Today on Industry Interviews, we have a very special guest with The Switch Effect. Rob McCallum is an award-winning filmmaker, having garnered recognition and popularity with his hit 2015 film, Nintendo Quest. However, outside of video games, Rob has worked on projects ranging from his own personal life in Missing Mom to the heavy metal documentary titled Kittie: Origins/Evolutions. As fans of Rob’s work, we were honored to have the chance to chat.
Before we begin, all of us just wanted to say congratulations on all of the well-deserved awards for Missing Mom as well as the incredibly fun and exciting Nintendo Quest. There’s not a documentary more watched by us than Nintendo Quest and has definitely reignited that completionist flame in all of us, haha. Right out of the gate, could you share a little background about yourself as well as how you got into the gaming industry?
I was lucky to know that I wanted to make movies since 11th grade. The overall experience of crafting the film plus sharing it with an audience was enough to set me on this path for the rest of my life. And believe me, I use terms like “crafting” lightly as my first films had me carrying a ghetto blaster behind the camera in order to supply the soundtrack. It’s only recently that I’ve been working in the game industry proper as a writer/producer. I’m not sure how long I’ll work in this field, but I’ll always be a filmmaker. That said it was a blast working on the new Mutant Football League Game with Michael Mendheim and editing their trailer.
What drove your passion for filmmaking?
I made my first films to avoid having to give presentations in front of my high school classes; not that I had an issue with public speaking – it just felt like a better way to present the task at the time, which was a horror film for a French class, of all things. It was a hacky remake of Evil Dead that made use of a Danny Elfman CD I had. It was a lot of fun.
What catches your interest for a new project?
Oh, any number of things. Since I can have a lot of fun with a lot of different subjects I try and focus on the business side before “green-lighting” anything to the point that actually make it. It’s got to make financial sense to spend years of my life investing in a project not to mention thousands and thousands of dollars. Overall, it’s got to be something that resonates at the core of who I am and something that interests me.
Since The Switch Effect is dedicated to Nintendo, let’s talk about Nintendo Quest. Having watched the film multiple times, we know it centers on your childhood friend, Jay Bartlett and his quest to collect all 678 officially released U.S. games, including the rarest of them all: Stadium Events. The journey took place over 30 days between Canada and the U.S. and was a chance for viewers to not only go on this road trip with Jay, but to learn more about Nintendo, gamers, and Jay himself.
Can you describe the process for creating Nintendo Quest from inception to the final product?
The entire project was a lot of fun and it still feels like last week that I was sitting on my couch in my house in Las Vegas taking to my camera, pitching the idea. Every choice we made was from the heart and to showcase how much fun Jay and I have doing that kind of thing. No one had ever attempted anything like that; Jay’s Quest was deemed impossible which made it that much more important to try doing. It’s really quite humbling to see how many people it’s inspired to Game hunt – at their own pace – and how many people we have been able to meet because of the film, let alone our follow up series, Nintendo Quest: Power Tour.
Were there any concerns going into this film?
The ending was a big concern from a filmmaking standpoint. I knew we could tell the story and showcase the highs and lows, but it was always going to come down to the ending and more importantly where Jay would be 6-8 months after the challenge. That was the most important thing to me: How would this challenge affect Jay long term?
Were you surprised by the overwhelming support and love this film received?
Ya, it’s been something we didn’t expect. We knew we had a handful of people interested in the film thanks to our first Kickstarter campaign, but it’s really grown a lot and more and more people discover the film every day. As much as I want to say we crafted a memorable film, I think a lot of the success comes from it being a documentary on Nintendo that was made with positive and loving intentions. So many of us were Nintendo kids and it really speaks to all of us in that way, and similarly, connects us too.
Before we wrap up, let’s do a quick speed round. Ready? What do you think of the Nintendo Switch?
I haven’t had a chance to play it yet though a lot of friends have shown me during travel trips. I haven’t seen that one game yet that makes me want to snag one and dedicate a weekend to mastering, but I don’t think it will be far off.
What upcoming games are you most excited for?
I hear rumors about a new Duck Tales game based on the new series; that could be fun. I honestly just want a chance to play some games which has been hard, but you’ll understand why given your next question.
Can you provide some updates regarding your newest project, Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Power of Grayskull has wrapped and we have a deal in place. I can’t announce the distributor just yet as there will be a few handling different forms of it. I’m guessing most people will have a good chance at checking it out when it releases though.
Super Nintendo Quest?
I see what you did there. Who knows if we will ever do a follow up? We have certainly discussed it and it’s more about dollars and cents than anything else. The first film, despite the reach hasn’t been immensely profitable, mainly due to the ridiculous amount of times it’s been illegally downloaded. I hate to be that guy, but it’s been downloaded almost 500k times and if we had a dollar for each of those, we would’ve delivered a trilogy by now. We have some amazing concepts that go above and beyond the same shtick that really freshen up the idea – just need some help funding it. Any takers?
How about “Box Art: A Gaming Docu-Series”?
Box Art is going well; there’s just a ton of footage to manage. I’ve been trying to get the trailer together, but every time I dig back into it I get pre-occupied cutting more of the episodes. It’s also been a new mindset switching from a feature-length documentary to a hosted series mainly because I want to include as much as possible which isn’t always easy in a formatted 20 minute episode even with 6 episodes for season 1. With my other films wrapping, I have more time to dedicate to Box Art, but I’m close to announcing another project as well.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just appreciate the opportunity for the chat.
Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with The Switch Effect. All of us are fans of your work and look forward to your next release!