Date: 24th July, 2013

Pinball, along with the people who play and collect it, seems to be a popular topic for filmmakers, with the latest team looking to capture the vibe around the game by focusing on the renewed interest built up in recent years.

Shoot Again - The Resurgence of Pinball is a full-length documentary from Director/Producer Blake Faucette and Associate Producer Lorien Green. Both have experience making films on either pinball itself, or related subjects.

Blake most recently made the short Pinball Love - a visual feast of classic modern pinballs, showcasing the artwork, playfield features and lighting effects. But he has a number of celebrated earlier works showing on-line, including the award-winning Often Awesome series.

Lorien's previous work was her first foray into documentary making following her writing about the subject in her blog, and it too looked at the way a once-popular pastime was being embraced all over again. Going Cardboard examined the resurgence and reinvention of tabletop board games, the designers of these new forms of the genre, and the people who play them.

Now the two of them have teamed up to turn their attention to pinball's phoenix-like rise from near collapse just a few years ago to the multi-manufacturer global market we see today.

Pinball News spoke with Associate Producer, Lorien to find out a little about her and Blake, how they came to team up on the project, and what made them want to tell this particular story.

Lorien told us, "I grew up an arcade gamer, but not really aware of pinball.  I also fell head over heels for pop culture documentaries in 2008 when my husband brought home The King of Kong.  One of the ones I particularly loved was TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball.  However, my own first documentary, Going Cardboard, was about designer tabletop board games.  That project went from 2009 – 2012.  The film was well-received, and I used the proceeds to buy my first pinball machine about a year ago, and started to really learn about pinball as a hobby.  I felt that there was a story to tell there that hadn’t yet been told.  But I didn’t feel that I was really in a position to undertake another solo project of that magnitude."

She continued, "Then I came across a short YouTube video, Pinball Love, and it captivated me.  I contacted the creators and asked if they’d thought about doing a pinball resurgence documentary, and yes, they had.  'They' turned out to be Blake Faucette, a skilled filmmaker who had won best series on Vimeo in 2012 with his web series about a friend’s battle with ALS (Often Awesome).  It was obvious that not only did Blake have an understanding of the beauty of pinball and how to convey it through film, but also the ability to tell a compelling story.  So we teamed up."

But why, we asked, choose pinball as a subject matter? What did they see in the game and the people which made them think it would be a good subject for their first work together?

Lorien explained, "I like to really delve into whatever hobby I’m passionate about at the time.  With board games, I saw the community, and appreciated all the positive sides of the hobby and the people who took part in it.  I wanted to share what they were doing, and help other people discover it. 

Pinball is similar in many ways.  It’s a hobby that, like board games, has been around for a long time, but that has evolved over time and gotten more sophisticated.  It’s also counter-culture; everything these days happens on a screen, a computer screen, a movie screen, a touch screen.  Board games are physical by comparison, and so is pinball.  I see a lot of parallels with what made the board gaming community interesting to cover.

It’s ironic, because back in the '80s, video games, arcade games, de-throned pinball.  But this time, video games are playing a part in pinball’s comeback.  Farsight Studios’ Pinball Arcade was awarded best mobile game of 2012 by G4TV, and these video emulations of classic tables are helping to bring real pinball back into the public eye.  So while pinball is very much a kinetic and physical experience, modern technology is helping it thrive in interesting ways."

With a number of films already exploring various aspects of pinball and the culture surrounding it, how would Lorien and Blake's find a different angle so they could create something unique?

Lorien told us, "Indeed, there are a good number of pinball documentaries out there already.  The most recent ones include The Pinball Passion (2008), TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball (2009), Special When Lit (2010), and The History of Pinball (2012).  I was a documentary buff before becoming a pinball fanatic, so I have all of the above, as well as Pinball 101, where I learned proper pinball etiquette (no jazz hands!).

The History of Pinball is an excellent documentary, which provides a thorough overview of pinball’s history.  Really cool stuff, like who invented the flippers, when match sequences first appeared, and so forth.  TILT takes you up to a sad moment in time, when Williams closed down.  So you watch TILT, and you may feel that pinball is over, a thing of the past.  Pinball Passion covers some interesting historical highlights, and talks about pinball design and rule sets, as well as the challenge of maintaining pinball machines in public.  Special When Lit is more recent, and closes on rather sombre notes, with Steve Ritchie himself wondering whether or not pinball would be around in 10 years (an interview which probably took place in 2008 or 2009).  The last thing you see is a busted old pinball machine sitting out on the railroad tracks.

You know what’s happened since then?  Steve Ritchie designed AC/DC.  The limited edition version of Stern’s Metallica machine sold out completely in a matter of hours.  Jersey Jack Pinball was announced, as well as a bunch of indie pinball machine projects.  According to Ars Technica, more arcades are now opening than closing, including Pinball Wizard in my neck of the woods (New Hampshire), a classic arcade featuring nearly 100 pinball machines. Pinball Magazine is at work on its third issue.  Barcades are a thing now.  It may only have been a couple years since the last pinball documentary, but some really significant things have happened to pinball in that time.  That’s exciting!

All these documentaries bring something to the table for pinball, and I recommend all of them.  They have laid down a solid historical foundation.  We’re not going to spend a lot of time on history, that’s been done, and done well. Our film, Shoot Again, is the next chapter in this saga. 

Lorien and Blake were originally only looking at the American side of pinball as indicated by the documentary's sub-title "The Resurgence of Pinball in America". But they have since taken the American reference out, so does that indicate a more globally inclusive look at what's happened and is happening to pinball, or is the focus still very much US-based?

"Yes, originally we had that as a subtitle in the first poster mock-up, basically because we’re in America, and that’s the situation we know.  But pinball is enjoying similar popularity in other countries. Stern has long maintained that a sizable portion of their machines go overseas.  What’s going on in America, with on-location pinball consolidating to more dedicated venues and the home market heating up, is going on in other countries as well.  I just read an article laying out exactly that scenario in France.

Pinball is and always has been a very American-based industry, so in that sense it is American-focused, but I think it’s a story that is going on globally.  Mind you, just as there are parts of our country where there is no pinball to be found, there are of course countries where pinball is not making much of a comeback – not yet, at least."

Shooting has already started on the documentary taking in locations such as Jersey Jack Pinball and the Silverball Museum, so where are the team in the production process, do they have all the interviews and locations lined-up, and will we see them filming at any upcoming pinball shows?

Lorien told us they are still very much at the beginning of the process. She said, "We kicked off filming back in May, and have those interviews completed as well as a couple others on the schedule coming up.  We started out with an outline of what we wanted to cover, and a list of people we wanted to include.  That’s always subject to change as other opportunities arise or if through the course of investigation we find an important additional angle to cover.  While even a documentary needs to start with a screenplay of sorts, there’s also an element of the story shaping itself as you uncover it.  That’s what makes documentaries so interesting to make."

The Interview with Jack Guarnieri in May
The interview with Jack Guarnieri in May

"Interviews will include at least one other collector, arcade owners, and of course, Stern Pinball.  As I mentioned, we’re interested in a lot of the new elements and technological advances, so we will target our interviewing efforts accordingly.  I’m always careful not to throw details around about potential interviewees until they happen, but I’m excited about what we’ve got cooking.  Attendees may see us floating around at PAPA, Penny Arcade Expo, and the Chicago Pinball Expo."

How will the movie be released? Will we be able to view or purchase it at film festivals, on broadcast TV, on-line, on discs, or in other ways?

Lorien said, "We’ll explore the options as we sink our teeth into post-production, but we intend the film to be widely available for anyone who wants to see it, and that definitely includes digital as an option.  That’s another cool way that technology has changed the landscape; you can make an independent film and put it out there on digital channels.  That wasn’t feasible even just a few years ago.

One thing I did with Going Cardboard was welcome screenings at conventions and colleges.  That gets your film right to the target audiences that will most enjoy it.  Making a film like this one is driven by a love of the subject matter and a desire to share it.  That desire is something pretty much all pinball fans feel about their hobby.  They want it to grow, and they want people to discover it.  We feel the same way about Shoot Again; we want it out there, we want people to see it, and maybe even rediscover pinball as a result of seeing it."

And finally, do you have a planned released date yet?

"The average documentary takes four years to complete.  At first I scoffed at that number. 'Nonsense! I can do it in 18 months!' Just over 3 years later, I had a humbler opinion and a greater appreciation for that statistic.  We expect to finish filming the majority of interviews by the end of 2013, and move into post-production for 2014.  I think we’ll have a better idea of a release ETA once we hit post.  That said, we’ve got momentum, and we’ve got drive, and more importantly, Blake and I are both super-obsessed with pinball.  The ETA I’m going on in the back of my head is 'ASAP'."

Naturally, we'll keep you updated with all the developments with Shoot Again - The Resurgence of Pinball over the coming months right here at Pinball News.

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