FYIG Chats With Robert McCallum

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A couple weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to Rob McCallum about his new documentary, Nintendo Quest. This feature documented Rob and his friend Jay’s journey to purchase the entire NES catalog in 30 days!


How did this documentary come about?I wanted to make a film that would examine the entire collecting process, start to finish, and like Jay, I’m a huge gamer, Collecting can take a life time, which I didn’t have, so we started making rules to suit the filming side of things but also in the name of how collecting and gaming was done in the old days.

Most people collect their whole lives and still never obtain every item in a collection, you gave yourself 30 days. How could you think this was going to be possible?

From a filmmaker’s perspective, it was never about Jay’s ability to complete or not. It was about a guy going after his dreams and how he would react after succeeding or failing. Who would he be 6-8months later? How would “going after the impossible” change his life? Those are the important human elements that hooked me right away in tandem with a collector’s mindset.

There are a lot of consoles out there, what makes the NES stand out from the rest?

The NES revitalized the industry at a time when it was essentially on life support in North America, at least. Showcasing some of the key attributes of a company that was supposed to fail yet became a massive success is just as interesting of a story as what Jay sets out to do. And in fact, you can draw a parallel in that no one said Nintendo would succeed just like no one says Jay will succeed.

Were there any other people you considered taking on this journey with you?

In terms of options other than Jay? Not really. I wanted to focus on gaming and there was no bigger gamer I knew that would be up for something like this and knew well enough as a friend either. You can’t just pluck someone off the street and plunge them into this scenario and hope it works out. Jay was a very calculated risk made easier by the fact that we’ve been friends for over 30 years.

What is your favourite game of all-time?

Tied between Ducktales and Final Fantasy, both for the NES. The former represents an excellent example of a licensed game and the later made me want to be a storyteller and ultimately, a filmmaker.

What was the most difficult part about trying to find all of these games?

For me, nothing! For Jay, I’m betting it was the ticking clock, in this particular scenario. We only had time to visit X-number of stores given the travel component erodes time, so he was constantly hoping that the next store would have the titles he was after. That can be really emotionally draining; getting your hopes up, getting pushed in a different direction, and in some ways starting all over again for every single store.

What would you do differently if you could do it all over again?

A more spacious van and more crew would make my life a lot easier. Not that we are, but I know exactly what changes I would make if there was to be a follow up challenge. Having talked with Jay about this, there’s nothing he’d do differently on his end and he awaits the next challenge. There is something in the works, but we have to see how “Nintendo Quest” does before we launch it.

Discuss today’s games vs. the games during the NES generation.

Games today play it safe. Game devs live in fear of failure so they pump the same thing out over and over, for the most part. We’re getting fewer and fewer games, and not many are original concepts. As the film discusses, the NES offerings weren’t afraid to take risk. They decided to make a game about a plumber who eats mushrooms, stomps on turtles, and shoots fire from his hand after he eats flowers. I don’t see many zany ideas like that being green lit.

Do you have any plans to do anything else like this in the future?

Of course! We have lots of plans and we filmed the theatrical rollout of the film and made a web series from that called, “Nintendo Quest: Power Tour.” You’ll see Jay and I tour the film across North America, game hunt as we race to collect ten games by the end of the summer we’ve both always wanted, and highlight a lot of members, and stores of the gaming community. Warning! Each episode has a lot of sarcasm and hijinx (Episode one: (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/nintendoquestpowertour/143319536 ).

In related news, I’ve just announced another project called, “Box Art – A Gaming Documentary” in which I’ll travel around talking to people about the importance of box art, the process to create it, how that’s changed in the industry and finally connect names and faces to the most iconic images that have defined gaming. It’s crazy that 90% of people don’t know who drew, painted, designed the cover for their favorite video game. Let’s change that (www.BoxArtDoc.com)

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring game collectors out there?

It’s important to set goals. Giving Jay only 30 days changed his entire approach to how and what he was going to collect. While he went off the rails a couple of times and scored some great games that weren’t NES-related, by narrowing in on one specific task, he found it a lot easier. I’d also say in general to anyone, collector or not, that there are always excuses and reasons not to do something. Ignore that line of thought. Go have an adventure! Experience is invaluable and it’s truly one of a kind and rare.

Check out Nintendo Quest on Vimeo!

 

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