Australian Premiere: Special When Lit

Right now, I’m sitting in a hot room, with a loud pedestal fan singing in unison with the loud fan in my desktop PC. They’re both a bit unhappy with the Aussie Summer heat. But my heart isn’t in my study, as I sit at my desk. It’s 200km down the road… at the Chauvel Cinema, in Sydney. Because right now, they’re screening a very special movie premiere…

Special When Lit is showing tonight, for the first time in Australia. This film, a UK/Australian production had its world premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London a few months ago. There it was nominated for BEST DOCUMENTARY.

If you’re wondering why Sydney was lucky enough to get such a premiere, it’s the city where the film’s audio post-production was completed, and also where many of the key London crew originated from. Some of New South Wales’ most passionate pinballers are watching the screening tonight, and we hope to publish their thoughts on the film right here on JustOneMoreGame, tomorrow*.

*That is of course, unless they start arguing during the movie, about “the best way to clean a playfield” and get thrown out. But I’m hoping that won’t be the case…

In the meantime, what I can tell you about the film, is that it “tells the story of Pinball’s early rise to prominence in the Depression era, its banning by the US Government for 30 years, its comeback in the 1970s, and eventual defeat to video games.”

Some the people interviewed/featured include top designers like Steve Kordek, Steve Ritchie and Pat Lawlor. Then there’s the collectors & enthusiasts, like Ron Shuster, Steve Keeler, Sam Harvey & Raphael Lankar, owner of the Paris Pinball Museum.

Special When Lit some of the top players including ‘The Storm’ from New York City (nope, I hadn’t heard of him either) along with the former world champ Rick Stetta, and current super-player Lyman Sheats.

The film was directed by commercial producer Brett Sullivan. Recently, Brett explained why he made his debut film about pinball… “My producing partner Clayton Jacobsen suggested we make a drama about a pinball player. I didn’t think anyone played pinball anymore and was surprised to learn that there was a UK Pinball Show. So we drove to Birmingham to research. We arrived into a convention room blazing with a cacophony of noise. Here middle aged men braced themselves against ahundred or so machines doing battle for the weekend. Our drama idea quickly became… a documentary.”

But Brett wasn’t all that familiar with pinball. “I was a video game kid. I could play all day on one dollar by accumulating free games. [I knew] where the pinballs were, but I never played them. They weren’t cool in 1982.”

And yet Brett started to produce and direct a film on the lifestory of pinball. Some might wonder why…? “I was fascinated with a invention that became the ‘world’s funnest toy’. It made more money than the movies at its height. It was so popular it was considered a social menace and made illegal in America for over 30 years. Today, most kids have never even played, let alone seen, a pinball machine. It’s a nostalgic footnote. What happened?”

Special When Lit took three years to produce, and as Pinball News learnt back in September.. the director Brett Sullivan went from being a ‘videogame kid’ to owning an Attack From Mars and a World Cup Soccer 94. Co-producer Clayton Jakobson now owns The Addams Family, Medieval Madness and Judge Dredd.

SWL is currently looking for a distribution deal. So, while we may not see it in the cinema again soon, hopefully a DVD/Bluray release won’t be too far away…

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Come back to JustOneMoreGame tomorrow, for the first Aussie reviews of the film, photos from the premiere, and the official trailer.
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