Director Talks 'Free Enterprise' Inspirations

By Christian
April 29, 2001 - 8:19 PM

Robert Meyer Burnett revealed this week what the true secret of the success behind his film "Free Enterprise:" "The truer it was, the funnier it became."

The closer the film came to parodying the serious nature of Trek fandom, the funnier the fans found it. Burnett wrote and directed 1999 Star Trek Parody film "Free Enterprise" which starred William Shatner. He is currently working on new Vampire film "Night" which is written by the Gene Roddenbury's Andromeda team of Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz.

Burnett did not shy away from admitting that most events that took place in "Free Enterprise" were based on things that happened to himself and film co writer/director, Mark A. Altman. "You know that scene in the car where Robert was driving with his girlfriend and he goes down on her and wrecks his car?" Burnett asked. "Well, that really happened. To me. But did I ever meet a beautiful girl in a comic book store? No. I did meet a beautiful girl at the San Diego Comic-Con and dated her and that was really cool."

"Free Enterprise" was a low budget romantic comedy, produced without cooperation from Paramount Studios. The film focused on the lives of two Trek fans who work on the fringes of the movie industry, who remained devoted to their idol James T. Kirk, and the man who played him. Shatner played himself in a role that made fun of Star Trek obsessiveness with healthy amounts of self mockery. It was a minor hit in limited release and on home video, and is now available to buy on DVD and video.

The origins of the film were simple. While shopping for action figures in 'ToysRUs' a friend provided the inspiration: 'You guys are wacky, and you should make a movie about yourselves.' "Well, everyone thinks that," Burnett said, "but then Mark and I hit on the idea of putting in Shatner as our guru and it sort of went from there. We wrote it as almost sort of a joke, but then the script was done. We had to pursue Shatner for a very long time and he finally agreed to do the movie."

Burnett does not think of himself as a hero for all those fans out there who want to get closer to their icons. Instead, he felt rather frustrated with fans who sat "at home and put on a Star Trek uniform" rather than going out to "Boldly Go." "That's frequently the problem with all this fandom," he said. "They use comics, books, movies as a replacement for things when they should be using it as a jumping off point for having their own adventures. That's the lesson we took away from Star Trek and what we hoped we conveyed in "Free Enterprise." The thing is, there's a great world out there than you're ever gonna see. Truth is always stranger than fiction. The world is about living and interacting with people."

The director's next project will be "Night," a vampire movie set ten years after vampires have succeeded in taking over the world. The film is currently in production by "Endless Entertainment" and was written by Stentz and Miller, staff writers on Andromeda. Burnett was enthusiastic about the project, which he hopes will be in cinemas in 2002.

In a recent interview, (story) Zack Stentz said "It's waiting on cast, and it's waiting on the uncertainty of the strike as well. But we're very optimistic about [the film], it is a front-burner project of [its] production company."

More of this interview with Burnett can be found here at IGN SciFi.

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