The real story behind Fanboys

Kyle Newman talks about the film’s production history and the effect of fandom.

Kyle Newman has said that fans were an essential factor in Fanboys being released. Speaking to SciFiNow, the director discussed the film’s notorious production troubles, the attempted forced edit by the studio, and the role in which websites and fandom played in eventually getting the film out in its original form.

“I wanted to make a movie with heart, a movie that had an emotional side to it and that was also a comedy, but at the core there’s heart, it’s about friendship and it’s a love letter to fandom and to Star Wars,” said Newman in a telephone interview this afternoon. “We had the movie, it was working, and it was testing very well, but I think they saw an opportunity to make a bigger and broader comedy.”

They, of course, were the production studio in the form of executives at The Weinstein Company. The following series of events was followed and scrutinised in minute detail on popular entertainment websites and print outlets, including SciFiNow as they happened, and a number of campaigns were launched in support of Newman’s film.

“There were definitely differences of opinion between what the studio wanted to do and what the producers, myself, the writers and the actors wanted,” he recalled. “But at the end of the day they owned it, and you know, you only have so much artistic ownership in films as opposed to other mediums. I paint, so I know about the difference, a film’s like a hundred people with a paintbrush moving in different directions, it can be very hard. So we had to kind of go through the motions, and there was almost a year of them bracing us for what they wanted to do with it, and how they were trying to take this movie, a $3.2 million independent dramedy, and turn it into a broad, lowest common denominator studio comedy with spoof elements.”

Those “spoof elements”, as Newman described, ended up being so far from the original vision of the film that the creative team had to put their foot down, and help came from a different quarter.

“That was the direction they wanted to go, they wanted to put Harry Potter in the movie, and Harry Potter wasn’t even around in ’98 [the film’s temporal setting]. They wanted to put YouTube clips, they wanted circus freaks, they wanted naked wrestling like Borat, there was all these things that came up and it was all squashed. But it took time. We set the stage for what we wanted to do and what the vision was, but they shot other stuff and there was a cut of the movie, but it didn’t conform to our Lucasfilm agreement, which was a PG-13 rating, they wanted to go racier with it.”

Fan outcry swiftly followed, and more than a few unfavourable articles ran about the production company, one executive even earning the moniker ‘Darth Weinstein’. Reshoots were eventually helmed by director Steve Brill, and several test screenings were later held with both edits. Newman eventually won his movie back, but with a savage caveat.

“The material wasn’t as good either,” said Newman. “It didn’t really elevate, it tested lower, and so they came back and said you win, here’s the movie back, and here’s 36 hours to go and cut the entire movie back to your movie. But you have to do it from our version. So it was a complete… almost like a game? In a way I won the game because I was prepared to go in there and do whatever I needed to do to get it exactly right. And at least we introduced the major storyline, the emotional subplot of Linus dying, and bringing them back together, otherwise it’s pointless. Otherwise it’s criminals going on a road trip to break in somewhere and there’s no real drive or purpose. So I got the cut back, I was able to do that.”

Despite the fact that he was able to rescue the film and restore it to his original vision, it’s clear that the director isn’t totally satisfied with the short period of time that he was allowed to make his edit.

“I feel like I only had the broad strokes and I wasn’t able to nuance it, but for the most part it’s the way it was supposed to be. Obviously there’s still a better cut out there, if I had more than 36 hours – and there’s a stipulation that it has to be exactly 90 minutes, for whatever reason, like nine-zero-zero-zero. So it didn’t yield an organic final cut in some places, but it gets the job done and I’m very happy that a lot of people are still responding to it.”

Next: A new cut, fan response, and the importance of bloggers.