himself, that was to collect every single Nintendo cartridge so I dared him to do it, I was sick of hearing about it, so I said do it, I’ll film it but you only have thirty days. We could never really come up with a good follow up that was as powerful and you only get one dream, right? If we did something like Super Nintendo or Genesis it would be lesser by comparison but after Nintendo Quest happened and it came out Jay started doing all this charity work with his group Echo Three and working with places like Children’s Health Foundation and Make a Wish and I thought there was a bigger opportunity for him to take what he’s been doing with his group and really make an impact. Instead of just showing up at Canadian Tire in December on a weekend and making some kid smile as they walk in and get their picture taken, why not mount something really big and collect a lot of money, involve everybody we can reach out to, to kind of get them on board and make a big difference that will go much further than these small little one-offs. He liked it, he understood where I was coming from and realized with Star Wars being popular across the globe there was really a chance to bring fans from everywhere and get them involved in something like this.
Was Star Wars a topic you always wanted to use inside of a movie or did it just come up in conversation, like a happy accident?
Rob: Well, when it comes to Jay there are three things that really define who he is and his passions: Video games, rock and roll and Star Wars, it’s just that simple. Having done video games that were off the plate, couldn’t really think of a rock and roll quest so Star Wars, which has been his passion forever, this was just a perfect match. I’ve done documentaries on other things that I love like heavy metal, the band Kittie and their release that just came out in March. I have a documentary on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, kind of my childhood toy, coming out this summer, so the planets kind of aligned really for Star Wars to happen, given his charity work and what we could do with it, with Children’s Health and their patient ambassador Andi who is a huge Star Wars fan, I mean her dog’s name is Jedi. It became hard to ignore the Star Wars idea than doing something that was less self-serving in another quest.
Using Star Wars for your movie, did that create problems legally speaking that you had to sort of tiptoe around?
Rob: There is definitely a process, that’s for sure. Having made Nintendo Quest, an unofficial and unauthorized Nintendo documentary, which is in the title, you have to be careful how you use different IP and how you frame what you’re doing. The first thing is obviously making sure unofficial and unauthorized are part of your poster and your title so that there’s no brand confusion. Anytime you want to use clips or make reference to IP material specifically you’ve got to make sure you’re using it in the right way. We rely heavily on fair use, we did that with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, so Mattel wouldn’t come after us, or Sony or Universal, who owned the rights in different capacities. As long as you know what you’re doing you’re fine, you definitely don’t want to have a gratuitous montage of Jedi lightsaber attacks just because you think it’s fun, that would end up in a courtroom, which isn’t so fun.
How have you found marketing a film like this? With Star Wars having something to do with it have you found it easier or is it still a difficult process?
Rob: It’s actually been a little bit surprising. I do a fair number of Kickstarter campaigns, usually one a year or so, and it had been a couple years since I ran one and Kickstarter in terms of the chief marketing vehicle to start the films which we’ve been doing has changed a lot. Now projects are coming to Kickstarter are almost like the last step before retail, for superfans they kind of get a little bit extra, versus five years ago you could sit on your couch and say here’s my dream idea. So in terms of marketing, you have to bring so much more to the table, regardless of topic, to convince people because there are just so many options out there that you are competing with and something like Star Wars is everywhere. You go to the grocery store, you’ll see advertisements for the new Solo movie on bags of lettuce, you’ll see the red Solo cups, so there isn’t really a need or demand for something Star Wars where there may have a demand for it five years ago. That’s the challenge, convincing people that this film is worth backing, worth watching and will add to your love and experience of the Star Wars saga. There is definitely a bit of Star Wars burnout which is working against us but the brand identity is always working for us so it can be a touché situation at times.
The Star Wars fandom can be a bit challenging in terms of winning them over. What has the reaction been from fans about your movie?
Rob: Well, it’s not just the Star Wars fandom. Having made video game documentaries and other action figure lines, there are a lot of passionate people that have very specific opinions on who should be creating what and how they should be creating it. Just recently we had people say, you’re not ingrained enough in the community to make this, almost like how dare you have an idea without getting past the gatekeepers of Facebook, to have the blessing of the group on masse to make your film. It’s social media so it’s an uphill battle but by in large, because of the charity side of things we’re doing, people are giving us a pass because they see this is for a bigger goal and that we’re not just collecting action figures to put in our rooms.
Ok, so to wrap this up, can you give me a few reasons on why people should back this?
Rob: You should back this because you’ll never be involved in a project that can actually make a big impact ever again. With Galaxy of Hope, you make a difference, regardless of the pledge amount because you’re believing in the idea that fandom is a force for good.
I want to thank Rob for taking the time to talk with us