Date: 5th November 2022
Location: 93-95 Mile End Rd, Bethnal Green, London E1 4UJ, UK

The new pinball movie based on a period of the life of pinball author and marketing guru, Roger Sharpe, had its international premiere in London this evening.

Pinball: The Man Who Saved The Game was the closing movie of the 2022 Raindance Film Festival in London. The screening took place at the Genesis cinema in Bethnal Green, London, with cast and crew from the movie in attendance, and Pinball News was there too, of course.

Prior to the screening, there was a photoshoot for the cast members along with the movie’s directors and producers.

In the lobby of the Genesis cinema
In the lobby of the Genesis cinema

As we entered the cinema’s lobby, Roger Sharpe was there along with his wife Ellen. Roger was posing with the crew around a couple of electromechanical pinballs.

Roger poses with a World Fair and a Fireball pinball
Roger poses with a World Fair and a Fireball pinball

The movie takes place in the mid-’70s, but initially centres on Roger playing a 1966 Subway machine in an adult entertainment store, so the 1964 World Fair is representative of games from that era. The Fireball is a mid-’70s game, so is more contemporary for the timeline of the story.

Besides the famed testimony and demonstration before the New Your City council hearing, the movie is framed around the developing relationship between Roger and his new-found soul-mate, Ellen. The real-life Roger and Ellen took time away from the photoshoots to give Pinball News a picture.

Roger and Ellen Sharpe
Roger and Ellen Sharpe

The movie screening took place around 8pm and was very well received by the cinema audience, receiving an extended round of applause once the final credits rolled.

This is the Bragg brothers’ first full-length feature. The duo both wrote and directed it.

The story has several strands which both entwine and run in parallel through the movie. A newly-unemployed and divorced Roger’s search for fulfilling employment interweaves with his desire for a meaningful relationship with divorced single mother, Ellen.

Ellen and son, Seth
Ellen and son, Seth

Meanwhile, his fanatic love of pinball leads to a desire to write a landmark book which both celebrates the beauty of pinball design while relating the stories of those who shaped the industry.

Mike Faist as Roger Sharpe playing Subway in an adult entertainment store in New York
Mike Faist as Roger Sharpe playing Subway in an adult entertainment store in New York

An article in GQ magazine and his interviews for the book both lead to Roger being coerced by the coin-op industry into appearing in front of a New York City council meeting to decide whether to maintain the city’s ban on operating pinballs. This is juxtaposed with the potential breakdown of his relationship with Ellen and Seth due to his thoughtless comments and fear of commitment.

There are several storytelling devices used to drive the story forward as well as dragging it, kicking and screaming, back on track. There is also the juxtaposition of present-day Roger narrating the events happening to the young Roger character and talking to both the audience and the film-makers themselves.

Present-day Roger (Dennis Boutsikaris) comments on young Roger (Mike Faust)
Present-day Roger (Dennis Boutsikaris) adds context and narration to the story

Ultimately, it is an uplifting and life-affirming story, demonstrating how hard-headed commitment and dedication to doing whatever it takes to achieve your dream brings hope and meaning to all of us.

The screening was followed by a questions-and-answer session involving the film’s directors and screenwriters, Austin and Meredith Bragg, Mike Faist who plays young Roger in the movie, Roger Sharpe himself, and the film’s producers.

The post-screening Q&A session
The post-screening Q&A session
Meridith & Austin Bragg, Mike Faist and Roger Sharpe
Meridith & Austin Bragg, Mike Faist and Roger Sharpe

Ellen Sharpe was in the audience for the screening, as was Roger’s sister, Geraldine.

Geraldine, Roger's sister, expressed how much she loved the movie
Geraldine, Roger’s sister, expressed how much she loved the movie

The Q&A was followed by an after-party, although sadly we had to leave early for the rather lengthy journey home.

After London, screenings resume in the US with four more film festival appearances throughout November.

  • November 9th – St. Louis
    St. Louis International Film Festival
  • November 10th – Pittsburgh
    Three Rivers Film Festival
  • November 17th & 19th – Wilmington
    Cucalorus Festival
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