EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! Scott Tepperman Explores Modern Day Video Stores with His Documentary MAGNETIC HIGHWAY! PLUS! Details on the Limited VHS Release!
You know us here in Lunchmeat Land to be perpetual proponents of that vintage video rental experience. And though the forums for those encounters are now lesser in number, the rental destinations that are endeavoring to thrive in 2017 are keeping that anti-streaming dream alive. They foster the notion that there are still individuals out there that believe in that in-person interaction and family-like atmosphere that stitch together the essence of a brick and mortar video store. Scott Tepperman is an old school VHS collector and avid filmmaker that wanted to explore this contemporary video store culture, and has created an insightful and inspiring journey through 700 miles of independent video rental destinations, offering focus on the personalities that exist within this disappearing, but still vibrant movement. As he travels from store to store and gathers their stories, the VHS format consistently catches the spotlight as his subjects expound on the importance of movie store culture, but Magnetic Highway also offers a groovy little history lesson on the VHS vs. Beta format war and the original progenitors of tape trading. Read on, my fellow Videovores, and get in the whip with Scott and his crew as he cruises along the modern day home video highway…
Can you tell us a little about your filmmaking history, and the inspiration to make MAGNETIC HIGHWAY? When I was in college back in the 1990s, I studied acting and filmmaking. Over the years, I tried to get involved with as many film projects as I could. In 2009, I was fortunate enough to land one of the “main cast member” spots on the Syfy Channel reality show, GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL and stayed on with the show until it was canceled in 2012. During that time, I began using my weekly TV exposure to start making a name for myself in the low budget/indie horror film genre (my favorite genre since childhood). Since then, I have been getting quite active in the film industry - both in front of and behind the camera. So far, I have landed roles in some great films, including NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: GENESIS, THE HOSPITAL, THE HOSPITAL 2, CAMP MASSACRE, and a co-starring role in DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT 2. After producing/co-producing several feature films, I started my own production company, Los Bastardz Productions, which I co-founded and co-own with my good friend and business partner, Jim O’Rear. We just released the ‘80s style thriller feature film, NIGHTBLADE with Todd Bridges (“Willis” on Diff’rent Strokes), an homage to Abel Ferrara’s FEAR CITY and other similar films of that time. As for MAGNETIC HIGHWAY, it is my passion for the true heyday of horror – the 1980s, that fueled my desired to make it.
Filmmaker Scott Tepperman with a few choice slabs pulled from the back! Total VHScore.
For those who are unfamiliar, what can they expect from Magnetic Highway? What items and ideas do you explore with this doc? Several years back, two fantastic documentaries on the VHS sub-culture were released – REWIND THIS and ADJUST YOUR TRACKING. I absolutely love both of these films and they are awesome “collector’s showcases”, but I wanted my film to take a different approach. I actually began conceptualizing MAGNETIC HIGHWAY in 2011, but a lack of time and funds prohibited me from beginning the project. Instead of focusing on people’s collections (which was already explored fully in those two docs), I decided to focus the majority of my documentary on a handful of “mom and pop” video stores across the country that have weathered the storm and have survived the technology boom of the internet, streaming, and digital media. Being a child of the 80s, video stores played a HUGE part in my childhood and I wanted to preserve them the best way I could – by paying homage to the owners and employees who keep enthusiastically opening the doors day after day in the face of an uncertain future. While the recent resurgence in VHS collecting has been impressive, I felt that a documentary made by an “old-school” 40-something VHS collector might be a different, interesting take and be well received by audiences and fans of that particular nostalgia. I even have interviews with some of the original pioneers of Betamax “tape trading” (which was all done through the mail) reflecting back on their experiences of building a home library during the time of a then-emerging, brand new hobby.
THE VIDEOPHILE creator Jim Lowe with a copy of the mag. Dig that doughboy in the back, dude.
What was the most powerful or poignant piece of info you came away with after making this doc? Did making this film change your viewpoint on this sort of culture? What I found the most powerful when filming MAGNETIC HIGHWAY was the passion and demand that people still have for a local video store. VHS may have (for the most part) been replaced by DVD and Blu-ray, but the stores still exist. The experience of seeing people take their young kids to a video store and watching their reactions to wall and walls of escapism is still rewarding. These places weren’t just a place to grab a quick movie, they were an important part of a family’s Friday or Saturday night. Each family member had the opportunity to go to his/her preferred section and see all the new titles available to take home and watch. It was a fun, memorable experience for everyone.
A peek inside Rosebud Video in Asheville, NC, just one of the many video still stores kicking in 2017.
Why do you think it’s important that video stores continue to exist, even if only in a much smaller concentration? Today, we are living in a culture of convenience. Everything is “now, now, now”. We are immersed in our Smart Phones; we never talk to each other anymore. This is one place that actually offers a lot more than even the best streaming service. Video stores make people interact with one another. They make a fun social gathering place for friends and family of all ages. Their selections are huge, not dictated by faceless corporate robots who try to push the 50 top money-grossers and ignore everything else. Movies are a time capsule of a particular period, year, or era. We can’t have these great films disappear from shelves or online catalogs simply because they aren’t earning their keep alongside the other 49 offerings in the local disc kiosk. Remember going into one of those dusty “mom and pop” video stores, scouring the farthest edges of the shelves, and coming up with a rare, forgotten videotape? Many people nowadays don’t – and they should. The video store culture is one that continues to exist under the radar and many of these stores are, surprisingly, flourishing. Now that all of the “big boys” (Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, etc) have folded under the weight of their own greed and desire to put the little guy out of business, the little ones are, ironically, the ones that are actually able to survive.
Scott admiring the personal touches on one of the shelves at Vision Video in Athens, GA.
Where can we pick up the VHS copy of Magnetic Highway? Any other details on the VHS release you’d like to share? MAGNETIC HIGHWAY is currently available on DVD, Blu-ray, and limited edition VHS. You can order copies on DVD and Blu directly from the distributor (lcfilmsonline.com), or from my website (www.scott-tepperman.com), and you can hit me up directly via my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/scottghi) or join my Facebook page SLOW NIGHT AT THE VIDEO STORE to request the limited VHS.
What’s next for you, Scott? What do you have going on right now? We just completed I DARED YOU! TRUTH OR DARE 5, the long-awaited direct sequel to the 80’s cult horror classic, TRUTH OR DARE? A CRITICAL MADNESS – a true video store staple from back in the day. I had the honor of not only co-directing it with Tim Ritter himself, but producing and starring in the film, too. Tim Ritter was one of my favorite directors when growing up and being able to direct with him – on a TRUTH OR DARE feature film no less – is a huge dream come true. We worked really hard on it and hope the fans will love it. We think it very well may be the best sequel of the series. Look for it to hit VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and more early next year – or catch a screening of it before then at a film fest or convention this fall. Event screenings will be announced as they are booked. Keep connected with us on Facebook for up-to-date details. I also have more cool film projects in the works. Stay tuned – and thanks for supporting independent film! Anything else you’d like to shout out to all the Tapeheads eyeballin’ this here slab of VHS-obsessed internet? Let’s keep the art of videotape alive and kicking. Support each other by keeping prices fair, people honest, and the haters and opportunists away. Help keep the videocassette format intact and viable for many generations to come. There is a whole world of titles that are still waiting to be rediscovered, re-evaluated, re-discussed, and preserved for the future. Let’s do our parts to see that it all happens. Keep collecting those tapes.
You know we can dig it, Scott! Magnetic Highway is still available on Limited Edition VHS directly through Scott, or you can grab the slab by joining his Facebook group SLOW NIGHT AT THE VIDEO STORE! This is one film that is best ingested via analog, and that’s VHSolid fact. Only a handful remain, so better act fast, Tapeheads, or forever hold your DVD!