Filmmaker Rick Harper Discusses Controversial Documentary ROOM FULL OF SPOONS
ROOM FULL OF SPOONS is the debut documentary feature by Rick Harper that examines the production history, reception and enduring legacy of Tommy Wiseau’s disasterpiece, THE ROOM. Very few films have a raging cultdom that permits them to screen on such a regular basis as THE ROOM, from Sydney to Copenhagen, the film plays monthly to packed audiences, thirteen years on since its release. How and why the films works is a challenge to describe but its best experienced with a group of people as once you’ve seen it, you won’t stop talking about it and for some it becomes an obsession. Harper was one of those very people and his passion for the film has allowed for a unique perspective from which ROOM FULL OF SPOONS is told.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Rick Harper, ahead of what was to be the film’s Australian premiere at the Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF), to discuss everything from the humble beginnings of his deep obsession to the controversy caused by the documentary’s production.
MONSTER: Where did your fascination with the film, THE ROOM first begin?
RICK HARPER: I pretty much became obsessed with it from the moment I first saw it. I was a bit of a late bloomer, I actually discovered THE ROOM in 2010 and it immediately took over my life. I’d go see it every month and could barely go an hour without watching clips on YouTube. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, while technically and artistically incompetent, there was something undeniably special about this film that just made it so damn re-watchable.
M: As a thorough documentation of THE ROOM’s production, reception and enduring legacy, how many years went into the documentary’s creation?
RH: The production of ROOM FULL OF SPOONS took 5 years. RockHaven Pictures is a small production company that consists of myself and my two best friends Martin Racicot and Fernando Forero. At first we set out to make a small doc about the fandom of THE ROOM and thought it would be cool to interview a few cast members. As time went by, more of the cast and crew started getting involved and the story grew more interesting as Tommy Wiseau started to campaign against the release of the film. This motivated us to tell the full and complete story of THE ROOM and even dig a little into what makes Mr. Wiseau such a unique individual. At no point did we think we would end up travelling to his country of origin and even meet some of his family. When making a documentary, you never really know when your story is over. While it took a little but longer than anticipated, it’s been an amazing and rewarding journey.
M: How did you go about tracking down cast and crew of ‘The Room’? Were there any participates that proved particularly difficult to wrangle?
RH: Some cast members like Robyn Paris (Michelle) and Dan Janjigian (Chris-R) were a simple Facebook message away. Others were very difficult to get ahold of and to convince to participate in my film. Scott Holmes (Mike) for example is completely off the radar. I happened to meet someone in LA who used to do improv with Scott in Brooklyn. He gave me his number and I texted him and he called me right back. He was hesitant at first because he’s kind of put THE ROOM behind him, but we convinced him to meet with us and he was one of the strongest interviews in the film! As the project grew, other cast members saw that this was a legitimate documentary and were more willing to participate. I ended up meeting everyone from THE ROOM, most of whom I can comfortably call friends at this point.
M: Did anyone refuse to participate in the documentary? Aside from Tommy Wiseau (for reasons explained within the film), Greg Sestero was noticeably absent?
RH: With the exception of some of the DP’s no one outright refused to participate, and even they were extremely nice about it. Not everyone has a the same sense of humour about having participated in making “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. Greg is a friend of mine, we still talk from time to time and hang out when we’re in the same city, but Greg and I have conflicting projects. With James Franco acquiring the the rights to his book THE DISASTER ARTIST and adapting it to film, Greg is bound to certain contracts that don’t allow him to participate in other films related to THE ROOM. In addition to this, it’s no secret that Tommy Wiseau isn’t too happy with me, so I’m sure it was wise for Greg to stay away from ROOM FULL OF SPOONS for fear of further upsetting him. However Greg has seen the film and said he really enjoyed it.
M: Were there any plot lines you were forced to exorcise due to threat of legal action and has there been any legal repercussions since the film has been released to festivals?
RH: Tommy has requested that we make over 40 major edits to the film, which included cutting out entire interview subjects, removing important revelations and changing the narrative to make it appear as though researched facts are simple speculations. We refused to make these changes which is why he is so upset. Tommy seems to forget that fans like Martin, Fernando and I are the reason for his fame and success. Instead of embracing the praise and attention ROOM FULL OF SPOONS is bringing him, he is doing everything in his power to bury the film. From threatening theatres who want to screen it to sending cease and desist letters to film festivals, attempting to sabotage our promotional efforts and even slandering us online with videos titled “Shame on You” where he shoots up my movie poster and blows it up at the end. We mediated for months through our lawyers in attempt to compromise but it’s would appear that Mr. Wiseau will not be satisfied until we essentially re-edit the entire movie.
M: You turned to crowdfunding to enable a vital piece of the documentary’s puzzle being filled, were their challenges you faced in undertaking the campaign and any advice you could offer to fellow filmmakers looking to do something of this nature?
RH: Successful crowdfunding takes a lot a preparation. We were very fortunate to have established a fanbase over the course of making ROOM FULL OF SPOONS, so when we reached out to them for help to finish the project, they really came through for us. My advice is to be realistic about what you’re asking for. Don’ t’ask for 50K and hope for the best. You should have a plan, make sure you justify the expenses in your pitch, show examples of what you’ve done or what your backers can expect in return for their pledge.
M: Where in the world has the documentary taken you so far and do you have a favourite screening you could tell us about?
RH: While filming we travelled all over America and Europe. It was incredible to visit corners of the world I probably wouldn’t have seen if not for this project and I’m so thankful for all the experiences I’ve lived and the wonderful people I’ve met. Copenhagen has some really hardcore fans. THE ROOM screens in a small 70 person theatre but when the callout lines start you’d swear you’re at Madison Square Garden. We also met some amazing fans in New York and all biases aside, we throw the most spoons in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada.
M: What’s in the near future for ROOM FULL OF SPOONS, have you secured distribution for the film on home entertainment?
RH: Although we’ve received some interesting distribution offers, ROOM FULL OF SPOONS hasn’t’ yet found a definitive home. We’re still doing the festival circuit and some private screenings for the time being and the early reviews have been amazing. We’re very excited to share the documentary with the rest of the world.
M: Lastly as a Roomie myself, it’s evident that the documentary comes a place of love that truly celebrates the bizarre legacy of the film, are you able to sum up what it is about THE ROOM that makes it so endearing to audiences?
RH: THE ROOM is not a movie, it’s the cinematic equivalent of looking through a kaleidoscope, no two people will see the same thing but we all know it’s amazing. It took me 5 years to attempt to explain what’s so endearing about THE ROOM and I still have trouble putting it into words, you truly have to see it to understand how important this film is.
ROOM FULL OF SPOONS was to have its Australian premiere this Saturday at SUFF but due to mounting legal pressure from Tommy Wiseau, the festival has been forced to pull the documentary and in its place THE ROOM will now play. SUFF kicks off today and runs until Sunday September 18th, for line-up details and ticketing, visit http://suff.com.au/.