Robert Gagno has taken his pinball game to Wizard Mode
29th January 2020 by Will Stewart
Wizard Mode is the story of Robert Gagno as he rises up the ranks of the international pinball circuit while striving to gain his independence and transcend the label of autism.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about yourselves as film makers, and how you got into film making. Is Wizard Mode a typical example of your work?
Jeff Lee Petry – Salazar is a name that Nathan Drillot and myself (Jeff Petry) have been working under for about 9 years now. When we met, we both had some experience working as technicians in the Vancouver film industry, which especially then, was largely comprised of servicing projects from Hollywood. We started Salazar in hopes of making films in a less stringent, more personal way.
Wizard Mode is a great example of the process and type of story we like to help tell. We love finding people who are changing the world around them, by being themselves. They change by doing, and we love creating meaningful relationships to hopefully make something really honest.
MadeGood – When you work together, do you assume specific roles, or is it more of an ‘all hand on deck’ approach? Please tell me a bit about your working relationship
Jeff Lee Petry – We write, produce, direct, shoot, and interview together, so we have always had an all-hands-on-deck approach. It’s a constant negotiation, and how we relate to each other and the work is ever changing.
MadeGood – How did you find out about Robert Gagno, and what made you want to make a film about him. It’s very intimate, which I always think is an example of a good film! Was it easy to gain the trust of the family?
Jeff Lee Petry – A friend of ours told us about these stories he was hearing from some friends who were into the local pinball scene. They would talk about this kid that was putting up massive scores, and of course, how he had autism. The reason I point that out, is that, after taking with Robert and the Family, it seemed to us an opportunity to document a positive portrayal of someone on the spectrum and what can happen when a family rallies around a challenge like autism. They helped create a world champion.
MadeGood – This film was made a few years ago now, have you kept in touch with Robert? Any idea what he’s up to know, or what’s happened to his career?
Jeff Lee Petry – Because we travel so much shooting and he travels so much for pinball, we don’t get to see him as often as we’d like, but we are in very regular contact with Robert through text and IG. We knew from the very beginning that what we were doing was going to go beyond just making a film and that we were committing to a longterm friendship. This sounds as though we did this all in service of the film, but it’s actually kind of the reverse. Robert and his family are so warm and fun, that the film really became an excuse to hang out and travel with him. The film became a way from Robert to have new experiences on his own, to hang out with Mac and travel to a tournament on his own. These were really important steps for him.
Robert and his family remain a staple of the international pinball community and he continues to travel to all the big tournaments and win or place well.
MadeGood – What are you working on next.
Jeff Lee Petry – We are currently working on another feature length documentary that we are calling There Are Dreams On This Side Too. It’s about two brothers from a small city in Mexico, that have performed Lucha Libre style wrestling at a stop light since they were 8 years old. From a very young age they have been the main bread-winners for their family and what they do garners them a lot of notoriety within their community. It’s really amazing to watch these guys perform this style of acrobatic wrestling on pavement, and think that they do this a 100 times a day! They are in their early twenties now and have been picked up by one of the biggest wrestling promoters in Mexico. This marks a pivotal time for them and their ability to gain fame, and work outside of Mexico and to really change their whole family’s lives. Again it’s a portrait of a family and how they relate, hold each other up, survive and flourish.