Myles Kane and Josh Koury follow Troy Bernier and Eric Swain, delightfully nerdy scientists obsessed with retro science fiction films, on a journey from obscurity to slightly less obscurity. For all who have tried their hand at film making in the garage with a shaky handheld, this is a fun, honest portrayal of two amateur filmmakers trying to bring their hobby to the next level.

The Players:

  • Director: Myles Kane and Josh Koury
  • Producer: Trisha Barkman
  • Composer: Jonah Rapino
  • Cast: Troy Bernier, Eric Swain

Tribeca Synopsis:

By day, Eric Swain and Troy Bernier are just a couple of mild-mannered, nerdy Florida scientists, but after hours their real passion comes alive in the form of the fantastical and sometimes inadvertently hilarious science fiction films the two lovingly craft with only the help of an enthusiastic amateur cast, a basement green-screen, and some inspired lo-fi effects. While Eric views their efforts as a fun hobby, Troy believes the films could lead to the big time, and so with very different agendas the two undertake their most ambitious project yet, an epic short known simply as Planet X.

Myles Kane and Josh Koury’s affectionate and funny documentary follows this dynamic duo as they pull out all the stops to realize their unique vision on the big screen. And whether the end result is unintentionally funny or a testament to the boundless potential of DIY achievement, Eric and Troy embody the true filmmakers’ spirit, and Journey to Planet X stands as a paean to the democratization of creativity and a celebration of artistic expression in all its forms.

The Good:

This is a skillfully done, hilarious, and inspiring documentary serving to remind us that the joys of film making can belong to anyone. Eric and Troy are a quirky creative duo whose relationship in some ways reflects the basic conflict between the childish love of “play” and the grown-up desire for success and validation in anything that requires time and money. Myles Kane and Josh Koury are remarkably skilled at capturing the interplay between these two elements in an effortless and sincerely humorous way.

Troy and Eric, true fans and emulators of retro science fiction (and equally retro special effects), take their work seriously. Their films, like themselves, are completely earnest and unabashed about what they are; without pretense and without irony. And yes, there is a level of discomfort at laughing when the crew of scantily clad women flying the spacecraft, poorly simulate space turbulence against a green screen, because you know it’s meant to be taken seriously. But it’s still hilarious.

The Bad:

Myles and Josh, in a Q & A following the screening explained that Troy and Eric, though they take their work seriously, are just happy that people are entertained by what they’ve made. If people laugh in unexpected scenes, they said, Eric and Troy take it in stride and are motivated to try harder next time to get people to react in a different way, but they are still pleased that people are enjoying their film.

I think the documentary tried to show this in a few scenes, but it was a little unclear specifically how Troy and Eric felt about this miscommunication between themselves and the audience, which is crucial to understanding them as people and as film makers. The explanation in the Q & A gave me much more respect for Troy and Eric then I would have had just viewing the film, so they could have spent a little more time on that.

Overall:

If you liked Jeff Malmberg’s Marwencol (which was fantastic), you’ll like this film. Yes, the tone, subject, and artistic aesthetic are very different, but it has the same honest, brave quality to it that that documentary had. It’s entertaining, funny, and inspiring. It’s well shot, well paced, and has a great score.

Also, if you’ve worked in film at all or have an interest in film production, you’ll find this stupidly funny.

Rating: 8/10