Argo’s Oscar triumph will certainly enhance the careers of all those involved, none more so than its producer, director, and star, Ben Affleck. But it could also boost another filmmaker who has absolutely nothing to do with Argo, except a desire to bring to screen a part of the story that the acclaimed historical drama left out.
EW.com first told you about Science Fiction Land last fall, when its director, Judd Ehrlich, was seeking Kickstarter support to raise $50,000 to finish the project. (Mission: Accomplished.) To briefly recap here: Argo was based on the true-life tale of CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck in the movie), who posed as the producer of a fake science fiction flick to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran in 1979. Science Fiction Land is a documentary that will profile an idealistic dreamer-schemer named Barry Ira Geller, whose bid to make a Star Wars-esque sci-fi opus based on Roger Zelazny’s 1967 sci-fi novel Lord of Light (and build a $400 million, 1000-acre theme park called Science Fiction Land) proved to be a wild and weird adventure that ended in scandalous failure in 1980. What Geller didn’t learn until just a few years ago was that the Oscar-winning make-up artist who had been working on Lord of Light, John Chambers (played in Argo by John Goodman), was also a CIA consultant who helped Mendez plan the rescue operation, and that they used Geller’s script and concept art, drawn by comic book legend Jack Kirby, as props in their ruse.
Since the completion of the Kickstarter campaign, Ehrlich has been using the funds to shoot additional footage, conduct further interviews, and produce graphics and special effects for the documentary. He’s also been rooting for Argo’s box office and Oscar success. “It’s been incredible to watch Argo winning top awards in the run-up to the Oscars and it’s proven to us just how much interest there is in the story,” says Ehrlich. “The more eyes on Argo, the more interest in the real story, and that’s where Science Fiction Land comes in.” He says he’s seen a modest uptick in interest in his project since Argo’s Oscar victory – an increase in Twitter followers, a few interview requests from journalists. He hopes for more.
Up next for Science Fiction Land: Finishing the movie and finding a distributor. Nancy Schafer, former executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival and VP at Tribeca Enterprises, recently joined the production as an Executive Producer to lead the effort. There will be a Science Fiction Land panel at Comic-Con in San Diego this summer, and Ehrlich plans to show some of the film there. He admits – with humble good humor – that he hopes his journey ends this time next year on the same stage where Argo was just crowned Best Picture of the year. “Inocente was the first Kickstarter-backed film to win an Oscar,” says Ehrlich, referring to the winner in the Best Documentary (Short Subject) category. “Maybe we’ll be thanking the Academy next year?”