EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors who have films screening at the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Screening in the Documentary Feature Competition, Josh Koury‘s “We Are Wizards” is having its world premiere at the South By Southwest Film Festival. The doc is a portrait of the unusual and passionate culture of Harry Potter fans. As the SXSW catalog describes the film, “The ‘Harry Potter’ mythos allows the nerdy, the average, the young, the downtrodden, and the bored a chance to borrow a little inspiration and step out of their respective worlds to be a part of something ‘big.'”
What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
I’ve been making films all of my life. I mostly made smaller, shorter work growing up and through film school. My first feature length documentary was a film called “Standing By Yourself“, which had it’s World Premiere at Slamdance, went on a strong festival run and eventually opened for a short theatrical release in NY. That was back in 2002, and I hadn’t really made any film work since. I’d gotten heavily involved in programming for festivals, but decided before the last season of the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival, that I needed to get back to creating work again. That’s when I began meeting with the “We Are Wizards” team, and things just took off from there.
What was the inspiration for this film?
I’m actually a big Harry Potter fan. We began talking about ideas for films, and different projects that might have potential. This film seemed to come back on the table repeatedly. It seemed like a difficult project at first, particularly since we weren’t interested in making a “Trekkies” style documentary, or a film that simply panders to the HP fans. We knew it would be a challenge to create something that general audiences, as well as fans, would appreciate and enjoy.
So far, we’ve received some very positive reactions from fans that love the HP series, from people who are totally uninterested in the books, and even those with a deep loathing of the series. I always say that the film really isn’t even about Harry Potter. It’s about people, their struggles, and creating work that you believe in. If the film were simply about Harry Potter fans at face value, it wouldn’t have the same impact or touch people the way I hope the film does.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
Finding our subjects for the film really happened as we went. One of our first interviews was with Harry and the Potters, who then introduced us to the Hungarian Horntails, the 7 and 4 year old dragon rock band from the film. This happened time and time again, characters introducing us to others that they in particular felt a close kinship to. It would be impossible to create a film that covers every bit of the HP fan culture. There’s just too much out there. We tried to find characters that we personally connected with, characters who offered more than just a love for the books. The film’s story line began to unravel and connect the characters to one another as we moved forward.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
We’ve been very fortunate with the support we’ve received throughout making this project. The support from our characters and the HP community, over the past 2 years, has been phenomenal.
One of our biggest challenges was timing the release of the film. Our final shoot was in late July, and having to turn over a rough cut we were proud of by December, for the SXSW deadline, was a huge task. But, it was critical for the film to include elements from the last HP book release in July. This is just one more reason that we’re so proud and excited to be included in the documentary competition this year.
What are your goals for the SXSW Film Festival?
We’re just hoping that the film is well received at the festival. The enthusiasm we’ve received thus far has been terrific, and we hope that people get even more excited in the lead-up to the premiere.