The filmmakers behind “Ghostheads” treated an audience at C2E2 2016 to clips from the upcoming documentary about the franchise’s more devoted fans.
“We got so lucky to interview so many great people,” said producer Tommy Avallone. “The main purpose of our movie is the fans, the fandom and the connection that all you guys have with each other by just this love of this movie.”
“Ghostheads” explores “Ghostbusters” fandom, and looks back at the impact the franchise has had over the past three decades. The documentary’s title comes from a nickname for hardcore fans that cosplay as Ghostbusters, usually with a custom proton packs they’ve built themselves.
Producer Lee Leshen said they were lucky to interview people like actors Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, director Paul Feig, singer Ray Parker Jr. and others directly connects to the movies. However, he added the core of the documentary involves interviews with fans like Tom Gebhardt, who built his own Ecto-1 and drove it from his home in New Jersey to the set of the new “Ghostbusters” film.
“These [clips] are some things that won’t be in the final movie but we just love to share because they’re awesome,” Avallone said.
In one of the clips, “Ghostbusters” reboot director Feig shared the trials and tribulations of trying to in touch with Bill Murray to appear in the film.
“I know you’ve heard the stories,” the filmmaker said. “He doesn’t have an agent, and there’s one phone number that you call and you leave a message, and who knows what’s going to happen. I’d heard you don’t even know if he’s going to do it until the day before [he has to be there]. I thought, ‘That can’t be real.’ Well, it was real.”
Feig said for most of the time leading up to Murray’s scheduled appearance on set, there was no real confirmation the actor would show up. “So if we got to that scene, and [Murray] didn’t show up, I need an actor for this scene,” he said. “So do we get another star to wait in reserve in case the guy we wanted didn’t show up? How do we handle this?”
Once the veteran actor did appear, Feig said he had the irrational fear it was a Murray impersonator. “It really blew my mind,” he recalled. “He was so great, and he just came ready to do whatever we needed. … He literally showed up the day before we needed him.”
The “Ghostheads” team shot footage last year during C2E2 that included the late Ryan Kemp, the founder of the Western Kentucky Ghostbusters who would often put on his Ghostbuster uniform to cheer up children undergoing medical treatment. He died in October at age 31 following an automobile accident, shocking the close-knit Ghosthead community.
In another clip, Feig talked about meeting Kemp when the director appeared at C2E2 to promote his Yahoo! Screen series “Other Space.” Feig said he was nervous about going to comic conventions because of online backlash about the new “Ghostbusters,” and was expecting to be booed off the stage by franchise fans.
“And so I get to this panel and I notice one guy in a full Ghostbusters costume — the full gear, everything really high-end, so detailed — sitting in the front row,” he recalled. It was Kemp, and Feig braced himself an insult that never came. “He didn’t speak up during the audience questions so I thought, ‘OK, it’s not going to be a public lashing of me, so it’s going to be a private one.’ So we’re done and the cast is signing autographs and [Kemp] walks up to me and says, ‘No, my name’s Ryan, and I think it’s really cool you’re doing this.’ And he started asking me all these questions about ‘Ghostbusters’ and showing me his gear. And he’s such a lovely guy.”
Feig said he was devastated when he heard the news of Kemp’s death.
“With the documentary, what we’re trying to do is not a love letter towards the movie, it’s an appreciation of the fans,” Avallone said. “And for someone like Paul to know and remember and cherish a person like Ryan, it’s pretty great.”
The filmmakers are editing the documentary, and expect to screen a rough cut April 23 at the Tribeca Film Festival. Avallone, who produced the documentary “I Am Santa Claus,” said the biggest challenge for “Ghostheads” was the time crunch of trying to complete the film in time for the festival. As a result they couldn’t interview Murray because he’s so difficult to get in touch with.
Another actor the filmmakers wanted to interview was Rick Moranis. While his management appreciated what the documentary was about, they said Maranis isn’t into nostalgia and declined to participate.
Yet one of the biggest surprises the producers experienced was when Sony Pictures Studio’s newly formed Ghost Corp division reached out to them during filming.
“In no way have I ever had an upper hand for anything in life, right?” Avallone said. “So for Sony’s Ghost Corp offices to email us when we put out our Indiegogo trailer and say, ‘We love this. How can we get involved? Can Ivan [Reitman] and Dan Aykroyd be in the movie?’ I was like, ‘Who is this?’”
As the panel came to a close, Avallone and Leshen asked the audience to chant “Ghostbusters” while they recorded; they plan to use the audio in the film.
While the rough cut will premiere at Tribeca, there is no planned release date. “We’re trying to figure out stuff we can do together [with Ghost Corp] towards the release of the documentary,” Leshen said. “We got into the Tribeca Film Festival, that kind of changed things a little bit for us, because these types of documentaries don’t usually get in there. Luckily we got in.”