Seth Gordon is a young documentarian, director of King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a very entertaining documentary about Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, two men in pursuit of the all-time record for the original "Donkey Kong" arcarde game. It grossed less than $1 million in theaters, but achieved great prominence -- and a bit of controversy -- on the Internet. I asked Gordon a few questions about his career thus far and what's coming next.
Part of the film "King of Kong" is about how Steve Wiebe's life changed after being recognized as a world champion video gamer. How has your life changed since King of Kong?
Kong has opened a remarkable number of doors in the film and entertainment business. We never expected that our little film made for nothing and with little more than the sweat and perseverance of a few of us would get any attention outside of the few and family and friends we could guilt into sitting through a screening at my apartment.
You've directed feature-length and short films, documentary and fictional, and even an episode of Amy Poehler's new show Parks and Recreation. Of all these formats, what do you prefer?
Sorry to have such a safe answer, but each format has its advantages. I'd say Parks and Recreation was really fun to work on b/c of its talented cast and crew, and very rewarding because of the sheer volume of work they have to do in a week. There's a sort of zone you end up in when you are working that hard and that fast. It stands in direct contrast to the 18 months we spent on Kong, always watching, hoping reality would take the shape of a narrative.
King of Kong was phenomenally well-received critically, but it grossed less than $1 million in theaters. Four Christmases was not critically well-received, but it grossed over $100 million. What do you take from your experience working on both films?
That film critics have strongly held and carefully crafted opinions that have no relationship to what the populace at large wants to see, and that the marketing and messaging of a film including the 'P and A' budget is incredibly important to the way a film is received by the market.
On King of Kong you are credited as cinematographer, editor, and director. (You also edited the great documentary New York Doll and were the cinematographer for the Dixie Chicks' "Shut Up & Sing.") How did you get into filmmaking? Do you like being an all-in-one kind of filmmaker?
I discovered shooting and filmmaking around the time all of the software became affordable to anyone with a PC. There was never the guild-delineated sense of job specialization I've found in the formal film industry. Before moving to LA it hadn't occurred to me that you did anything other than all the jobs required to get a project finished.
Who are some of your inspirations or influences as a moviemaker?
Pennebaker, Errol Morris, Maysles Bros, are doc favorites.
Other than the scripted King of Kong remake, what are you working on now?
Several at several places. I hope one of them gets made. With the state of the economy I'm glad to have something to work on at all right now.