We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing writer/director Joe Kawasaki (JK) and producer Sidney Sherman (SS) of the team behind the film Reboot, which is a “parable of our times”. It is a film that has been finding great success within many communities and it has been screened at several large hacking events, check it out.
HUNOW: Clearly the script is structured around many of the issues in Western society, what was the inspiration for Reboot?
JK: The inspiration came from this amazing period of change that we’re living in, and the daily news. It surrounds us and is a constant intrigue to me – particularly with the relationship between technology and human behavior. The moment when the core idea popped was when I looked around a coffee shop and saw that no one was speaking to each other, but were on their devices.
HUNOW: Would you say that this film is more of a statement or the start of a story which will be continued?
JK: It was never meant to be a statement, nor were there designs in the beginning to have it be something to be continued. It is a slice of the reality we live in, a parable of our times.
SS: As Joe said, I believe it captures a unique moment in time. We are not big on statements.
HUNOW: Tell us about the tech behind Reboot, what did you film with and why?
JK: We shot with the Canon 5D, and posted on our existing Mac Stations that we work with professionally. Why? Because these were tools that we primarily owned and use on a regular basis and it was just natural to institute them on a short film that was surely more ambitious than the budget we allowed ourselves. We ended up shooting with 2 cameras on a lot of setups, thanks to Keslow Camera of Los Angeles who graciously donated a whole other Canon 5D unit for us to use.
HUNOW: There’s been some criticism of the hacking/coding in the film. What are your comments on the authenticity of these scenes?
JK: We tried to utilise tools that would be recognisable to the hacker/infosec community, and worked pretty hard on ensuring that most of the code was authentic. I think the crits come with placement and context, and that was more an editorial decision on my part to keep the film moving along. There are also a few places where we did insert some stuff that are not code-related at all, and would be laughable to any serious programmer. In the end, I think the way it was presented and shown is still probably a lot more accurate than most cinematic translations of screen content. We certainly learned a lot, in balancing authenticity with dramatisation.
HUNOW: On a more trivial note, where does the QR on Jesse’s shirt go? We couldn’t get it to scan!
SS: It takes you here: http://startpb476.com/.
HUNOW: There’s a huge ethical debate at the heart of Reboot. Do you think it’s important to make people aware of our societies ever-increasing expectations and reliance on technology?
JK: I think it’s important to understand how connected we are, and to not take what we have and use on a daily basis for granted. Ultimately, as wonderful, powerful, and convenient as these things are, and no matter how much they’ve shaped the way we work, play, and interact with each other, there does need to be awareness and understanding, if only to retain those parts of ourselves that are uniquely human. Privacy and freedom are certainly core ideals and values that should never be taken for granted, as well as understanding how vulnerable we can be by being completely dependent on technology.
HUNOW: I heard that you aren’t really hackers yourselves. How did you create the characters within the film? Did you use stereotypes or base them on certain people?
JK: I can barely get around editing HTML… no, we certainly aren’t hackers in that sense. I think the spirit of hacking is something that I understand and am in-tune with. I’ve always been fascinated with the workings of things, and have no qualms in taking things apart to get a look; or to fix things. But the similarities pretty much stop there. The characters were created based on people I’ve known or met through my life, and with whatever I’ve seen through the limited research that was done. That said, because of the nature of the story, and that it was a short film, there were liberties I took with several characters; liberties I certainly would not take with a larger canvas.
HUNOW: Reboot has actually been screened at a lot of hacking events specifically. I know that this film is relevant to the events, but what do you hope to achieve by these screenings? Are you trying to create some kind of ethical debate within the hacking community as the film clearly points out that they could be much more powerful than is generally conceived.
JK: Ethical debates among the hacker set was never our intent. I think if we got even the slightest water-cooler discussion going with general audiences on some of the topics touched-upon in the film, then it’d be fantastic. Showing it at a lot of hacking events came out of the fact that this film, in one respect or another, does represent part of that culture, and we thought some interest could arise from the very community that the film was sort of about. I think we were a bit hesitant in exactly how general audiences would receive the film initially.
SS: Once we screened at DEF CON that gave us a bit of credibility in hacker circles which has led to many invitations to screen our film at other hacker events. It has been an amazing experience so far and we have met some incredible people as a result. We consider ourselves very fortunate for the support and acceptance by the security community.
HUNOW: There’s a particular scene in the film, in which social media is being used as torture. It’s quite brave tackling that kind of content with all of the recent cases of this in real life, what made you write that into Reboot?
JK: The Krystal character (played by Janna Bossier) is important because more than anyone else in the film, she represents the average tech-user. She has no care or understanding of how she uses it, except that she engages socially through it, and she probably doesn’t even realise how much of her life is actually in the virtual world. It was definitely meant to shake-up the idea that her existence was much larger on those virtual platforms than perhaps even she realised. It can be horrifying to have your self-identity be built primarily around your interactions on a computer network, and so it was a natural bit to slip into the film for me; because it’d be terrible if someone were to suddenly steal that identity from you.
HUNOW: Last of all, for the readers of holdupnow, what advice can you offer for writing, recording and promoting material to make it become a reality, just as you have? Any tricks of the trade that you think are important?
JK: There will be plenty of opportunity for excuses along any journey, so don’t sabotage yourself by making them early in the game. Just keep at it and do it, even if you wake up on some days thinking it’s all gonna blow up in your face. I think fear of failing in anything has got to be one of the most debilitating things we can do to ourselves, and I would start by saying throw that out of the window. It’s worse if you’ve never tried.
Second, once you roll, give it your all and don’t give up. One of my favorite quotes from a great filmmaker: “Pain is temporary, film is forever.” It’s absolutely true. If you’re knee-deep in some hole, surrounded by an exhausted crew, and actors who are giving you their best in some uncomfortable location, that is certainly not the time to compromise and say, well, that was good enough. You’re there in the shit already! Make it the best it can be, because whatever you walk away with, is going to be it.
Third, every production will have a moment when you think the world is on fire. Keep cool, keep on your toes, keep thinking solutions, and make it happen. Don’t panic. I can only hope you enjoy the rush of solving problems on the fly; because half of filmmaking is just that: solving problems and fixing things and making things work while the clock is ticking and the sun is going down.
SS: I could go on for pages, but I will offer some practical and important advice for the promotion of your film. You must create a social media campaign for your film (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc.) in order to engage your audience in a fresh and dynamic way. That means you need to create new content that is specific for the web that helps build awareness for your film but can stand alone as engaging content as well. And no, spamming people with your log line is not fresh content…LOL. I’m convinced that Twitter is the single most important tool in an indie filmmakers bag of tricks for reaching their target audience. And if you are not using it, then you do so at your own peril. In the case of REBOOT, we created an elaborate ARG that is a parallel experience to the film and it helped us build a very strong fan base around the world. We currently have people playing our game in over 140 countries. For more information on our game, people can go to: www.rebootfilm.com/scoreboard. Indie filmmakers need to be their own best advocates in the distribution of their films. After-all, who knows your film better than you do? Be passionate. Be relentless. Be kind. And engage your audience. They are waiting for you and you will be surprised how rewarding the experience can be.
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