What’s it going to be like when your favorite fannish movie franchise or TV series comes to an end? If you’re fully invested in the fandom, those can be some dark days. Eventually, you’ll move on and find a new love but it’s hard when all you want to do is experience that same fannish flame over and over again.
Cris Macht knows what that feels like but thanks to a half-joking nudge from his sister, he found a way to put his fannish feelings to good use. Now he’s a fandom filmmaker with two Star Wars documentaries behind him and a new fan favorite in the works. Pull up a director’s chair and listen in while we talk with this week’s guest.
How did you end up making a documentary about Star Wars fans?
Cris: It was kind of a strange story and being a depressed Star Wars fan led me there.
In 2005, I flew to LA from Chicago and then from LA to London and experienced both the USA and UK premiers of the (then final) Star Wars movie Episode 3. I also had the fanboy dream come true of meeting George Lucas in person in the lobby in London. I then flew to Tunisia to see the Star Wars filming locations. So I was coming down from this ultimate Star Wars high that I had been working on for YEARS, so it was
almost a year late that I was sitting in an Irish pub with my sister and telling her that I was depressed Star Wars was “over” (and at the time there was no talk of ep 7-8-9 or the Clone Wars) and that I did not want my fandom to die – she said “well you are a creative guy, lets make a movie!”
So I showed up at her house the next morning with a rough draft of the script and she said “what’s that?” and I said it was the script for the documentary …she said “dude, that was drunk talk” and I said “hell no! I am serious”!
The Force Among Us (my 1st documentary) is a Hallmark car to Star Wars fans jam packed with passion and we even filmed on location in Norway (where they filmed the Empire Strikes Back!) I was so passionate about the project that we paid for the production out of our own project (this was before Kickstarter)! We pressed 1,977 DVDs and it was self-distributed and it is SOLD OUT!
We are about to release the directors cut this spring. I then made the sequel THE FORCE WITHIN US and that is almost sold out – that documentary is my “biopic” as a Star Wars fan and is a very deep, personal, and emotional journey.
Did you have much experience as a filmmaker at the time?
Actually NONE. I graduated from Columbia College in their music business program in 2000 and spent 1995-2013 in the music business doing multiple things. I was shopping around the 1st documentary to various filmmakers and I kept getting crappy offers that were way out of my budget and they wanted to “rewrite” the story. I asked my (now ex-wife’s) cousin for advice (he works in Hollywood) and he said, I will help you – if anyone can make a damn good story about passionate Star Wars fans, it is YOU! And the rest is history. It does matter who you know, but you need to have the passion, motivation, and drive as a director, producer, and writer to make things go from the idea to completion. I have since started my own production company with my good friend Ian Vacek (who has been in the film industry for years). I am now working in the business full time and am now working on my 3rd “fan-oriented” documentary – THE WALKERS AMONG US (a journey into the fandom of The Walking Dead)
Why The Walking Dead?
Yes, it is very similar to my first films. It is a “Hallmark card” to The Walking Dead fans and it goes deep and personal like my 2nd Star Wars film. One of the questions we ask is…”has The Walking Dead” changed your life or made it better. It not only features interviews with the fans but the cast, crew, artists, and authors. As a documentarian I want people to think and be emotionally moved by my storytelling
What was your biggest challenge?
All the projects that I have worked on have different challenges. With the one I am working on now, The Walkers Among Us, there has been a big mental element to promoting, getting the word out, and funding (Kickstarter). You think that since The Walking Dead is so popular and its fan base is so big (and passionate, like Star Wars fans)…then the Kickstarter campaign should go smooth and easy.
Our campaign for my 2nd Star Wars doc was funded in 10 days (with 20 to go). The campaign for The Walking Dead project is coming down to the wire. It has been work 24/ 7, from emails to passing out flyers, to multiple social media posts. The film festival circuit has also been a frustrating challenge, rejection after rejection…and I don’t handle that well. I would not make a good baseball pitcher or manager, LOL. But the fact that I can sell DVDs on my own has been a big success and at the end of the day, the fans are thrilled to watch my movies….this is the reward of it all!
What was the biggest reward?
Working with great people, getting my projects from notes on paper to a feature film, and fans across the world love my documentaries!
Could you pass on some words of advice to future filmmakers?
My biggest words of advice right off the bat is surround yourself with good people! Making a film is like having a good baseball team – it’s all about the team. NOT you! Have an open mind, and DO NOT be lazy. This is a LOT of work and you will find yourself wanting to quit along the way, but you need to keep it together and “pitch the complete game” – sorry about all the baseball references, I am BIG fan and I am working on a baseball fan documentary next.
As far has arranging interview and setting up to film, that takes time and you want to start with an outline (not necessarily a script – especially if it’s a documentary) and sweet and simple questions on note cards work. The more organized you can be the better.
Consider Kickstarter and PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE.
Speaking of pro – you now have your own production company. What’s the vision for the future?
Keep making documentaries!
And finally. .. we ask everyone to tell us about their favorite or weirdest fannish experience.
Nothing is quite like meeting George Lucas and visiting all the Star Wars filming locations. It is always a cool fannish experience interviewing the cast and crew from Star Wars and The Walking Dead.
During the interview, while I’m making direct eye contact and they are sharing their stories with you…. I start thinking….God, I love my job.
Learn more about The Walkers Among Us on the movie’s Facebook page
Originally published: Nov 8, 2014 on The Fandom Biz