OFFICIAL FAN CLUB
Free Enterprise II
Free Enterprise 2 was supposed to start filming. William Shatner, Isaiah Mustafa, and Alicia Witt were all tied to the project. The premise was that the original Free Enterprise we saw was a movie starring Eric, Rafer, and Bill and that 10 years later the "real" Mark and Robert had drifted apart and Bill was going to get them back together.
Me asking Bill Shatner about Free Enterprise II
Free Enterprise 2 interview with RMB
EC: So! Free Enterprise….. 2.
RMB:: The eternal question. I think we have a pretty solid idea. I would like to do the movie. I think Shatner’s interested, and apparently at Wondercon Eric McCormack said he was interested-
Hee hee hee.
RMB: You know, it’s just a question of getting the script to be right. I mean I think if we’re gonna do it, this year would be the perfect year to do it with the new Star Trek movie coming out, and Shatner’s no longer on Boston Legal anymore so there’s time. And everybody wants to see it! I get that question every day, when’s Free Enterprise 2 coming? And it definitely has a following, Eric McCormack even said, I guess, he gets approached a lot about the film. I’d love to direct Free Enterprise 2. The story we have is much different than FE, it’s much bigger, more of a movie-movie. It’s a big road trip. FE is this big self indulgent movie about ourselves, I think FE2 we were trying to write the same characters, but they’re more movie characters as opposed to distillations of ourselves.
And where does this roadtrip go?
RMB:All over the world! They go all over the world. The basic story of the movie is that William Shatner has disappeared, for various reasons, he’s gone. And Mark and Rob need to find him, they each have reasons why, and time is running out. So they realize they don’t know where he’s gone, so they might need the help of a certain third party-
EC: [incriminating hand gesture]
RMB: I can’t! It takes place later in these character’s lives…
EC: I thought it was in college?
RMB: That’s just a flashback, to twenty years ago.
EC: So we could conceivably see the return of Rafer Weigel and Eric McCormack to the roles of Rob and Mark.
RMB: Yes, we have a way around that- look, all things being equal, I would love to make it with them. Why wouldn't you? That would be the most fun. There’s a flashback to when they meet in college, but the movie takes place after FE. It takes place years later and Mark and Rob, the nature of their friendship has changed, they don’t see as much of each other because they have their own lives! People grow up, and get married… FE2 in order to succeed would have to reflect what’s happened in our own lives, to a certain extent.
** Photo Gallery **
GRAND SLAM 2006
"Free Enterprise" Panel
To promote the new two-disc Extended Edition DVD of "Free Enterprise," Mark A. Altman (co-writer), Robert Meyer Burnett (director, co-writer & editor) and Daren Dochterman (the character "Tiberius" and occasional Trek visual effects artist) made up a mini-panel to discuss the film. Before anyone could ask, the panel answered the burning question: What's "new" about the new edition of "Free Enterprise"?
"Well," noted Burnett, "the movie is about six minutes longer, it has an anamorphic transfer and it has new CGI special effects, because you can't have a special edition without new CGI special effects. Whether they're needed or not — you just gotta put them in! It also has a 5.1 sound mix and many special features, including a [new] Shatner commentary where he compares himself to a small, little green guru 'Yodo' [sic]."
One fan asked about how they got Eric McCormack ("Will" on Will and Grace) to do the movie, to which the makers expressed total surprise. Everyone else, it seems, wants to know how they got Shatner to do the movie! The writers actually wrote the movie without a commitment from William Shatner. "In our infinite stupidity," said Altman, "we just thought that he would be so flattered by this role that he of course would do the film. Which was anything but the case! We sent him the script and he said 'I'm not doing your movie.' Four times!"
They got many of the pieces of the puzzle in place — the cast, the crew, and the financing — but it didn't look like Shatner would be on board. "Finally," continues Burnett, "he called us after reading what he called 'the tear-stained letter.'"
When they got Shatner on the phone, he was still not convinced. They finally said, "Is there any way we can get you to do the movie?" Shatner still said no. "But he finally said, unless you change your script and 'make me less of a guru ... more of a real guy. I'm a screwed up man. If you put that in your script, then it could be funny.'"
"And that's exactly what we did," continued Altman. "The movie was really about hero worship, guys who grow up worshipping William Shatner and become friends with him and realize that he is more screwed up than they are. Which is exactly what we went through in real life ... in a good way."
The Deluxe remastered 2 disc edition of Free Enterprise hits Wal Mart store shelves March 7, 2006 according to Director Robert Burnett.
These are the voyages ...
By Mike Snider, USA TODAY 03/07/06
When William Shatner, in a velour sweatsuit and wearing a gold chain, performed a rap version of Julius Caesar, it was clear that this Star Trek takeoff would go where no such effort had gone before.
Free Enterprise, which arrives on DVD Tuesday, stars William Shatner, Rafer Weigel and Eric McCormack.
Today, Free Enterprise, the little-seen 1998 movie about Star Trek-obsessed twentysomethings, gets a two-disc special edition DVD (Anchor Bay Entertainment, $20).
The movie was written by Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett as they were starting their careers in Hollywood. Pal Kay Reindl, a TV writer on Millennium and The Twilight Zone, suggested that there might be a movie idea in their clique's obsession with all things Trek.
"One day Mark calls me up and reads me a scene where he got beat up wearing a Star Trek uniform to junior high school. This was the day Star Trek: The Motion Picture opened. 'Shatner appeared to me (as a vision) and told me to fight back,' " Burnett says. "He wrote the first script and then I rewrote it."
They created a script with a geekish Swingers feel in which Shatner served as an imaginary mentor, similar to Humphrey Bogart in Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam. But Shatner was not excited about the role.
"I had played my (Kirk) persona as far as I wanted to go and probably as far as anybody wants me to go," says Shatner, who last portrayed Capt. James T. Kirk in the 1994 movie Star Trek: Generations. "What they had written had me as a guru who dispensed advice, and I kept turning this down."
They retooled his character to be more like that of Peter O'Toole's in My Favorite Year. "We ended up using several anecdotes from Shatner's real life," Altman says. "Now it's really about Shatner using the guys as a sounding board to solve his problems in love and life."
Mark (a pre-Will & Grace Eric McCormack) and Robert (Rafer Weigel) find Shatner flipping through a porn magazine in a bookstore. He wants to do a musical about Caesar, drinks too much and strikes out with women.
Free Enterprise was released in only nine L.A. theaters in 1998, with little promotion. "Nobody went to see it. It was really disheartening," Burnett says.
Meanwhile, he and Mark continued their careers. Altman wrote and produced the movie House of the Dead2. Burnett co-produced Agent Cody Banks and a sequel, and started a production company that has worked on DVDs for The Usual Suspects, X-Men and X2.
Anchor Bay expressed interest in a special-edition DVD of Free Enterprise, based on its cult following.
Burnett and Altman supervised its re-editing and remastering and did a full-length commentary; Shatner did another. A music video of No Tears for Caesar, the Shakespeare-based rap song, is included.
"It could possibly be the most self-indulgent movie ever made," Burnett says. "I think that's what gives it a bit of its charm."
Shatner suggested an idea for a sequel, which is now in the works, Burnett says. "There are elements of Wedding Crashers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and a great sort of road picture."
Burnett and Altman hope to start the film by Sept. 8, the 40th anniversary of the first Star Trek episode on NBC.
Find this article at:
Free Enterprise Unplugged By Director Robert Meyer Burnett
Once there, we’d paw through the bargain bins, check out the new releases or hopefully stumble over some mythical Japanese Import, like the time I found the Chrome Silver DAWN OF THE DEAD box-set, containing both Romero’s and Argento’s cuts of my favorite horror film of all time. I hardly cared the thing listed for two hundred bones. I unflinchingly plunked down the green. If I didn’t have the cash, I’d just borrow it from Mark. We were all a tad unbalanced when it came to our Laserdiscs. Some might say one step away from waiting for the Hale-Bopp comet to arrive.
When Warner Bros. Home Video head Warren Leiberfarb sounded the clarion call of the DVD format, my friends and I were understandably skeptical. See, I hailed from MCA DiscoVision Seattle, in 1978 one of the first two initial Laserdisc test markets, so for years I was of the mind you could pry my Laserdiscs out of my cold, dead fingers.
But after living with DVDs for a few months…we all began to notice they were spreading…everywhere. Like some malignant form of digital cancer, DVDs marched through the landscape like birdflu in the Caucuses. Unstoppable. At first, we all held the line, but then, DVDs blew though our Laserdisc collections as if lead by Maximus himself.
You all know what happened next. Size mattered not. Eventually, the Laserdisc versions of the original Original Trilogy were selling for $9.99 and we couldn’t get to Amoeba fast enough to trade in our collections. Encoding technology just kept getting better and the studios wielded bit rates like Grevius twirled sabers. We hungrily bought and re-bought the same films we’d already purchased on Laserdisc many times over. Almost overnight, the entire square planet Earth became enhanced for anamorphic widescreen. Even my mom Nancy had a favorite audio commentary.
Then the bucolic sails of Anchor Bay blew into town. Sure, they may look like they came in on the boat from WIND, but behind their calm blue skies, they brought with them enough blood and mayhem to give DEAD CALM’s Billy Zane a run for his money. In a short matter of years, the company became THE destination disc peddler for the discerning fan of horror and obscure cult films.
Right then, someone should’ve started an Anchor’s Away rehab center, ‘cause I was mainlining each and every one of their releases. From endless reissues of THE EVIL DEAD series to multi-disc sets of Argento’s DEEP RED to Verhoeven’s THE FOURTH MAN, I couldn’t get enough of the Bay. They put a spit shine on their releases we old school Laserdisc horror fans used to have wet dreams about. You could see guys like Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas smiling from halfway across the country each time Anchor Bay threw an episode of the Hammer House of Horror on one of their Dracula titles. I bought practically every genre title they put out, from their tin stash-box editions of such favorites as HELLRAISER, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, REPO MAN, HEATHERS, MANIAC and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP to their more recent Fox releases like RACE WITH THE DEVIL and DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY.
Once, the Bay even threw up an online petition to gage what titles their fans hoped to see on disc. Taking a cue from the 2000 election, I ran around my office at the time using my co-workers computers to stuff the Bay’s virtual ballot box, praying like a Democrat they’d see fit to release the mid-eighties Fritz Kirsch masterpiece TUFF TURF on Digital Versatile Disc.
When I saw the film on their release schedule, I waved my hands in the air and ran down the street speaking in tongues, now completely possessed by the power of the Bay.
Last year however, every digital dream I ever had came true when the Bay hit me with their four-disc DAWN OF THE DEAD box set. Louder than the ITS ALIVE baby, I mewled through the night staring gobsmacked at the stunning transfer.
In 2006, the Bay doesn’t just cater to the genre crowd any longer. They’ve got classic television titles like SLEDGE HAMMER from my buddy Alan Spencer. My little nephew can watch THOMAS THE TRAIN while his mother throws on a fitness video. Who would’ve thought one day, Anchor Bay would cater to the whole family?
So when I heard Anchor Bay was interested in releasing my first feature film under their sails, you can imagine what happened deep down inside me, in those private places we never talk about. For the more genre-minded, lets just say I bled from my eyeballs with excitement. The Bay also saw fit to allow me to go back to the original negative and restore more scenes to FREE ENTERPRISE, including adding more Bill Shatner to the end of the film. The film’s new anamorphic transfer, which I personally supervised, looks terrific. Or, at least as good as a film of it’s budget can look. Not to be outdone, they flipped for a new sound mix and even more special features than ever before.
With Blu-Ray and HD-DVD just around the corner, I can’t wait to see what the Bay cooks up next. Let’s just hope they release NIGHT OF THE COMET sometime soon.
Have a better day.
Robert Meyer Burnett
Free Enterprise DVD Special Edition
February 2 , 2005
Author: Robert Sanchez
Visit the IESB galleries with over 5000 images from red carpet premieres and studio releases Every now and then a movie is made that entrenches itself into the pop culture world. A perfect example of this is Kevin Smith's Clerks. But wait, there is another!
"Here's the first image EVER from the new, Extended "Five Year Mission" Edition of Free Enterprise. As you can see, the original "Logan's Run" dream sequence has been augmented with new GCI shots depicting the Domed City from the original film. In the finished sequence, bubble cars will zip through the clear tubes, just like the finished film" - Robert Meyer Burnett
When Free Enterprise was released back in 1999 it didn't receive the wide release that it deserved making its big screen box office numbers less than desirable. But, thanks to the almighty DVD and great "word of mouth" advertising, it has found a second chance for movie fans everywhere.
While Smiths' movies tend to cater to blue collar geeks, Free Enterprise is a look at the lives of white collar geeks. Like Clerks, this movie has also found a very wide audience. A few years back while camping out for Depeche Mode concert tickets in Santa Barbara I met a group of "gothic chicks." It just so happens that we began to talk about the scifi universe and what did they say was one of their all time favorites? None other than Free Enterprise of course.
For our regular readers it's no surprise that Free Enterprise is also one of the IESB's must see films of all time. Almost a requirement, if you will, for initiation into our group of friends. What can I say, this movie parallels my life as a geek so closely it's scary. The Toy R Us run is hilarious, but true. The rich fourth grader analogy applies to me and all my friends. Pan and Scan versus Widescreen is an argument I have had many times!
Finding this DVD is the hard part. Your regular department stores don't have it since it was originaly distributed by Anime/Manga DVD House Pioneer. Luckily, it has now found a home with Anchor Bay. Yes people, a Special Edition is coming ready for re-release in May! Since becoming a fan of this film I have personally stalked, I mean befriended, Writer/Director/Producer/Cantina Band Member/Orion Slave Trader Robert Meyer Burnett.
Since Free Enterprise, Robert has remained very busy in the entertainment world. He has produced some of the best DVDs to date including Usual Suspects, X-Men 1.5 and X-2. He is currently working on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and on Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.
Burnett was kind enough to answer a few questions for us regarding the Special Edition Free Enterprise as well as the planned sequel.
Q: Free Enterprise has become a fan favorite of plenty of geeks and non geeks alike. Did you believe that your film would have such a broad appeal?
RMB: Actually, I've been rather surprised by the reaction to the film since it's original release. When we premiered "Free Enterprise" at the 1998 AFI Fest here in Los Angeles, we actually won two awards, the "New Directions" award and the "Best New Writer" award presented by the WGA. So I thought I my career track was pretty well set. However, when the film was initially released theatrically in the Summer of 1999, in the wake of "The Phantom Menace," no one went to see it. I was getting married and I needed a steady income, so I went back to producing and directing Network promos for NBC and the WB. Then I found my way into producing Supplementary Material for DVDs Subsequently, HBO bought the film for an extremely successful cable debut...and then the Sci Fi channel ran it. Now, however, since the film has become a favorite in both fan and non-fan circles alike, I get e-mails almost daily from people who tell me "I put their lives on film." They wonder when I'm gonna' make a new film. After co-producing both "Agent Cody Banks" films for MGM over the past few years, I can assure everyone they will be seeing another feature directorial effort from me sooner rather then later.
Q: How closely did the film resemble you and your friends life/identities?
RMB: "Free Enterprise" is the Spinal Tap version of our lives...it's us...but turned up to eleven. I prefer to think that our film can be compared to our lives in much the same way "Curb Your Enthusiam" portrays Larry David. He stars in the series...and there's probably much of him in the show...but it's fictionalized.
Q: Seven years later did you expect to be working on a Free Enterprise Special Edition/Directors Cut?
RMB: I never would have expected to be working on a Free Enterprise Extended Edition six years later. Then again, I never would have expected someone would have remade "Assault on Precinct 13" or "Dawn of the Dead" either.
Q: When did you get this idea to have a Special Edition Free Enterprise?
RMB: The original DVD came out back in 1999, back at the dawn of the DVD era. I was extremely proud of that initial disc, but it remained hard to obtain, because Pioneer, the original distributor, didn't get the film into Best Buy or Wal-Mart. Many people who may enjoy the film never even knew it existed. When the rights to "Free Enterprise" reverted back to us, it made sense to re-release the DVD and take advantage of the advances in the medium, not to mention my own status as a top DVD producer. When Anchor Bay Entertainment, my second favorite home video company of all time (the first being Criterion) approached us about producing a new disc, we jumped at the chance...but only if the fans and consumers were given enough reason to re-buy the disc.
Q: What surprises can we expect on the new DVD edition that will be released on May 17 and how much longer is it?
RMB: Well, the release date may be pushed to May 31, because I want to give everyone a chance to get over their depression watching the downfall of Anakin Skywalker. Anchor Bay Entertainment really came through and not only re-transferred the film anamorphically in their HD "Divimax" process, which looks amazing, but also allowed us to create the new Extended Edition, complete with new effects, a few added scenes and other goodies. The highlight for me was recording a new audio commentary with William Shatner, Eric McCormack and star Rafer Weigel. I mean, how can I not love the fact two of my stars have gone on to win Emmys and Golden Globes. Also, the geeky fanboy in me loves the fact I was able to add gratutious CGI to the "Logan's Run" dream sequence. Shant Jordan, a friend of mine who's worked on everything from "Babylon 5" to the "Day After Tomorrow" and Kevin Rubio's "Troops" seemed a natural to complete this sequence. His work exceeded my expectations.
Q: If you could go back in time and do something different on Free Enterprise, what would it be?
RMB: Well, it might have been nice to have more time to rewrite the script after Shatner came on board...but otherwise...hey, it was a tremendous experience that not only realized a lifelong dream of making movies...but also allowed me to literally travel around the world for a year. I prefer to think more along the lines of Charlton Heston's Taylor in "Planet of the Apes," in the sense I left the 20th Century behind with no regrets.
Q: You got to work with Eric McCormack before he became this huge TV star in Will and Grace, did you see that coming?
RMB: Frankly, you only have to work with Eric McCormack for about a day before you realize just how damn talented the guy is. Not only is he a great actor, but he's got a wicked sense of humor. I wouldn't be surprised to see McCormack becoming very similar to Ron Howard in a few years.
Q:You recently were able to work on the commentaries for the Special Edition, how did it feel after all these years to sit down with Bill Shatner, Eric McCormack, Rafer Weigel and your good friend Mark Altman and see how much you've changed or haven't changed in 7 years?
RMB: We really haven't changed all that much. Even Denny Crane himself seems like a slightly older version of the Shatner character in Free Enterprise. In fact, I daresay we haven't changed much at all. Even McCormack, who really was catapulted into the limelight, seems to be the same affable dude he was back in 1998, which is nice. The only change in my life seems to be the number of 1/6 scale action figures I own.
Q: What is going on with Free Enterprise 2? Can you tell us what we can expect? Will Eric, Rafer, Bill, Audie and the rest of the gang come back?
RMB: The blame for the delay with Free Enterprise 2 really lies with me. I've been in New Zealand for the past year working on "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" DVD for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, so I really haven't been able to finish the script...but working on this new "Free Enterprise" DVD has strengthened my resolve. I think we've written a terrific script, a much larger film, which I hope to finish in the next couple of weeks. We really need to make it this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, which happens next year. I'd love to make it for Paramount Classics, so we can finally use proper Star Trek iconography. I will tell you this...I said to Shatner..."So, Bill...at the climax of the sequel, you have to eject out of an Israeli fighter jet, parachute to the outskirts of Las Vegas (there's a convention in town...so the pattern is full), jump on a horse and gallop down the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. so you can make it in time to preside over a certain wedding. How does that sound to you?" After a long pause, Bill says, deadpan, "Well Rob, it's nothing I haven't done before." Frankly, the film would be a slam dunk. I'd love to have the entire original cast return...plus a few crucial additional cast members.
Q: You mentioned that the World Premiere of the Special Edition will be done at Wonder Con in the Bay Area next month, will you also have a special screening or signing party anywhere where else in the Los Angeles area?
RMB: I'm sure we will, but I'll know more closer to the time of the DVDs release.
Q: Is this the last version of Free Enterprise or will you pull a George Lucas 10 years down the road and make "Another Special Edition?"
RMB: Other than an eventual HD release of the Extended Edition in a few years...this is the last time I revisit the film. For me, it's way overdue to bring new visions to the audience. I've got a script I've wanted to make for almost two decades, "The Jehovah Contract," which I think is one of the most fun projects I've ever read, but I think I have to make one more film first...
Q: A few years back there was talk about a possible TV show based on the movie, do you see that in the future?
RMB: Not really. However, on the new DVD, you'll see a pilot we shot for "Cafe Fantastique" a very "Free Enterprise"-esque "Dinner for Five" type of show, which I'm quite fond of.
So for all you movie geeks that will be in the Bay area, you will be able to watch Free Enterprise Special Edition on the big screen during Wonder Con weekend later this month. A whole 3 months before it's released on DVD.
Stay tuned to the IESB for the latest in movie news!
Free Enterprise II: My Big Fat Geek Wedding
We are proud to present an interview conducted by Starbase 972, the Israeli "Star Trek" Fan Club, with Mr. Robert Burnett, a guest at Icon 2005.
Starbase 972 is grateful to Mr. Robert Burnett for his time
Starbase 972: Shalom Mr. Burnett, we're happy to talk to you How did your romance with Star Trek and the Science Fiction begin?
Robert: I suppose I was similar to Luke Skywalker. In "The Empire Strikes Back," Yoda says of Luke, "All his life has he looked away. To the future. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doin'." Well, I was just like that. Always looking into the night sky and wondering what was out there. Wanting to actually GO into space. My mother says I started watching Star Trek when I was three or four years old. Right about the time the Original Series went into syndication. It had everything a kid could want... great characters clad in bright colors, a terrific starship and terrific villains and monsters. Even an eleven-thousand-mile long SPACE AMOEBA! My father used to read me the James Blish adaptations of the episodes... which in turn lead me to other, non-Trek sci-fi novels. Then I remember discovering "The Twilight Zone" and Gerry Anderson's "UFO." Also, in Seattle, where I grew up, after Sunday School, local channel eleven broadcast "Sci-Fi Theater" at two in the afternoon. This was where I first saw "War of the Worlds," "Forbidden Planet" and Toho Giant Monster movies. I was completely hooked. ...There was no stopping me after that
Starbase 972: As a Star Trek fan for many years, what is your opinion about the current situation of the franchise? What will be its future?
Robert: I've been disappointed with the current state of the Trek franchise since the second season opener of Voyager, "The 37's," when the crew encountered a '30s pick-up truck floating in space. When originally broadcast in 1960s America, shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Star Trek" were able to confront issues which no other television shows at the time could touch, because of the moral and social climate of the country. Social issues like class struggle, racism and even the war in Vietnam could be dealt with on a weekly basis, because network censors and sponsors saw these programs as unreal fantasies. Star Trek especially, with episodes like "A Private Little War," "Miri," "Errand of Mercy," "A Taste of Armageddon" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," related directly to what was happening on the streets of the country. The episodes reflected directly back on the American audience itself. Now, however, Star Trek is really only about, well, Star Trek. Because there's so much of it now, Trek threatens to become irrelevant under its own weight. Rather than reflect the current state of humanity, Star Trek now seems more about temporal anomalies and internal Trek history than anything relating to the current state of the world. Even the film "First Contact" was really only about internal Star Trek continuity and didn't really have much to say about the human condition, unlike "Wrath of Khan," which was all about aging and mortality. However, Star Trek isn't going away. Currently, Pocket Books is still publishing novels every month. Fan-produced episodes are all over the web, growing more sophisticated all the time. 2006 marks the 40th anniversary of the franchise... and I'm sure Paramount, now under new management, is eager to keep the franchise rolling. It may take a few years... but it's only a matter of time before we see a new incarnation of the Trek franchise.
Starbase 972: You were the editor of Star Trek: The Experience at Hilton Las-Vegas. How did you approach such a unique project?
Robert: I was in charge of the video portion of the Trek museum... so, for the first few months... all I did each day was watch about ten episodes of Star Trek and log the material I'd later use to create the videos. And I was getting paid for it! I remember calling my mother and telling her I found my dream job... getting paid to watch Star Trek. She couldn't believe it. Basically though, I tried to distill Trek down to its components. Characters, aliens, starships, philosophy. I created videos about each series, each Enterprise, each alien race, so anyone coming to the attraction, even those who didn't know much about Star Trek, could clearly understand what all the fuss was about.
Starbase 972: What led to the conclusion that Free Enterprise deserves a sequel?
Robert: I don't know if I'd say "Free Enterprise" DESERVES a sequel, but I'd certainly have fun making one. Financially speaking, the film most certainly doesn't deserve one. However, not a day goes by when somebody doesn't ask me "are you gonna' make a sequel?" It's been seven years since we made the first film... and the new, "Director's Cut" comes out in March, 2006 for Star Trek's 40th anniversary. Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy turn 75 next year, so to quote Romulan Ambassador Nanclus from "The Undiscovered Country," "There would never be a better time..." Frankly, I didn't really have a follow-up story to tell until now. Since the release of the first film, I've gotten married and grown up quite a bit. I've seen the world. My life has changed. So now I have something to say in the context of the characters and the world they live in.
Starbase 972: What is the current situation of Free Enterprise 2? Please share with us what do you plan for this movie. We heard there’s a possibility you’d film in Israel.
Robert: Currently, along with my partner Mark A. Altman, I'm finishing up the screenplay. In the story, Mark and Rob's lives have changed. They've drifted apart as friends. They've become people they never thought they’d be. Basically, they're unhappy with who they've become. Then, when William Shatner disappears, both men have reasons to go and find him. Unfortunately, because they really don't know Shatner as a person, they have to go to the one man who knows Shatner better than they do... Leonard Nimoy. The three of them hit the road on... well... a Search for Shatner! We've yet to approach Mr. Nimoy, but Shatner said he could get him to be in the movie. We'll see. I wouldn't want to make it without him. In the original draft of the script, Nimoy finds Shatner at the top of Masada, in a secret base, studying to be a Rabbi. To get him to come back to the states, the Orthodox Nimoy then goes head to head with Shatner in a battle to see who knows more about old testament scripture. If Shatner wins, he'll stay and finish his teachings, hiding forever from the real world. If Nimoy wins, he'll haul Shatner back to Las Vegas to perform Rob's wedding ceremony at the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Now, I don't know if any of this will make it to the finished film, but I can promise you this, the climax of the film does take place at a wedding with Shatner and Nimoy singing "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof" (or...as we have in the film, "Mel Brook Presents FIDDLER ON THE MOON.")
Starbase 972: Please tell us what it is like to create "special features" for a movie while it is being filmed like in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or Superman Returns, in comparison to old movies like Disney's Snow White.
Robert: With new films, the DVD producer is actually on-set as the film is being made. Rather than hear about things after they happened, I'm actually watching and usually shooting them AS they happen. Sometimes, I can even CREATE things which happen, as evidenced by Bryan (Singer)'s Blogs on www.bluetights.net. With a classic film, like Snow White, almost everyone involved with the production is no longer with us... so you become an archeologist, digging through film elements, old interviews, anything you can find to create material for the disc. Both are actually very different animals... and I enjoy both for different reasons.
Starbase 972: How does the Superman Returns’ production going? Did you like what you see?
Robert: Superman is really going great. I think Bryan's making a truly epic film, even surpassing Batman Begins. It's hugely entertaining, funny, romantic, tragic and even, at one point, terrifying. I think it really takes the modern superhero film to the truly mythic level modern audiences have yet to see. I can't wait to see the finished film.
Starbase 972: You’ve experienced so many facets of the show business. What are your aspirations for the future?
Robert: What I really want to do is direct. Again. Hopefully, sometime soon!
Starbase 972: What were your initial thoughts when you first received the invitation to arrive to Israel? What did the people around you think?
Robert: To use a California term, when I was first contacted by Icon, I was TOTALLY STOKED!!! I was actually down in Sydney, working on Superman and I told everyone. I tried to convice Bryan Singer (on the picture) to come with me... but he was just too busy. Everyone else, especially my mom, was very excited for me. Unfortunately, because of the American media, there's a perception Israel can be a dangerous place. Many people have actually expressed worry for my safety. So I say to them, "Are you kidding? I live in LA! We have earthquakes, fires, mudslides, riots, gang violence, everything!" Again, to use a movie quote, in John Carpenter's "Escape from LA," the bad guy, Cuervo Jones, summed it all up pretty well, "This is EL LAY, vato! This city can kill ANYBODY!" I've managed to survive here for seventeen years, so, I have absolutely no worries about coming to Tel Aviv. Except, maybe flying on Luftansa instead of El Al! Flying through Frankfurt no less! Now that's scary! Besides, with the background of Israeli citizens, even the hot babes in Tel Aviv can probably kick anyone's ass! Plus, you've got the MOSSAD! What's to worry about?!
Starbase 972: And finally - what are your expectations from your visit in Israel?
Robert: Well, I think most Americans would like to see the sights. We like to stand in front of ancient building at take snapshots. See the Old City. Go to the Temple Mount. I, too would like to do some of this. But... I'm more interested in meeting the people who live in Israel today. To hear what they think of the World. Of America. Of the entire situation in the Middle East. After all, we might be dealing with thousands of years of tradition and religion in the Holy Land, but it's the folks who live here now who have to deal with it. I'd like to know how. Then, of course, I'm interested in discovering what an Israeli's favorite episode of Star Trek is... and why. I just hope it's not "The Trouble with Tribbles," although I'd be amused if it was!
Starbase 972: Thank you very much, Mr. Burnett.
Edited & conducted by - Subatoi
Translation to Hebrew & English proof Reading - Vered Klein
Help with questions - Uri Aviv
Ivan Sian speaks with the Director of Free Enterprise
April 27, 2001
Normally, when I watch the movies I watch for this column, I find myself a nice beverage, a comfortable place on my couch, and I move all sharp objects far, far out of my reach.
But, believe it or not, even I have to dry out once in a while. You can get too much of a good thing, especially when that good thing gives you a liver like Mickey Mantle's. So I actually hopped off the couch and met up with the director and co-writer of one of my favorite movies of late, Free Enterprise. Here's what m'man had to say:
Robert: Hi, I'm Robert Meyer Burnett. I'm credited as Robert Meyer Burnett because there's a Robert Burnett who produces the Late Show and Ed and people mix us up. So I'm not a pompous ass, I just use Meyer to delineate myself from the other guy.
Ivan: Let me introduce myself -- I'm Ivan Sian and I write for IGN Sci-Fi.
Robert: Hey, I love you guys! They gave us a hell of a review on that site "Movies That Don't Suck" or something like that. That was one of my favorite reviews.
Ivan: I actually wrote that one.
Robert: Well, thank you! We do read them.
Ivan: Uh-oh. Um, anyway, how did you get Free Enterprise going?
Robert: Well, we were all doing different things, [producer] Mark [Altman] and myself. I was working on the Star Trek Experience and I kept having to take out the original series from the various videos they show. We were actually writing a supernatural thriller called The Day of Atonement that was going to be the Jewish Exorcist -- yeah, everybody laughs at that, but it wasn't a comedy -- but we just couldn't make it work.
What we ended up doing, because we were at Toys R Us and shopping for action figures, one of our friends said "You guys are wacky, and you should make a movie about yourselves." Well, everyone thinks that, but then Mark and I hit on the idea of putting in Shatner as our guru and it sort of went from there. We wrote it as almost sort of a joke, but then the script was done. We had to pursue Shatner for a very long time and he finally agreed to do the movie.
Ivan: How many of the things in the movie were autobiographical?
Robert: Most of the things had a basis in fact, but then we exaggerated it a little.
Robert: Well., let's see. You know that scene in the car where Robert was driving with his girlfriend and he goes down on her and wrecks his car? Well, that really happened. To me. But did I ever meet a beautiful girl in a comic book store? No. I did meet a beautiful girl at the San Diego Comic-Con and dated her and that was really cool.
Ivan: Really? I find that harder to believe than hanging out with William Shatner.
Robert: No, it did happen. She wasn't the woman I wanted to marry, but it was still very very cool.
Ivan: You didn't use that "I'm a filmmaker " line, did you?
Robert: Not really, but at the time I was working for Full Moon Entertainment -- we had a booth there. It's funny because that filmmaker stuff doesn't really work anymore, because women are tooooo savvy.
But back to Free Enterprise, the truer it was, the funnier it became to us. For example, there was this one scene where their car gets struck by lightning and they were sent to a mirror universe, one where there wasn't any Star Trek, but that pushed it into the realm of fantasy too much. We took that out and brought it down to Earth.
Ivan: There are a lot of industry in-jokes in your movie. Compare and contrast the film industry and LA with, say, reality.
Robert: It's funny, because people think in LA that the rest of the world cares about what goes on in the movie business, but when you leave LA, people talk about their kids, the fact that they went snowboarding that weekend. They don't talk about movies at all. I think that if you live in LA, one of the problems with the entertainment industry is that people live in such a bubble, such a vacuum, and they're not really in touch with what's going on with the rest of America. This is why I find the family values argument so interesting. In Hollywood, if you want to blow somebody away, it's OK, or if you want to have sex onscreen, but we're not as aware of how it affects most people as we should [be].
But it's not like I'm in favor of censorship. When I was 12, I was watching Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and these were things that, believe it or not, inspired me not to pick up a gun and walk into a school and kill people. I think kids should smoke a little more dope and have a little more sex, so they'd be a little less angry. When kids are sitting at home, downloading hate-mongering white power website crap, they're not having a good time...they get angry. At least we went out and did stuff. We weren't angry kids. We weren't mad at the world.
Ivan: It's actually kind of a chicken or the egg sort of thing, 'cause if I were a kid these days, I'd have been arrested a long time ago. I made bombs and all sorts of stuff.
Robert: Yeah, I built bombs and burned up Star Wars figures. As a matter of fact, for Fourth of July one year, I made this bomb and blew out my neighbor's windows. I got in a lot of trouble though. But I wasn't gonna kill anybody. I just don't get kids these days.
But one of the things we wanted to do with Free Enterprise was celebrate friendship. We all wanted to contribute in some way to film and television and the serious people kept meeting each other at different events. We'd meet each other at screenings and things. One friend of mine is a writer on Futurama and some others write for Andromeda and The Invisible Man. It's cool to see these successes.
Ivan: Well, you know that you guys are the heroes to fanboys everywhere. Robert: I thought that was Kevin Smith!
Ivan: Yeah, but you made the fanboy life a little more palatable.
Robert: It's funny because people have compared our movie to Kevin Smith's films, but his movies are usually not about fanboy life. Sure, they talk about Return of the Jedi, but it's not about their love of that exclusively. But our film unabashedly celebrates the greatness of William Shatner and Star Trek and comics and fandom.
Ivan: So if you're Joe Fanboy out there, with one finger way up your nose and the other on the computer mouse, how can I be you?
Robert: I don't know if you want to be me, but the lesson I took away from classic Star Trek is to not sit at home and put on a Star Trek uniform, but to boldly go. Go out and see the world! Learn to speak French! There are beautiful French chicks you can woo by speaking to them. That's what Star Trek and fandom and science fiction has taught me, that there's a universe out there to explore and I think the love of the genre and the love of all this stuff made me the kind of person who's inquisitive and wants to have my own adventures.
That's frequently the problem with all this fandom -- they use comics, books, movies as a replacement for things when they should be using it as a jumping off point for having their own adventures. That's the lesson we took away from Star Trek and what we hoped we conveyed in Free Enterprise. The thing is, there's a great world out there than you're ever gonna see. Truth is always stranger than fiction. The world is about living and interacting with people.
Ivan: Plug Time. Whatcha doin' now?
Robert: I've been working on special edition DVDs for Disney. I worked on the Fantasia anthology, Emperor's New Groove and I just finished working on Snow White, so get those. Hopefully, I'll be directing a new film by two guys who are writers on Andromeda called Night. It's a vampire movie set 10 years after the vampire occupation of humanity and the only people who stand in opposition of the new vampire world order are the mafia and the Catholic church who've teamed up to fight the evil. I'll also be producing a film with my new company, Endless Entertainment. It's called My Tribe is Lost. It's set in late '60s Chicago, [and is] about a young boy who befriends one of the leaders of the Black Panthers.
Ivan: And when can we expect some of this stuff?
Robert: Probably in 2002 -- hopefully. I'd love to get a movie out in 2001, but with the strike and all, it's hard.
Ivan: Thanks, Robert. Thanks for talking to us.
Robert: No prob.
The COLLECTOR'S SPECIAL EDITION DVD from Pioneer features
Robert Meyer Burnett
and writer/producer/Cousin Ira:
Mark A. Altman
(Including Chase's Party Scene)
with audio commentary
*MAKING OF DOCUMENTARY
*SECRET STILL GALLERY
ORDER your copy online now.
WILLIAM SHATNER'S FREE ENTERPRISE PREMIERE
In this romantic comedy, two Star Trek fans have theirillusions shattered when they meet their idol WilliamShatner and learn he's hawking a musical version of "JuliusCaesar" in which he will play all the parts.
The US premiere was Friday,October 23rd, at 10:00 PM at the AFI Fest in LosAngeles. The film screened a second time on Moday, October26th at 4:45 in the afternoon. The film will also screensometime the following week at the Peachtree Film Festivalin Atlanta, Georgia and then a week after that at the HawaiiFilm Festival.
Free Enterprise is a romantic comedy about two friends areabout to turn 30, they must facetheir fears about the future in this contemporary comedythat combines the hip, LA romanticmilieu of "Swingers," with the knowing pop culturesophistication of "Clerks."
Robert and Mark appear to be your average best friends. Onlythey're anything but average.Devoted to movies and classic television, the two would-befilmmakers, fill their lives withwork and women. The quintessential "Big Kid," Robert, wouldrather spend his rent moneyon toys and laserdiscs and he soon finds that hisirresponsibility constantly alienates himfrom the women he loves. Meanwhile, his best friend Mark, asuccessful journalist, engagesin meaningless dalliances with beautiful actresses andmodels, rather than have a realrelationship, while he spends his nights hopelessly devotedto an inane screenplay called"Bradykiller", about a serial killer that is on the prowlfor women named Marsha, Jan andCindy.
Together with their coterie of manic and freaky friends, weget a view of a Los Angelesuniverse that consists of bars, beaches and the occasionalToys R' Us excursions. Butwhen Robert meets the girl of his dreams, the two friendsfind a wedge driven into theirfriendship.
"Free Enterprise" is the story of friendship, love andobsession in the 90's.
INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER:
Robert Meyer Burnett
WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
Basically, I've wanted to make films since I was five years old and caught "War of the Worlds" for the first time. Since my entire moral disposition up until then had already been formed by episodes of Classic Trek and the Twilight Zone, that George Pal's masterstroke put me over the edge into cinematic overdrive wasn't too unbelievable. Sunday afternoon showings of "When Worlds Collide," or "Conquest of Space" rocked my world. George Pal became my first hero...and I had to learn about everything he was able to do. Then, in 1980, I got my first VCR, back when there were so few prerecorded cassettes each one was literally put on a pedestal. My constant badgering of the staff of Seattle's "Videospace" for release dates on "Phantasm" and "Dawn of the Dead" made themfinally give me a job. Bud Warner, the manager, had the most incredible collection of bootleg videotapes in the world. A great collection to learn from. He showed me "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "I Drink Your Blood" for the first time. We'd drive miles to see "Motel Hell" just because "They Came From Within" was the second feature. I remember the day the first MCA Home Video releases came out. Taking "Smokey and the Bandit" out of the box was like opening the Ark of the Covenant. For a thirteen year old seventh-grader, VCRs made serious study of films and filmmakers possible.
I discovered the Seattle International Film Festival after they screened "The Empire Strikes Back." I went and learned to love foreign film. Of course, like many kids back in the day, I was also armed with Cinemagic magazine and shooting super-8 films of my Star Wars action figures vaporizing each other, culminating with my "Empire" sequel, "Han Solo Escapes." After three years at Washington's Evergreen State College, I transferred to USC. I was hired out of one of my classes by producers Scott Rosenfelt and Mark Levinson who put me to work in their Atlantic Releasing-based offices. Basically, I answered phones and did coverage for them, discovering my first decent script, David Twohy's "The Grand Tour." After their deal with Atlantic dissolved, I went on to work for the summer as the art dept. PA on "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III," receiving my first screen credit. When that wrapped, I managed to snag a position as a management trainee in the Warner Bros. Feature Production Dept. under senior VP Bill Young. After my year stint was up, I moved over to Silver Pictures as a staff story analyst, followed by short stints as a staff reader for The Image Organization, William Morris and CAA. I had a problem getting my coverage in on time so my reading jobs never lasted. Eventually, after going back to Warner Bros to work on "Free Willy," I wound up as the development executive for Robin Armstrong's Open Road Productions. After a year of watching great projects pass by, I decided to leave the utterly pointless creative development side of the business. I was offered a glorified runner position at Tony Gardner's Alterian Studios, but wound up doing all kinds of production work on everything from "Cast a Deadly Spell" to "Army of Darkness, " picking up more screen credits on the way. When Alterian shut down for awhile, I went over to Full Moon and began working with actor turned editor/director Peter Billingsley on the complete recut of Albert Pyun's then-unreleasible "Arcade." I hadn't edited since college, but I did get an A in editing at 'SC, so I figured, how hard can this be?
It was at Full Moon I met Mark Altman, the co-writer and producer of "Free Enterprise." I'd been a fan of his work for Cinefantastique and when we met at the San Diego Comicon, we became fast friends. Eventually, he made me Critic-at -Large for his new magazine, Sci-Fi Universe, which he founded with Film Threat's very own Chris Gore. After a year, Full Moon ran into financial difficulties, I struck out on my own, first working at an ad agency where I taught myself the AVID, then going freelance, concentrating on editing only feature films, usually by first-time directors. Now, after ten years of living in Los Angeles, I finally co-wrote, edited and directed my first feature, "Free Enterprise."
WHAT DOES THE TITLE MEAN?
Well, we were going to call the film THE PHANTOM MENACE, but cooler heads prevailed at the last minute. Surprisingly, I hear Fox recently announced a film with a similar title for their spring slate, although I don't know much about it. Mark and I wrote the film under the title "Trekkers." However, after we'd finished the script, we realized that title limited the perception of what the film was actually about. So instead of relying upon some clueless marketing division to figure out a way to sell "Trekkers" to the non-fan audience, we opted instead to use the title "Free Enterprise" along with our catchphrase "Love long and profit." That title refers to many things in the film. It could mean to literally free oneself of a slavish, lifelong Trek devotion, grow up and start a small business or something. But then again, it could refer to the liberation of the Hallmark Enterprise Christmas ornament stolen away from one of the main characters in the film. Or maybe it means nothing at all. The audience will decide.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT WRITING THE SCRIPT?
Mark called me up late one night while I was working on "Star Trek: The Experience" and read me a scene. I think it was the young Robert flashback in the playground. It was just hilarious and really nailed the tone of the piece. I gave him a few more ideas, then he came back to me two weeks later with a TWO HUNDRED FIFTY page words-on-paper draft. I completely rewrote that draft, getting it down to like 180 pages. I passed it back to him and he hacked out another chunk. We went back and fourth like this for a couple of months until we both sat in his apartment and went over every line together. We tweaked up until and after the first day of shooting.
HOW DID YOU GET SHATNER TO BE IN THE FILM?
Bill (that's what he prefers to be called) had no idea we were writing this script. After we locked the financing, we approached his manager, convinced he'd do the movie. In the original draft, he was an imaginary character, like Bogart in "Play in Again Sam," doling out advice to the main characters. But we never heard from him. At one point, we considered making a version without Shatner about fans of a show called Solar Quest. But who really wanted to do that? Then, on Dec. 18th, Shatner finally called to say "You wrote a very funny script. I'm not doing your movie." He was very nice about it, but felt really uncomfortable playing essentially a character that was, for all intents and purposes, God. I was thinking to myself, quoting Shatner's own line from Trek V…"…But…AREN'T YOU god?" (I mean, heck, Mark and I thought so…he was our hero). He suggested if we were to rewrite the script and make him a real person with real problems, then he might consider doing it. Dejected and depressed Mark and I, with our start date set, the financing in place, a crew in waiting and our dreams finally on the verge of being fulfilled, now had to do a massive rewrite. But, because the script was so episodic, we really only had to rewrite Shatner's part. It was Mark who came up with the Shakespeare angle. After finishing the draft, Shatner said he was still uncomfortable with the film. But after convincing him we'd listen to his input, we went over to his office and went over all his lines. Surprisingly, his changes were minor, but profound. Bill has a surprisingly keen grasp on storytelling and excellent comedic sensibilities. Watching him read the lines we'd written for him for the first time was nothing short of magic. Plus…we simply would not take no for an answer. He had to do our movie.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE DIRECTING AN ICON OF THE SCIENCE FICTION WORLD?
Frankly, I was terrified. I've heard the tape. Logistically, his first day was a nightmare, shooting with Ethan Glazer who plays young Mark, during rush hour on Wilshire Blvd. But when Shatner came on set, I think he saw a lot of professionalism happening, which put him at ease. Plus…we came to him with great respect. He is, after all, sort of our Godfather. And I think he responded to our youthful, 'hey, lets put on a show" exuberance. One day, he worked sixteen hours straight in the Garden of Eden…twelve pages of dialogue. By midnight, he lit up a stogie and began joking with the crew. He read every off camera line with the other actors. He was there for everyone else's closeups. He was simply terrific. Plus, Shatner is just an amazing professional. He knows exactly where to stand, where to move… His knowledge of the filmmaking process makes him very easy to work with, if you know what you're doing. Now, I've always thought he was a great actor, but to see him perform, a seasoned professional trained on the stage, work live…even the fatigued crew perked up. On his last day of shooting, our behind the scenes film crew asked him what he thought the sequel to "Free Enterprise" should be about…he thought for a moment and said…"Well, I guess in the next one they'll get advice from Patrick Stewart." Hearing this, Mark and I went over to Bill and said, "we'd never make the sequel with Patrick Stewart Bill. Ever." He smiled. His manager later told us he had one of the best times he's ever had on our film.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE CAST?
Our brilliant ensemble cast is the one element in the film I'm most proud of. Eric McCormack, who plays Mark and can also be seen as Will on NBC's new sitcom "Will and Grace," has to be one of the most gifted actors working today. He's the real deal. We knew he'd be perfect for the film after he came in and did a killer Charlton Heston impression from "Planet of the Apes" the first time we met him. Rafer Weigel, who plays…ahem…Robert in the film was the last additon to the cast, coming aboard just days before we rolled. I saw what seemed like hundreds of people but he was the only guy who read I believed gets laid and still buys action figures. Audie England has this etheral beauty and gentle manner which makes you fall in love with her instantly. It really came down to the wire between her and another actress, but she has this quality which makes her leap off the screen…plus, with those lips, how can you not want to reach out and kiss her? I'd seen Patrick Van Horn, LA's smoothest ladies' man, as Sue in "Swingers." He IS Sean, there is no other. Jonathan Slavin, who plays Dan, another difficult part to cast, nailed it in the audition. Phil LaMarr, who caused the Bonnie situation after his head exploded in "Pulp Fiction," is endlessly funny. Plus, he's a big comic book geek. He deserved more lines. We'll give him a bigger part in the sequel. Finally, our lovable casting director, Linda Francis, came up with Deborah Van Valkenberg to play Marlena, a character created during the Shatner rewrite. Originally, we wanted Barbara Luna, the original Marlena from the episode "Mirror, Mirror" who both Mark and I adore, to play Shatner's love interest, but her management didn't seem interested. Then Linda gave us her short list and Deborah's name was on it. We both thought "No Way!" She was in "The Warriors!" She was in "Streets of Fire!" She was in "Too Close for Comfort.!" Would she do it? After she agreed to be in the film, I called her and totally geeked out on the phone, but she's such a sweetheart, I don't think she minded. And how great does she look? She looks better now then she did twenty years ago. She told me Bill was fun to "play' with.
WAS THE FILM AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL IN ANY WAY?
No. Absolutely not.
IS STAR TREK DEAD?
It's really not dead. As long as we remember it. Although the added commercial breaks during the Sci-Fi Channel's "special presentation" of the Original Series is going a long way towards sullying it's memory.
WHAT WAS THE BUDGET AND SCHEDULE?
The film was made for a lot less then you might believe. Let's just say it's more then a dollar and less then "Battle Beyond the Stars." We shot it over a twenty-five day period in February smack in the middle of El Nino. It wound up being the wettest month in the history of Los Angeles. We also went to Limbo to shoot the childhood Shatner scenes, creating quite a problem with the permit office.
DID YOU SACRIFICE ANYTHING BECAUSE OF THE BUDGET?
While you always want to make scenes bigger and more elaborate, we shot mostly in practical locations, really stretching every dollar, giving the film production value we could never duplicate on a set…40 locations in twenty-five days. The Garden of Eden, Jerry's Deli, the Tillman water reclamation plant, Toys R' Us, Golden Apple Comics, the El Ray theatre, the Chaplin Stages…and Bruce Willis' brother David's house doubled for Robert's apt., Mark's apt. and the French Café, although he thought we were only using his kitchen. We even stopped traffic on Wilshire boulvard during rush hour once. So I really didn't have to sacrifice anything. My producers, Dan Bates, Mark, and Allen Kaufman saw to that. They really got my back. The Logan's Run dream sequence and the car crash may have benefitted from more cash, but really I was able to get everything in the script on film with what we had to work with. Of course, I shot 135,000 feet of film. Hoo-ha.
WHY DID YOU DO IT?
The one concrete goal I ever had in my life was to direct my first feature at thirty years of age after learning all I could about making motion pictures. My days were numbered. I'd reached carousel. Also, Mark and I felt it was time to pay homage to not only the greatness and vision of Classic Trek, which Paramount and Rick Berman seem to now believe is a wacky campfest, but to remind the world that William Shatner is STILL THE FUCKING MAN!
CURRENT STATUS OF THE FILM?
We are currently seeking distribution, although we are in serious discussions with a number of potential sudios. I think with a platformed theatrical release "Free Enterprise" would do at least "Chasing Amy" numbers. Although distributors did see an unfinished video version of the film, NO ONE has seen the completed, mixed print. It's mixed in Dolby SR and looks and sounds incredible. The World Premiere takes place on Oct. 15 at Stiges 98: Festival Internacional de Cinema de Catalunya in Spain. The US premiere follows a week later on Oct. 23 at the AFI Fest here in Los Angeles. Then the film moves on to the Peachtree Festival in Atlanta the following week and finally the Hawaii International Film Festival the week after that. You either get the film or you don't I suppose. And although it's an indie film from the get go, it's more like top 40 music, a "pop" film, which I think throws people off. It isn't easily described.
ADVICE OR PEARLS OF BRILLIANT FILMMAKING WISDOM?
Never write a script about a specific actor unless you check with that actor first. Never shoot exteriors in Los Angeles during the month of February. If you're a first time filmmaker with a 126 page shooting script, cut it down before production begins. If you have a small budget, don't expect the United Talent Agency to ever call you back, even if your casting director has made legitimate monetary offers to their clients. On the other hand, CAA, William Morris and Endeavor can be surprisingly supportive of the low-budget filmmaker. Finally and perhaps most importantly…expect the unexpected and be prepared to face it head on when it arrives, because it will.
WILL THERE BE A DIRECTOR'S CUT ON THE DVD RELEASE?
Since I also edited the film, the finished version is a true director's cut. However, there are about thirty minutes of great scenes to put on the DVD. Great stuff…scenes with a beginning, middle and end. Not like the snippets on the Starship Troopers DVD or the extra scenes Taylor Hackford talks over on "The Devil's Advocate" DVD. True missing scenes cut out of the film because of length and redundancy. As for commentary tracks, I can assure all fans there will be a very spirited and opininated discussion about the making of the film. I'd imagine they'll have to add extra tracks because Mark and I are so pleased with ourselves neither one of us will get a word in edgewise.
I UNDERSTAND THAT FOR AN INDEPENDENT FILM, THE CRAFT SERVICES TABLE HAD MORE APPETIZERS THAN MOST HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTIONS-IS THIS IN PART DUE TO THE PRODUCER.?
Actually, one day the crew was shocked to see Producer, co-writer and my great friend Mark A. Altman carrying around a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies for them. I of course, was not surprised in the least. But according to Line Producer extrodinare Ron Singer, we actually had a great craft service table because he was able to wrangle copious amounts of product placement. I was just happy the Widmir brewing company gave us a few cases of their wonderful Hefeweizen, which is featured prominently in the film.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Making this film was like having more wealth then I could ever imagine. And I can imagine quite a bit.
I've always said I wanted to be a cross between Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Joseph Mankiewicz and John Carpenter, with a dash of Andrei Tarkovski thrown in for good measure. I dread being thought of as some kind of comedy director after this, but I suppose until I make something else, I don't really have a choice. I want to make Cinefantastique. Thoughtful Science Fiction and Horror films. Yes…HORROR…not "supernatural thrillers," but balls to the wall, hellzapoppin' HORROR FILMS. Films along the lines of "Solaris," "2001," "Rosemary's Baby," "The Exorcist," etc. Of course, Mark and I would love to do a stripped down Star Trek film with Bill. We've got a great idea about the end of the 23rd Century and how it led to the kinder, gentler 24th Century. Shoot it like the episode "Errand of Mercy" with great villains, big goings-on, but limited in production scope, so it could be done for a price. Something like the tone of "Unforgiven"and "The Professionals" meets Trek. Show 'em how to make a real Trek film with a bigger profit margin and a plot that makes sense. We actually got Bill pretty excited about the idea…and since Patrick Stewart says he doesn't want to do another Trek film for three years…we could do the next film between Star Wars chapters. Currently, I'm locking up an option on a Science Fiction novel from one of my favorite modern SF writers. I've also signed on to edit and direct a romantic comedy called "All the wrong places…" for Sapphire Entertainment. I'd love to do a "UFO" feature based on the Gerry Anderson series. Robert McCammon's novel "They Thirst" has always been a favorite. And there's always "The Watchmen," which should be done as an HBO miniseries like "From the Earth to the Moon." Finally, Mark and I have what I dare say is a wonderful idea for a trilogy of Battlestar Galactica movies. But right now, we're concentrating on building our new company, Mindfire Entertainment, the home of combustible imagination, into the genre division Miramax and October wish they were in business with…
Free Enterprise is a great movie that doesn't require you to be a Trekkie to enjoy it. Anyone that grew up with geeky pastimes and doesn't want to let them go amid an adult life of bills, relationships and careers will certainly be able to relate. As you read about the background of the movie below, pay particular attention to the work Burnett had to put in to secure the cast. It's a great lesson for anyone trying to get into Kaplan University or another military university, which are famous for their tough application processes. A great deal of persistence and willingness to comprimise was required to get William Shatner on board, important life lessons that usually aren't taught in a military university or other school. Without Shatner, there wouldn't have really been a movie but Burnett never gave up, made some script changes at Bill's request and thus Free Enterprise as you know it today was born!
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