Once a week, I’m going to pick out one of Fancast’s many full-length free feature films to spotlight. Sure, you’ll check out the big stuff like Mad Dog and Glory, Of Mice and Men and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, but the smaller movies need shout-outs, too.
The Movie of the Week does tie in with the big stuff, though. It’s We Are Wizards, a documentary about the phenomenon of the fandom of the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise. From rock bands to creative writing, the people that devote themselves to celebrating the kid wizards are not the psycho nerds some would superficially believe – many of them are amazingly talented minds themselves. So check out We Are Wizards below, read the Q&A with director Josh Koury, and gear up for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, coming your way next week!
Q&A with We Are Wizards Filmmaker Josh Koury
Q: How did you first decide to make a film about the Harry Potter fandom? Who or what was the catalyst that let you know you had to delve deeper into this world?
Koury: In early 2006 the film’s producer and I sat down to discuss different documentary film ideas. One of the films that kept coming back onto the table was a documentary about the Harry Potter fan culture. It seemed like an odd concept for a film, but we knew that we wanted to give it a try. After our first shoot with Melissa Anelli, we realized that there was a huge creative following out there. A following that offered much more than just fandomania, but also was highly creative in it’s own way. We realized that many of our other film ideas could wait, but if we were going to make a film about the fandom, it would have to be at the pivotal point between the sixth and final installment of the book. The creative fan-base would never be stronger.
Q: Was it difficult to get these people to open up to you? Were they afraid you were going to mock them, or were they happy for the attention? Who was the most difficult interview and who was the easiest?
Koury: Most were surprisingly open in the beginning. I think a big part of that was we made our intentions clear from the start, and you could see that we wanted to make an honest and entertaining representation. I think the most apprehensive at first was Brad Neely, who is the animator in the film. I think he was worried it would be a sort of mockumentary, but that quickly faded. Within hours of meeting him we were all as relaxed and comfortable as we could be. Again, I think that had much to do with our attitude coming into the film.
From the beginning we knew we wanted to make a film which celebrated the fan-hood, not mocked it. If we didn’t feel we could do that, then we planned on stopping production. A huge part of that is our choice of characters in the film. They are creative, and often funny and charismatic. It took only a handful of shoots before we knew we were making the right creative decisions with our subject choices.
Q: Which fans seemed the most bizarre to you?
Koury: We tried our best to focus on fans and people that we had a strong personal connection with, or had engaging stories to tell. Since the film is not about obsessive fan-hood, it’s not something we had to wrestle with. However, just like any fan base, there is a lot of weird stuff out there. I think slash fiction (not featured in the film) is a truly bizarre element. You should google it.
Q: How big a fan of the Harry Potter saga are you, personally? Do you identify with the subjects of your film or are they fascinating from an aesthetic distance?
Koury: When I began making the film I was indeed a fan of the books. I’ve become less so over the years, probably due to over-saturation, but I would still consider myself a fan today. I think it helped when making the film because having been a fan myself, I could understand where many of the subjects were coming from. I wasn’t so much and outsider looking in, as I was a fellow fan and filmmaker looking for an engaging story. I’m certain that many different filmmakers would have shot and presented a film like this differently, but hopefully you can see my affection and respect for the characters when you watch We Are Wizards. If I didn’t have real admiration for what they were doing, it would have been a very different film.
Q: What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this film for the first time to get them ready for what they’re about to see? What cool or interesting things should they look out for specifically, or what winds up being the most talked-about part of the film in your experience?
Koury: I hope that people sit down to watch this film and are surprised by what they see. There have been many documentaries about fans done in the past, but this one is very different from my perspective. It’s more than just about Harry Potter, and it’s certainly more than about obsession. Sometimes the film will receive positive reviews from people who were clearly skeptics from the start. Sometimes they will even openly say, “I thought I would hate this film, but I thought it was great”. I love that. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, or a part of the fan community, it’s fairly likely that you will enjoy We Are Wizards. However, when you can win over skeptics, that’s certainly nice too.
I would just say, sit down with an open mind. The film might not be what you’re expecting.
Q: What would you say is the overall message an audience should take away from the film?
Koury: The film is essentially about being creative and inspired. Go make music, write stories, make films and other creative work. We Are Wizards is the story of people who are inspired to create, and then take that creativity to the next level. J.K. Rowling provides a platform for many of these people, but if it was only about her work and stories, We Are Wizards and a fan community this rich and diverse wouldn’t exist.