ASCII by Jason Scott

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Documentary Triptychs —

A old high-school chum of mine, Terry Tocantins (pronounced TOH can TEENS), was the producer for a rather unique and interesting documentary called “A Galaxy Far, Far Away”, which told the story of a group of hardcore fans who waited outside a theatre for 30 days before the premiere of the new Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace.

Except that it’s not a unique documentary. I have found three films dealing specifically with the group of hardcore fans who waited outside the theatre for 30 days: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, Starwoids, and Millenium’s End: The Fandom Menance.

In fact, the “Waiting in front of Star Wars” Documentary genre has a “grandfather” in Tatooine or Bust, a documentary about fans camped out in front of the re-release of Star Wars (the original) in 1997. This filmmaker also made “Star Wars or Bust”, which I am not counting among the three because it’s 15 minute film and more a quick overview than anything else. There’s also The PhanDom Menace, but that concentrates on the AUSTRALIAN build-up to the 1999 release.

And have no fear, if you’re concerned the more general “documentary about fans waiting out in front of highly-anticipated films” genre going under, because we will soon be able to experience Ringers: Lord of the Fans, covering, well, you guessed it.

These are what I call “Documentary Triptychs”, sets of multiple documentaries which are all aimed at the exact same subject, but usually not the exact same way. To any casual observer, of course, they are in fact the same thing, but that’s where advertising and marketing is supposed to separate the winners from the losers.

Generally, there tends to a Hertz, an Avis, and a Rent-a-Wreck. By this, I mean a certain documentary pulls out in front, another documentary is behind it but likely similar in relevance and energy, and then there’s that third one, the one we don’t like to talk about. The third one usually trails the two by a significant amount, and seems to have been made for either five bucks or in 10 minutes.

Just the other day, I learned about Uber Goober: The Movie, which calls itself “A Film About Gamers”, that is, players of role-playing games. It was on DVD, so I immediately bought a copy. I then wondered if there were any other such films. Some considerable searching revealed Life With the Dice Bag, a “Documentary about Role Playing Games and the people who play them”. I have no idea why this was so hard to find, but that’s nothing compared to Dragons in the Basement, a documentary by Dave Arneson, the got-the-credit-in-a-lawsuit co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. This thing is buried next to wherever they store Lawn Darts. With considerable effort, I found mentions of it here, here (wherein we learn the actual director is not Arneson but John Kentner), and here. And here. Nearly completed in 2000? It’s 2004? That’s a REAL Rent-a-wreck. Well, at least we have Jesse Spiro’s equally-obscure-and-hard-to-find-but done Dungeons and Dragons Experience… And there’s your triptych.

You can do this with a lot of obscure stuff and documentaries. DVD technology now means we have some amazing projects out there, things that would never have otherwise seen the light of day. And now we get three of them.

Well, except in the case of Pixelvision. I think that documentary genre’s closed out.

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