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Retro Chats: An Interview with The NES Club!

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We (metaphorically) sat down with the minds behind The NES Club documentary to get some burning questions answered about the upcoming film. We also got to hear a little bit about them. The film documents the challenge of a Nintendo fan on a mission to complete his NES collection in 30 days. Sounds tough, right? Well, check this out. No online purchases allowed. I am extremely excited to see the finished results of the film. Along the way you will hear stories of Nintendo’s impact on the gaming world and see some familiar faces. There is also bound to be a few hijinks. Check out the trailer here in all of its glory:

The documentary is directed by Robert McCallum and features his best friend, Jay Bartlett, the man tasked with mission impossible. Can he do it? I can’t wait to see!

Retro Dustbin: This is a very original idea for a film. What was the inspiration behind the The NES Club documentary?

Rob: I had just finished a sci-fi adventure called “Unearthly” and I wanted to do something a bit smaller and more manageable; I had done a few docs in the past including one on Jim Henson,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVYj4N0KxRw) and actually one called “Fanboys” which featured Jay and two other collectors talking about their passion, their collections and motivations. So, literally a week after “Unearthly” premiered, I got the idea to do a doc on gaming and collecting games. Jay was a natural fit as it’s something we both always chat about and he was hosting a podcast called “The Arcade” in tandem with a podcast I was hosting called “The Show” about movies. We brainstormed a bit, avoiding what other people had done – not because what’s out there is bad, but we just wanted to do something kinda unique and approach it in a different way. I said from the onset that I didn’t want this to be a historical retrospective and I didn’t want this to be a glorified pick-up video, so we made it more of a “game show” because we’ve long-believed that collecting games is a game in itself; it was the right move.

RD: How old were you when you realized you wanted to create films?

Rob: I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been making films since I was 15 in one capacity or another. Actually, living in Canada we had to take French class for a certain period of time, and I happened to really like learning other languages, until it came time to write papers, and stories, so I asked if I could make a film instead of reading a story to the class and my teacher was all for it. So the first three films I made were in french and kinda brutal parodies of “The Evil Dead” trilogy. But as soon as I saw the classroom react to the gags and story I wrote, I knew this is what I was going to do forever. From there it snowballed.

RD: How long have you and Jay known each other?

Rob: Jay and I have been best friends for over 30 years which include a lot of road trips, rock concerts, playing games, and some hijinx not fit to print in any publication.

RD: How long has Jay been a game collector?

Rob: Jay’s been collecting his whole life. it started with Star Wars figures, then Atari games, and of course everything related to Nintendo. It’s always been a part of him. It’s hard to believe but it’s not that he just spent his money on this stuff or got it as presents; he’s always preserved the packaging, kept it organized; he cleans regularly everything. It’s a museum-like approach for him across the board.

RDAfter NES, is there another system you have set in your sights to complete? Complete boxed NES collection perhaps? 

JayThe boxes are very important to me, but that’s something I’m going to take my time on. Next system, great question. Although it has a much smaller library I’ve always wanted a complete Turbo Grafx -16 collection.

RD: Turbo Grafx-16 is also on my completion list! Can you tell us your favorite game? 

JayMy Favourite game of all time is Perfect Dark on the N64.

RDDid you have plans to have a complete NES collection before the idea of a documentary came up? Is it something you ever thought you could do? 

Jay: I’ve always wanted a complete NES collection. It’s something I’ve wanted to do that’s for sure. I mean what gamer, as a kid or even now, doesn’t dream of being able to pick and play any NES title at any given moment. Without saying if I completed the challenge or not, my message to everyone out there is anything is possible. It just takes determination, and passion.

RD: We know about Jay, but is Rob a big gamer at all?

NES ClubRob: Of course! And I blame Jay for that! Being friends for so many years, it’s definitely one of the “glues” that define us always gave us a reason to hang out. Of course NES has a permanent place in my heart but I’m also a big Genesis fan, and love my Dreamcast. I’ve been recently playing through my GameCube library; now that’s a system and library that’s severely underrated. I wanna get my hands on a Saturn and play some of the RPGs for that and just spend more time with my Wii U. Fortunately to have a few cool CIB NES games like Ducktales 2, Rescue Rangers 2, Wacky Races, The Jetsons and a loose copy of Samson — but there’s always more I want!

RD: Do you have any strange or funny stories you can share from filming?

Rob: I love getting asked this; Usually we tell people about running out of gas in Texas because the fuel gage reads from right to left, with “empty” being on the left which is still strange to me, despite feedback from others. Not noticing the fuel situation was mainly a bi-product of shooting for 10 hours, driving for 10 and sleeping for 4, for 30 days straight. One of our producers got lost one night and ended up in an adjacent hotel when he went to get some gear from the van for us. He eventually returned (or did he???) trying to explain how he got lost.  And, lastly, getting stopped crossing Canadian border with our GoPros rolling isn’t something I’d suggest to other people. Those border agents are more tech savvy than you might think.

RD: We have seen some interesting faces in the trailer! Who else can we expect to see?

Rob: There are tons of people that were generous with their time and for the cause of this film. A near-complete list is on IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3063470/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) but it was really neat to meet Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Richie Knucklez, Patrick Scott Patterson, Warren Davis, James Portnow, Carrie Swidecki, Triforce Johnson, Mason Cramer, John Pompa and more, as people that live and breathe gaming every day. But to be completely honest, it was really rad to meet a lot of independent store owners and see their shop decked out in a variety of different retro styles. Warp Zone in Columbus, OH is a fav, as was our stop at VGX in DuBois, PA not to mention A&C Games in Toronto and Game Cycle in London, Ontario, our hometown. Again, just thankful that so many people wanted to help us make this film in every capacity.

RD: I really can’t wait to see the finished product! What are the next steps for you guys?

Rob: We are finishing the edit in the coming weeks with post-audio (mixing, dialogue editing, sfx) up next. Distribution discussions are happening too so hopefully, we’ll be able to announce how people can see the film – digital platforms, disc and a few select screenings is the current game plans. Did I mention you can come hang out with us at ConBravo in July as well as CGE in September? We also have an exclusive clip showing at California Extreme this year and an upcoming interview with Playboy too. Of course, you can join us for our bi-weekly GamerCast on podomatic (nesclub.podomatic.com) and iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nes-club-presents-gamercast/id879277574?mt=2) True story. Game on!

Johnny grew up sharing NES, Genesis, and Playstation games with his older brother. His first personal system was the Nintendo 64. After regaining most of his old games, he began to expand his collection. Eventually, his mission became to collect anything and everything retro related.