Tribeca: Tell us a little about Journey to Planet X. How do you describe the movie in your own words?
Josh Koury: Journey to Planet X follows Eric Swain and Troy Bernier, two amateur filmmakers who embark on making an independent sci-fi film named Planet X. The film is a huge leap forward for them, and the documentary follows them as they struggle for two years to make their epic story happen.
Myles Kane: It's also a film about filmmaking and the constant difficulties that come with it. This struggle is only amplified as you watch these two guys go through it with no budget or professional training. They just keep willing themselves forward.
TRIBECA: As I was watching Journey to Planet X, I kept thinking about what a great companion piece it would make to American Movie. What inspired you to tell this story?
JOSH KOURY: Actually Myles and I really love American Movie; it was one of our favorite films when we were back in film school. What's really remarkable about the independent film scene of recent years is that the process of filmmaking has become more accessible than ever. If you dream a film that takes place in outer space with laser battles, you can build a film like that.
MYLES KANE: It might look crazy, but it's all possible. Also, they've been making films for years, all very low-budget, outlandish creations. We wanted to make this movie because we were fascinated by what motivates them and how exactly they create these films.
TRIBECA: Eric Swain and Troy Bernier, scientists by day/amateur filmmakers by night, are such interesting characters. How did you meet them? What was their reaction when you asked to document their story?
JOSH KOURY: We first met them when they submitted their early work to the film festival we started (Brooklyn Underground Film Fest) back in 2002. We loved their stuff because it was completely bizarre and felt like the kind of amazing outsider art you don't see very often.
MYLES KANE: For us it was so fun to be a fly on the wall during their production. I remember being so excited when we first flew to Miami and started documenting them. You could feel the passion they have making these things. And with Planet X, they really raised the bar for what they hoped to achieve. Right away we knew this would be a great story for us to tell.
TRIBECA: What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
JOSH KOURY: Hopefully people have fun and leave inspired. Eric and Troy's attitude toward filmmaking is actually really refreshing. When they screened at the festival back in the day, everyone would laugh and get rowdy, but they took it all with a grain of salt and just jumped into their next project.
MYLES KANE: As any filmmaker knows, it's hard to show your work, especially if people take it differently than you wanted. They probably have the healthiest attitudes about making films I've ever seen. Like I said, Josh and I have been fascinated with their work for a long time, but not many people have seen their work. So hopefully they'll find a new audience through this documentary.
TRIBECA: From inception to print, can you give us a sense of your timeline? How much time did you spend with Eric and Troy? How long have you been working on this project?
JOSH KOURY: We reached out to Eric and Troy about halfway through our last film and asked them if they were making any new projects. That's when we pitched the idea of making a documentary. They were definitely warm to the idea, but they didn't actually conceive of Planet X till about a year later.
MYLES KANE: Our film took about 3 years to make—which is maybe a little longer than we thought it would take to finish this film. Films take a long time to make, and since this was a film about a film, I guess it took that much longer. Plus they kept surprising us with new shooting scenarios and grander plans.
TRIBECA: Journey to Planet X is a great documentary about making movies and passion behind it. Did you see any parallels between co-directors Eric and Troy and yourselves?
JOSH KOURY: Yeah, actually we've talked about that a lot. Through the process of making this movie, a lot of Eric and Troy's fears, anxieties, and troubles, were reflected in our own process. Sometimes you forget about how hard these things are to make, but this struggle seems universal, no matter how large or small a project is. We hope filmmakers and artists respond to this story as well.
MYLES KANE: You start to realize every filmmaker is perpetually in a similar fragile and vulnerable state. The editing process is where we reflected the most on it. Working on scenes of them jumping over hurdle after hurdle, we realized we had been running a parallel course.
TRIBECA: This documentary is almost a love letter to Do-It-Yourself filmmaking. It’s extremely inspiring to filmmakers. Did Eric and Troy ever take you by surprise by their creativity and ingenuity? Do you have any sequences in the documentary where you felt especially proud of them?
JOSH KOURY: One of the things that we thought was pretty incredible was when they told us they wanted to shoot in a giant industrial freezer, because one of the ships in space was very cold, and they wanted to be able to see the breath of the actors. I remember thinking, "Okay, that's never going to happen," but one day we got a call and they were like, "We got it, we're shooting in an industrial freezer." I was sort of shocked… I mean excited it was going to happen, but I was shocked they actually made it work out.
MYLES KANE: We were also proud when they finally got to the finish line. This was a huge undertaking for them, and honestly, at times we weren't sure if it was going to happen. I guess that's the same when talking about any indie film production.
TRIBECA: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production?
MYLES KANE: Watching the casting process was fascinating to me, especially in South Florida. The amount of people who respond to a Craigslist ad and have hopes and dreams of being actors is amazing. It was a window into a whole world of people who follow the dreams in their head. It was oddly inspiring, actually, that they choose to spend their weekends pursuing this. A lot of people just sit on the couch and watch TV.
TRIBECA: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers? Is there one particular thing you’d emphasize that you’ve learned in the making of your own documentaries or from Eric and Troy’s experience?
JOSH KOURY: I guess you just need to believe in your film. You have to love what you're doing and just get out there and do it. You don't really need a lot of money to start, just get your hands on some equipment and start the process. I think that's what we did, and that's definitely what Troy and Eric did too.
MYLES KANE: Yeah, at the end of the day, hopefully you're enjoying the process. We had a lot of fun chasing these guys around. The fact that we had to go to Miami to shoot wasn't the worst thing in the world either.
TRIBECA: What are you most looking forward to at Tribeca?
MYLES KANE: We're just looking forward to finally being able to share this with an audience. It's been a long time in the making, and it's a huge honor to be able to premiere this at such a great Festival.
JOSH KOURY: We've both lived in NYC for 15 years and remember when Tribeca launched, and we've always wanted to be a part of the Festival. It's really amazing to be able to have the World premiere of this film right in our backyard.
MYLES KANE: We're also excited to have Eric and Troy up for the premiere. They've never been a part of a film experience like this before, so it should be a blast.
TRIBECA: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?
TRIBECA: What’s your favorite New York movie?
MYLES KANE: Serpico is pretty sweet. It's so cool to see 1970's New York, especially Brooklyn.
TRIBECA: What makes JOURNEY TO PLANET X a Tribeca must-see?
JOSH KOURY: Tribeca is all about Indie filmmakers, and you won't find a better example of a truly independent film team then with Eric and Troy. It's also a really fun documentary, so come out, and we hope you enjoy it.
Myles Kane is the multimedia editor at The New Yorker Magazine. He graduated from Pratt in 2001 and co-founded the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival in 2002. He edited the documentaries Made In India and We Are Wizards. Josh Koury is a faculty member at Pratt. He co-founded Brooklyn Underground and served as programming director for four years. His feature docs include Standing by Yourself and We Are Wizards.