When I set out to write a yet-to-be-named film, I gave myself 3 parameters. First, the story had to be based in a single primary location (so that it can be produced on an indie budget), second, it couldn’t feel claustrophobic (as single location films often do), and third, the comedy had to mean something, yet couldn’t be preachy (no pun intended).
Enter Reboot Camp…
A fictional documentary about a documentary gone bad. And if this sounds convoluted, you are not alone. Getting the screenplay to necessary clarity was a multi-layered undertaking. I had to follow the documentary story as it unfolded while incorporating the main story with character development, conflict, escalations, etc., just like a regular screenplay. It was a creative challenge which took 16 drafts, tons of notes and many cancelled social events.
While Reboot Camp is a mockumentary, aka fictional documentary, it is a genuine, albeit comic, exploration of the inner workings of secret groups and the abilities of their charismatic leaders to make people believe the unbelievable. The story is told through the personal experiences of the brothers Seymour (David Lipper) and Danny (Keli Price) who start the fake camp so that they can document this process from within, thus creating the “ultimate” documentary.
Before writing the Reboot Camp screenplay, I had preconceived notions and judgments about the “types” of people who fall for false prophets and fake gurus. By the time I was finished with the research, I had completely changed my mind; almost anyone could be manipulated under the right circumstances. People in crises, or loss or significant life changes are prime prey for cunning “prophets.” Potential members are promised answers to life’s complex questions, given a place where they can belong, or ultimately, are seduced by the idea of spiritual enlightenment. Who wouldn’t want to join?
There is a literal playbook on which this seductive manipulation is based (an all-knowing enlightened individual aka the guru, love-bombing, member re-naming, a belief system, etc.). I’ve used these key areas as the basic structure for the film. And since no-one is immune to these potential manipulations, everyone in the film is skewered. They all fall for some false promise.
But being that it is a satire, the story is turned around in an ironic twist. When the brother’s ludicrous teachings are hailed as the gospel and the campers (an amazing ensemble cast led by David Lipper as the guru, Ed Begley Jr. Chaz Bono, Lindsey Shaw and even a bunch of celebrities including Ja Rule, David Koechner, Eric Roberts, Johnny Bananas, etc.) are reaching all kinds of personal breakthroughs, the success of Reboot Camp and the fake guru create an unexpected challenge. Drunk on his own charisma, the fake guru falls prey to a manipulative seduction himself and loses control of the camp to Claire (Maya Stojan), a shrewd survivor, who sees this as the cash machine it could be. This causes a rift between the brothers. They have created a Frankenstein of social engineering, a monster that turns into the very thing it was supposed to prevent.
Great comedies entertain while exploring societal issues. Films like The Great Dictator, Being There, and Bob Roberts come to mind. As I was writing and later making, and even later, editing Reboot Camp, I kept hoping that it would do the same. Simultaneously, I kept fearing that it would pass into the ether without finding an audience (as many, if not most, indie filmmakers do).
Enter Austin Film Festival…
Even though Covid influenced this film quite a bit, from post-production being handled completely remotely (and taking significantly longer because of it), to our theatrical release being scrapped, to film festivals becoming virtual events, as a filmmaker you roll with the punches and make the best of any situation.
When I received the call that Reboot Camp was accepted into the Festival, we were several months into Covid and the world was a different place. The general outlook was bleak and this invitation was the second-best best news of 2020. The best news would turn out to be winning the Comedy Vanguard Audience Award in October.
Reboot Camp is available on all major digital platforms. More info:
You could be the next winner of our Film Competition, so take a chance and submit your film by July 9th, 2021!