A good documentary can do more than entertain or educate the audience. These non-fiction films can be a wealth of inspiration too. They can lend insight into the creative process or impart some wisdom from famed creators. More often than not, they show that making awesome things happen is never easy.
Below are five nerdy and inspiration pop culture documentaries. From a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world's biggest film franchises to the story of a legendary comic book creator, these movies are filled with humor, drama and few good lessons too.
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story
Regardless of industry, few people have had the kind of career that Stan Lee has. The co-creator of characters like Spider-Man and The Hulk has had a string of hit comic books that spans decades. He's worked through booms and busts in the comic book business. He's seen drastic changes in technology and has first-hand experience at how those changes impact entertainment. On top of that, at 90 years of age, he's still working in the field he loves.
This is, in many ways, a standard biographical documentary that's driven by an incredibly charismatic subject. It's entertaining, but, more than that, it's inspiring. The enthusiasm that Lee still has for his work is infectious. And it's entirely possible that this sort of enthusiasm, the kind that leaves entire convention centers filled with people smiling, is the key to success.
Trekkies is pegged as “a hilarious look at the universe's most fervent fans.” That's not really true. This is a hands-off sort of documentary where the viewer is left to come to his/her own conclusions. If you're watching this to laugh at Star Trek fans, that's your problem. You should have paid more attention to Gene Roddenberry's messages of acceptance.
Trekkies was made back in 1997, years before words like “fandom” and “geekdom” became part of the general lexicon. Still, there is so much in here that relates to today's fan communities and the world of conventions. Costuming, collecting, slash-fictioning, debating scene labels, it's all here. Perhaps we are all indebted to Star Trek fans for laying the groundwork for today's rich world of fan culture.
I watched this documentary as an outsider. I've watched various Star Trek series, and liked them, but it's not my area of expertise. What's fascinating is how Roddenberry created something that went far beyond mere entertainment. From the stars of the shows to those who were enamored by them, Star Trek really has changed lives and that's a beautiful thing.
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007
Director Steven Riley's look inside the world of James Bond is fascinating. What starts out as the story behind Ian Fleming's beloved series of novels evolves into the tale of the film franchise helmed by Albert “Cubby” R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Packed with interviews, it's a fascinating account of how the successful films almost didn't happen and how the character evolved with as actors, and the times, changed.
Everything or Nothing, which was released last fall, depicts heartbreaking failures and wild successes. More importantly, it documents the struggle that goes into bringing the project you love to the masses. If there's anything to learn from the stories of Fleming, Broccoli and Saltzman, it's don't abandon the dream.
Four Days at Dragon Con
Clocking in at just under an hour, Four Days at Dragon*Con is short, but it gives an impressive overview of Atlanta's multi-genre fan convention.
Dragon*Con is massive and this public television documentary does a really good job at surveying the scope of the convention. There's something for just about every kind of fan here, whether you're in to LARP, cosplay or battling robots. But, Four Days at Dragon*Con does more than just show what the con has to offer. It explores the camaraderie that exists between super fans, regardless of what genre of entertainment gets their allegiance. Four Days at Dragon*Con is about creating communities and sharing experiences in ways that you never thought possible unless you were there.
You can watch Four Days at Dragon*Con for free through PBA's website.
The Sci-Fi Boys
There's a lot of information packed into The Sci-Fi Boys. Director Paul Davids moves through decades of science-fiction and monster movie fanaticism in less than an hour-and-a-half, but it's still a cohesive journey.
The Sci-Fi Boys focuses on filmmakers and special effects artists who grew up inspired by the B-movies of the mid 20th century. Inside this framework, there are tales about the moviemakers of the 1950s and '60s, as well as famed genre publications like Famous Monsters of Filmland. These side stories are all incredibly interesting on their own. Put together, though, you get an idea of the kind of big screen climate that inspired the likes of Peter Jackson (who is interviewed here). More importantly, though, there's a distinct message here, that it is absolutely possible to turn your childhood fan obsessions into your life's work.