By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
The latest season of popular nostalgia series, THE MOVIES THAT MADE US is available now on Netflix. Taking a deep dive into some of the most iconic films from our past, season three continues the trend with episodes on A Nightmare On Elm St, Friday the 13th, Aliens, Robocop, and more, featuring plenty of interviews with cast, crew, and enthusiasts. We had the chance to chat with the creator of the series, Brian Volk-Weiss, about the new season, his motivation for creating the show, and the painstaking process of selecting the films.
What can we expect from the new season of this popular series?
Well, we put out six new movies. It has two of my favorite films of all time in it, Robocop and Aliens. Plus, in honor of Halloween, we have three of what I consider to be the classic horror films.
How do you pick which films to cover? I imagine it’s hard.
Was it hard? Yes, it’s always hard! There are so many that we want to do and we only get a finite amount. Basically, Netflix will say to us, “Okay, we want ten more.” Then we’ll do research, and we’ll come up with about ten options for each slot. We present that to Netflix, then Netflix does their research, then, based on that, we typically break it down to about two to three per slot. After that, we start doing more research. Because sometimes, we’ll have an episode we love, but it’s not a very interesting story – so we’ll just go onto something else. Then we break it down and we figure out the ten best and present it back to Netflix. At that point, they usually greenlight those decisions and choices.
So, Netflix is very involved in the process.
Absolutely. Because they have a lot of data, a lot of research, that really allows them to help us make the best decision we can.
Have they ever come back and said, “We don’t want this, we want this instead?”
Have you ever done that to them? Does it go both ways?
It absolutely goes both ways. I’ve never worked with a better company. Netflix really is like the ideal partner. One of the things that makes them that way is that it’s really hard to sell something to them, but once you do, they really trust you. They’ll say to you, “Hey, you can do what you want but, if you want more seasons we strongly suggest you consider X, Y, and Z.” I have never seen them [be] wrong about the X, Y, and Z.
But they still leave it up to you at the end of the day?
They really do, yeah. They give a lot of really great guidance, but I’ve pushed back a few times and they’ve always understood, and ultimately, agreed.
You must be a movie buff, right?
That is the understatement of the millennium. [Laughs]
What gave you the idea for the series? What motivated you to explore these films in such a dynamic way?
Well, it’s funny. After The Toys That Made Us came out, Netflix asked us to come in and pitch a spin-off. So, believe it or not, we actually spent over one hundred hours making a tape. It was like a little sales tape, and also a huge deck, like fifty pages, for The Games That Made Us. I went in to pitch that, and I don’t even remember what made me do this, but at the last minute, I thought it would be cool to pitch THE MOVIES THAT MADE US as well.
We took a picture of Frank Sinatra, photoshopped it over Bruce Willis’ face on the Die Hard poster, and the rest is history. The thing we spent a hundred hours on went nowhere and the thing we spent forty minutes on got greenlit.
You mentioned having to leave stuff out. What hurt you the most to have to cut?
Oh my god, it would take me ten hours to answer that question. It’s so hard cutting stuff out. On Aliens, we did a much longer tribute to Bill Paxton’s and Stan Winston’s passing. In the end, I think we cut them down to about ten percent of what they originally were. We really wanted to make a deep dive. It’s still in there, but it’s not as deep as it was. Honestly, though man, nobody wants these things to be two hours long. We are doing the right thing by keeping them tight. It’s tough to do, it’s gut-wrenching, but it’s the right thing to do.
What’s one thing you think will surprise people about the show?
Well, one of the things that were interesting to me is, I like and respect horror, but I don’t consider myself to be a horror buff. One of the things that was really interesting to me about Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm St, and Halloween was that a lot of love goes into making these movies. They’re kind of like handmade, very personal, and emotional stories when it comes to the making of them. I’ve never really seen that covered before, so we tried to hit that pretty hard.
Another thing that was crazy to learn was John Landis and Eddie Murphy got into a fistfight with each other on the set of Coming To America, in front of the entire crew. We interviewed like six different people about it, and they all had differing reasons for why they had the fight. Which was very interesting.
In addition to your work for Netflix, you’ve also done Behind the Attraction for Disney+ and the Emmy award-winning Down to Earth with Zac Efron. What got you into documentaries in the first place?
You know, I’ve always loved them. Even going all the way back to high school when the only way to see a documentary was to go to the movies. Even before Blockbuster, let alone Netflix. I was going to theaters to watch docs. It’s very surreal to me, how popular docs are now.
Are docs what got you into film, per se?
No, that was Star Wars. [Laughs] The reason I’m in show business is Star Wars. Without Star Wars, I would probably be a dentist, or a lawyer, or something. It’s all because of Star Wars.
What’s next for you?
We have a show coming out soon called The Center Seat: Fifty-Five Years of Star Trek. It will be on the History channel. It’s ten hours long, every episode is about a very specific part of Star Trek history, and it goes from the original series to Enterprise. Then, in December, we have season four of A Toy Store Near You on Amazon.
THE MOVIES THAT MADE US Season 3 is available now on Netflix.