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South By Southwest Film Interview – The team behind REWIND THIS!

by Jason Whyte

“REWIND THIS! is the story of the home video revolution and the way it transformed our lives. It moves fluidly between a focus on personal stories and a massive overview of the entire industry. It's a passion project born out of a desire to celebrate a major turning point in history that shaped who we are and how we relate to movies. It's filled with nostalgia for the time spent roaming the aisles of a video store, imagining the experiences that awaited. It's a sleepover pizza party, and everyone is invited!” Director Josh Johnson on REWIND THIS! Screening at this year's South By Southwest Film. Josh along with producers Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer are also here to talk about the film.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience?

Carolee Mitchell: This is our first SXSW as presenting filmmakers. We had all been based out of Austin and have attended SXSW as film watchers many years in the past. I love the food and people. I am in the process of creating “the list” of meals that I must eat when in town.

Josh Johnson: I love the supportive community that exists here. If you have a creative endeavor you wish to pursue, there is no shortage of people willing to go out of their way to assist your dreams in becoming a reality. I've spent enough time in other cities and other artistic communities to know just how rare and unique that is. The barbecue is a close second.

Christopher Palmer: I love the outsider artist nature of the creative community. People in Austin follow their passion at any cost, whether there's a commercial outlet for it or not.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also would love to hear about anything else you have made in the past!

Josh: I've been obsessed with movies my entire life. I started making my own shorts at age 7, when my uncle purchased a VHS camcorder. My brother and myself made a trilogy of films about potatoes from outer space within the first week we had access to the camera, so my uncle decided to let us keep it. The work has become more accomplished and ambitious as the years have worn on, but the joy of that first week is still what I'm recreating every time I'm engaged in a film project of any kind.

Christopher: I grew up loving all types of films only because I had access to rental stores. I could rent the most mainstream or obscure movies from any genre and watch them again and again, just as long as I returned the tape in 2 days. So I had a lot of late fees.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

Carolee: The biggest challenge during making the film was finding female voices. The advent of home video was very much a male-dominated world. Luckily, we were able to find some amazing women to contribute to the process, but it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.

Christopher: Editing. We could have made 40 different movies with the footage we captured. A documentary of that scope requires tons of editorial exploration and experimentation, meanwhile it lacks the prefixed structure of a narrative feature.

What was your single favorite moment out of the entire production?

Carolee: My favorite moment during the production of Rewind This! was when we launched the Kickstarter campaign. This was how we funded our final travel after years of self-funding. The response from across the globe was humbling and exhilarating. That was the first moment that I knew we were truly working on something that would have a huge impact…not just in the US.

Josh: We brought outsider artist David "The Rock" Nelson to Austin by train, so we could interview him for the film. It was too costly to take our crew to him, so instead we brought him to us. Since he was going to be in town for several days, we organized a screening of his work at the Alamo Drafthouse. It sold out, and Rock received an appreciative audience unlike any he has had in his prolific career. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my entire life, sitting next to him and watching him soak up the love and admiration.

Christopher: Screening the rough cut to a small group of trusted colleagues, seeing them respond and getting their profoundly helpful feedback.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Josh: All of my happiness and satisfaction in life comes from the creative process, so the drive to be making something is ever present. Having a film in active production is actually a huge relief, because it means I can wake up and funnel my energy in a positive direction. Ideally, I would like to always have a film in production.

Carolee: Our film took 3 years to complete, all while we were also working other jobs. At times, it was a lot doing what was essentially two full-time jobs. Having Topher and Josh as partners made it possible. If one of us was overwhelmed, the other two stepped in to help. We had a very unique situation; one that I am very grateful for.

Christopher: In the documentary format, the strength of a film is often based around the filmmakers' relationships with those involved. Relationships of mutual care and respect are good indicators of success. People who helped us along the way and interview subjects who started off as strangers have become genuine friends through the process of making our film. Those relationships drive me forward.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

Josh: Christopher both shot and edited the film, so he is responsible for everything you see and the structure of how you're seeing it.  He is a close friend, and I trust him completely, so the working relationship was very relaxed. We shot on a few cameras, but most of the interview footage that makes up the film was shot on a Canon 60D. The advantage of using a DSLR is that you can capture high quality footage, but not have to deal with the bulk and constant maintenance that comes with most other cameras. Its compact size made it ideal for traveling and shooting in public spaces was made much easier because it has the appearance of a traditional still camera. The average observer has no idea you are filming a movie, so you don't get a lot of questions from passers by.

What do you want audiences to take from the film?

Josh: I hope audiences will walk away with an appreciation for how significantly different our world is in the aftermath of the video revolution. The impact it had extends far beyond movies, it truly revolutionized the way we function as a society. More than anything else, I hope it makes people feel unreasonably good.

Carolee: I would love for audiences to revisit the times in their lives that were made possible by VHS; pizza parties, sleepovers, family nights. Our generation was shaped by home video. Our film is quite universal in its deep-seeded appeal.

Christopher: I hope our movie starts a discussion about early home video and how it forever affected our relationship with film. Times are changing in the age of digital exhibition. We should be having a conversation about what this means for filmmakers and audiences.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

Josh: I think for films below the blockbuster line, it is massively important. There is a glut of content, and an ever-increasing number of distribution platforms. Media coverage and critical attention are needed to isolate what films are worthy of the audiences time and financial investment.

Christopher: It's huge, but just as powerful is the crowd response in social media. Film criticism has become democratized and a powerful tool in the market, especially coming from an educated film festival audience.

After the film screens at South By Southwest, what is the future release plan for the movie? Where would you like it to go?

Josh: We're still mapping out what sort of distribution plan makes the most sense for the movie. There will be other festival bookings in the near future, and we should have more concrete plans for the rest of the world in the next few weeks.

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Josh: The Cinémathèque Française in Paris is the ultimate haven for movie lovers. It would be great to screen the film at a venue that is built on such a rich history of cinephilia.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?

Carolee: If someone was talking or texting during our film, I would respond in the same way that would in any film. I would ask them to stop. Usually the shame makes them stop.

Christopher: I would ask him to politely to stop. If he continues, I would say something more forceful. Usually this works, but in the past it has resulted in an intoxicated man trying to fight me.

Josh: Well, I wouldn't want to further disrupt the screening, so a silent reaction of some kind would be warranted. I think the firing of a tranquilizer dart from a blowgun would be quiet, but effective in bringing the offending party to unconsciousness. The next step would be to delicately remove the villainous filmgoer from their seat. I would probably lift their limp body from the seat by standing in the row behind them and scooping them from beneath the armpits. Once we have exited the theater, I would have their sleeping body tattooed with a permanent reminder of some kind. Nothing too dramatic, just a simple word like IMPOLITE or ENTITLED.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Josh:: Be passionate. Be kind. Those two pieces of advice have nothing to do with the filmmaking process, but have everything to do with making that process easier on you. If you care deeply about what you're doing and you treat others with kindness, you will be shocked by how many people will feel compelled to help you on your path. The other thing I would recommend is not waiting for the perfect opportunity. Start shooting, create your own opportunities.

Christopher: Respect everyone, no matter who they are. The only real contribution is kindness.

Carolee: Be kind. Be true.

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

Carolee: The best movie I ever saw at a film festival was FISH STORY at Fantastic Fest in 2009. There is something magical about that film & discovering it with a huge group of friends made for an amazing experience.

Christopher: Watching THERE WILL BE BLOOD as a surprise screening at Fantastic Fest 2007 with the director and crew in house. The energy of that screening sticks with me to this day.

Josh: I saw the world premiere of THERE WILL BE BLOOD at Fantastic Fest in 2007, and I recall sitting in the theater while it was playing and thinking to myself that I was watching a film enter the canon as it was hitting the screen. The experience was completely satisfying and it truly felt as if it had already entered the pantheon of classic films before the credits had finished rolling.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2013 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 8-16. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte Facebook: jasonwhyte

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 03/06/13 06:38:18
last updated: 03/06/13 06:38:52
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