The Room: The Definitive Guide author Ryan Finnigan was interviewed by Rob Aldan of Backseat Mafia about his organization, The Five and Dime Picture Show, and his new book!
If you don’t know, The Five and Dime Picture Show takes place every few weeks at The Film Unit in Sheffield University. It specializes in screening cult and unusual films at affordable prices.
Read the rest of the interview HERE.
How did Five and Dime come into existence?
In a pretty convoluted way… Matt and I met at the Lantern Theatre some time ago, I wrote a short film and we needed a theatre location and ended up shooting there, with Matt hosting and providing technical support. At that point, I had been shopping around a cult film night idea unsuccessfully to some local cinemas, I found out that Matt was screening some films at the Lantern including The Room and so I harassed him by e-mail into letting me get involved, although it eventually just faded out… we met again by chance when I was looking at putting together a film show with Adam Batty (of Hope Lies… ) and eventually, we resurrected the idea of working a film night together and wound up meeting with Richard Clesham, then of Film Unit, to pitch our idea to their committee… and the rest is history.
Have cult films always been a passion of yours?
I think both Matt and I have long been attracted to anything off-the-beaten track, which probably comes from each of us having seen so many films over the years. It’s refreshing to see anything “weird” or challenging. Personally, I’ve also found something quite thrilling about finding something obscure or outrageous and I think once you find other people who are like-minded, discovering oddities and sharing them has an almost addictive, competitive element akin to treasure-hunting and the more people you introduce it to, the better.
Was there one film that started it all off?
I don’t especially remember one title, but more of a feeling. I was and still am a night owl and as a teenager, late night TV discoveries were particularly influential. I vividly remember seeing late night screenings of both Videodrome and Evil Dead 2, which were so unexpected and thrilling in different ways, that they remain two of my very favourite films. Channel 4 was particularly excellent in my youth and their weekly double-bill of Troma’s Edge TV followed by a Troma film had a big impact on my passion for the independent film world and cult-trash, and with titles like Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, it was hard not to love the cut of their jib as a teenage boy. Aside from that, buying and collecting VHS and swapping them with friends was a big thing – I particularly remember the early Peter Jackson films like Bad Taste and Braindead, as well as more widely-respected titles like Leon and Blade Runner doing the rounds.
You have your third annual screening of The Room. Why is it clearly so close to your heart?
It’s completely unique. There is nothing at all like the experience of both the film and the screening environment – there’s so much energy in the room. Pun intended. We’re both ex-film students and I think for me, there’s something rebellious about The Room. Not only does it break every single rule of filmmaking in 100 minutes but it’s certainly far, far away from silently and academically pondering over say, the Bergman oeuvre and there’s something liberating and curious about interacting with the film, in a way that’s not always the same.
I think it took a while for me to analyse what it is that really motivates my own passion for the film, beyond the fact that it’s absolutely hilarious and a wild ride in company. Essentially, I think it comes down to how touching it is that Tommy Wiseau went to such great, misguided lengths to try and get the world to notice and love him, which I think is in turn both very silly but also incredibly sad. Over time, I think a lot of people find that from their initial reaction of laughing and mocking the Hollywood alien who doesn’t fit the mould, they actually wind up kind of identifying with Wiseau. I’ve definitely seen the film a lot of times and have watched it from a lot of different perspectives, which I can’t say about any other film. Also, I suppose that I just fell completely in love with Tommy and find him fascinating on a day-to-day basis, so I guess his plan worked.
Speaking of which, you’ve written a book about the film. How did that come about?
Well, I’ve been a fan of the film for years now and ahead of our last screening, I became incredibly obsessed with it for a 10th Anniversary feature for my website and contacted cast members and started to do features, with Alan Jones beginning an extensive analysis of the film too and Mute providing some graphics. The enthusiasm never really died down after and was only exacerbated by the release of Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist and eventually meeting Tommy and Greg in London, at which point I kind of thought, “what if we compiled all this stuff into some kind of a guide?” So, I pitched it to a handful of publishers on a whim and found myself in negotiations to produce it within a couple of days.
What can fans expect to see in “The Room: The Definitive Guide”?
A lot of our collective blood, sweat and tears! Seriously though, it’s a comedic reference guide to the film and the Room/Tommy Wiseau phenomenon. I essentially contacted as many people from or involved with the film as possible and interviewed them, from cast members to celebrity fans and the people screening the film, there’s people involved from all over the world.
The book is in three parts and opens as a guide for people who have never seen the film with guest chapters from Juliette Danielle (Lisa in The Room), Michael Rousselet (the inventor of spoon-throwing), Steve Heisler (The A.V. Club/Rolling Stone) and James Durkin (the guy who introduced me to the film). Part Two is interviews with cast members and an extensive, hilarious analysis of the film by Alan Jones and Part Three covers life after the film and the fan culture that has grown around it, with loads of interviews with notable fans like Paul Scheer (How Did This Get Made?), Payman Benz (Director of the Tommy Wi-Show) and Alison Goertz (Cossbysweater).
On top of that, it’s filled with eye-popping graphics and design from Mute, which really brings it to life. We basically threw in as much fun as we could.
Read the rest of the interview HERE.