Or, rather, there was the idea for “Brick Madness,” the faux-Lego mockumentary from Fresno director Justin McAleece.
“We thought we would be able to get a movie done in a week,” says McAleece, from the downtown offices of Blare Media, the video production company he co-owns.
That was eight years ago.
In that time, production on “Brick Madness” stopped and started 15 times. McAleece moved his company’s offices, then moved them again and again; five times in total. One of the movie’s stars moved to New York City. The movie itself was moved through four different computers and three major editing systems as technologies changed.
It was the “sunk cost fallacy” (the fear of throwing good money after bad) at play, McAleece says, though in this case, it paid off.
“Brick Madness” premieres Saturday night at the Tower Theatre and should be available on Netflix and Amazon within the next year.
The movie falls somewhere between Christopher Guest’s “Best in Show” and “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.” It envisions a world where the pre-eminent Lego builder is a celebrity and also from Fresno. Legos are known as “Brix” (for the sake of copyright, no doubt) and each year there is an annual Brix building tournament.
The film chronicles the 2012 tournament championship.
In a way, McAleece is happy with the timing of the film’s release.
Eight years ago, Lego was mostly a foot-killing kid’s toy, or a piece of ’80s nostalgia that the crew had all played with growing up. It has since become a major piece of pop-culture, with its own series of movies and/or major movie tie-ins. There is also a growing number of fans building mind-blowing custom Lego sets.
Yes, the company just this week announced it would cut 1,400 jobs amid dwindling sales, but that may have more to do with market competition than popularity.
“We quickly realized we didn’t want to make fun of these people,” McAleece says. “Brick Madness” may be a mockumentary, but it’s also a tribute to real-life Lego builders – the so-called Adult Fans of Legos. Parts of the film were shot at Bricks by the Bay, the annual Lego convention and display showcase.
Many of the Lego models seen in the film were built by the conventioners.
The rest were done by Carl Merriam, a set designer who works for The Lego Group in Denmark. His IMDB page lists, right next to “Brick Madness,” “The LEGO Batman Movie,” where he is credited as a Lego Team designer. Merriam is a Fresno native who was working in town as a video production specialist at the time.
He isn’t the only Lego connection in the film. “Brick Madness,” also features some quick scenes with Jadon Sand.
Fans will know Jadon as “The Lego Movie’s” live-action co-star. He actually worked on both films somewhat simultaneously, McAleece says.
“For the record, he was in ‘Brick Madness’ first.”