Interview with Rob McCallum. Director of Nintendo Quest!

Nintendo Quest

By now you may have heard about a fantastic new documentary about NES collecting. The film titled “Nintendo Quest” features a man named Jay scouring the United States in an attempt to purchase every north american released original Nintendo game released without using online purchases. Well earlier this year I had a chance to sit down and chat with Mr. Rob McCallum. The director of the film about some of this thoughts and theories as well as the concept of the documentary itself. We hope you enjoy it.

 

This is Dave from P1-Start.com 🙂 How are you today?
Hey Dave! Thanks for having me and taking the time to delve into all-things Nintendo Quest. I’m actually in a really excellent mood at the moment and anxiously awaiting your questions, so fire away!


I’ve been reading a lot about your documentary and seeing all the positivity. I’d like to make this a quick and dirty interview to get more of an understanding on the premise and the concepts behind why you decided to film this 30 day Nintendo challenge and the difficulties you’ve faced/are facing in doing so.
First off, tell me a little bit about you, are you a big fan of video games? If so what are some of your favourites from the Nintendo library, or any library.
Well, I grew up in London, Ontario, Canada though I’ve lived a few different spots including Toronto, Houston, and now Las Vegas and the essential part of every move was ensuring the game collection was as protected as much as possible! I think it’s safe to say, at least in the wake of Nintendo Quest, that I’m a pretty big fan of games. All games from all eras. As far as the Nintendo library, I love Punch Out, Final Fantasy, and of course, Ducktales and Rescue Rangers.


Tell us about Nintendo Quest and where did the idea come from?
I had just finished a low-budget sci-fi adventure that took a long time to finish and was an enormous undertaking as an independent filmmaker so I wanted to scale things back for my next project, which I knew had to be a documentary. I’ve made docs off and on for most of my film career covering such topics as Jim Henson, and toy collections, and I thought, “if I’m gonna do another film, it’s gotta be on something I love so much I’ll never get sick of” – so video games was the logical answer. Of course, I’m not the only one that contributed to the development of the concept. My best friend, Jay, who’s the lead in the film had a hand in shaping the film. It was always gonna be me and him doing something together and we knew it had to be more than a pick up video. But it had to be interesting. Then, as my brainstorming sessions usually strike, at 2am, I called Jay, who was playing with his rock band Astoria, who’s on our soundtrack, and I dared him. Boom. The rest was semantics.


So I understand its Jay Bartlett who is doing the collecting. Did he have any bit of a collection prior to the decision to painstakingly find each one?
Oh yes. Jay’s been a big game collector his entire life and prior to the challenge he had the staples of the NES collection for the most part. About 110 games in total – BUT, for the sake of the film, he had to start from scratch, meaning, he’d end up doubling those games as set out to try and complete a collecting in 30 days – something that weighed on him certain days.
Nintendo Quest

Jay Bartlett of Nintendo Quest


Why was the decision made to only give him 30 days to find all 689 US released games WITHOUT the use of the internet?
Well, there are a lot of practical reasons for the constraints. 30 days is all I could afford to be away from my other film “day job” clients in Vegas, plus afford to pay crew, and Jay’s own availability. That dictated a lot – it also just felt right. One month. That’s it. What can you do in an entire month? It’s a powerful concept to lobby at anyone and I hope that really resonates with folks who discover and watch the film because a month is a ton of time, if you make the effort to clear your schedule and rid yourself of the excuses that stop you from chasing your dreams. And that’s what this was for Jay – his dream to own an complete NES library.
Now, we limited it to the US Retail carts because we wanted to make it somewhat feasible in terms of cash but also to really say, “these are the carts that we all had access to as kids. All of us could’ve gone and grabbed them off the shelf.” It made it more universal. The internet angle wasn’t just to increase the challenge difficulty, though it’s the most shocking aspect to people; it’s to do things in an “old school” way. There’s more meaning and value when you have a story to tell, when you put effort into something. Jay’s got a story and a memory attached to every game he acquired and that’s powerful – and captured on film! Way more cool than clicking a button on eBay and waiting a week for the some-what instant gratification. An honest days work is it’s own reward, right? Again, put effort in and you’ll get more than you expect – and he did.


How successful has the endeavour been thus far?
That really depends on how you measure success. I got to hang out with my best friend for an entire summer while playing games, making a film, meeting so many cool people in the game community, and now get to share that adventure with even more people  – and those people seem to like who we are, and what the film represents. I think I’m humble enough to say Im successful followed by a massive, “thank you” because the “Nintendo Quest” monster is more than a film, it’s a bunch of people that decided to give a crap and get behind an idea.


Was there any unique challenges that presented themselves along the way?
Every day was a different challenge for Jay and a different challenge for me, as the filmmaker. To keep the focus on Jay, the obstacles that arose were stranger than fiction at times. You can’t write these kind of things! I would look at my producer as events unfolded before our cameras and just couldn’t believe what would happen from time to time. Of course, I’m being very broad here and you’re probably looking for specifics, but everything from Jay battling the constantly ticking clock, store inventories, store prices, rival collectors, his funds, and a few of the filmmaking challenges. There was never a shortage of conflict.
Could Jay use online tools or did he have to solely rely on flea markets/ ads and retro game stores? Could he use sites like Craigslist for example?
Jay couldn’t use the internet in anyway. The closest we came to using the internet was a GPS app to get us to the next stop! We would also post pics on Facebook but no craigslist, Kijiji, or other online ad site. Not even Paypal. I should say that the entire route was worked out in advanced in so far as we knew what towns we had to hit and how long it would take to drive and which stores were in each town. Only two stores knew we were coming in advance and that’s because they supported our first Kickstarter campaign. Everything else was a mystery and we wanted it that way for suspense, stakes, and excitement!
Nintendo Quest

Jay Bartlett with Patrick Scott Patterson. WHATS IN THE BAG SCOTT?


The soundtrack is completely original and 8-bit, thats amazing. Was there any challenges presented in creating it? For example, finding the right feel to the music. MegaMan 2 is an example of really nailing a soundtrack, did you cede any inspiration from already released games?
I’ll try not to speak on behalf of my awesome composer, John. H. McCarthy too much because it’s all his brain child and it really plays awesome in the film. Like some of our graphics, his music elevates the film to a level beyond my dreams. I should also mention that the film utilizes rock tracks as well as 8-bit and while it sounds like a weird combination, the two blend incredibly well. Don’t forget, Jay’s a rocker as well as a gamer. When it came to musical cues and inspiration for the 8-bit music, being the film’s editor as well as the director, I laced the cut with temp tracks from known video games but only for inspiration. John was able to lock himself in his house, go stir crazy and give me a ton of tracks after a relatively short period. He’s awesome. Most of the tracks I seeded elsewhere in the film than the temp tracks suggested. He’s been my go-to audio/music guy for my last four films so we have a great free, and open collaboration. There’s no pressure and it’s all a process and evolution.
When can fans expect to see a release?
Screenings start June 2015 – which is something that I didn’t know until a few weeks ago, so that’s cool, right? The film will go “wide” in October with a digital release that will coincide with 30 years of NES in North America. Funny how these things work out, eh?
Some big names are in the film as well such as Tommy Tallarico and Patrick Scott Patterson. Was it difficult to get others on board and what is their role?
All these game industry personalities, icons, and legends were very obliging about participating in the film. In most cases it was as simple as asking via Facebook or email, or getting someone already associated to call someone they knew and then that would spiral and lead us from person to person. Again, it’s hard to express how thankful I am that so many people cared about what we wanted to achieve. As far as their roles, while some actually interact with Jay during his hunt, most of these people appear and discuss the importance of Nintendo, why the NES is and was such a game changer, and how the landscape has shifted away from that ethos with mixed results. So as we follow Jay, a person who still loves the NES 30 years later, we talk with these experts about why that kind of love still exists. What did Nintendo and the NES do so well, that’s made it so iconic? The film has some nice answers, though we know it’s only the beginning of a larger, much more important conversation.
Nintendo Quest

Rob McCallum alongside Tommy Tallarico.


Where can people reach you online and learn more about Nintendo Quest?
The easiest place to get in touch is through our current kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pyreusa/nintendo-quest-an-unofficial-nintendo-and-nes-docu) but also on the film’s facbeook page (Facebook.com/theNESclub) and on Twitter @theNESclub, or my personal twitter, @PyreProductions


and finally, is the film completed and how much fun was it to collect all these games instead of actually playing them?

We have a little bit of polish left on our 5.1 mix as well as some paperwork for insurance and legal to finish but it’s essentially done. Well we definitely played a lot of the games Jay acquired. I mean, on the road, 30 days, hotels and an NES with us? Ya, that was fun. The collecting was a game in itself and that’s how the film presents it too with “game acquired” graphics, a budget meter – really a full-functioning HUD for all for all the days Jay was game hunting.

Thanks for chatting with us Rob! Would’nt you love to go and do this yourself? If youve seen the film why not give him some of your thoughts and you can help make the next awesome documentary from Rob McCallum even more awesome!

Nintendo Quest

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DazedDave

Author/Admin at P1-Start
Living in St.John's Newfoundland, Dave has been a gamer all of his life. Starting with the NES and working both backwards and forwards, he intends to play the new along with the old!
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About the Author

DazedDave

Living in St.John’s Newfoundland, Dave has been a gamer all of his life. Starting with the NES and working both backwards and forwards, he intends to play the new along with the old!