Jack Rebney, the real-life “Winnebago Man,” along with the director of the acclaimed documentary WINNEBAGO MAN, Ben Steinbauer, will be guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight (July 22).
Since opening in New York and Los Angeles earlier this month, the documentary film WINNEBAGO MAN has received extraordinary critical and popular acclaim everywhere from The New Yorker to People Magazine, including “two thumbs up” from Roger Ebert. The film has a 93% “Fresh” rating on the movie site “Rotten Tomatoes” making it one of the highest ranked movies of the summer.
This weekend, the film begins its expansion to theaters nationwide. Notable engagements include the Varsity Theatre in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 6 and the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis on Aug. 20. Theaters and showtimes are online at http://winnebagoman.com.
In the apparent premise that weird publicity is better than no publicity, Winnebago Industries Inc.’s management is said to have given the new off-the-wall “Winnebago Man” movie a lukewarm approval, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Off the wall?
In this viral video, Jack Rebney, the unwitting star of a series of outtakes from an industrial film, rages and curses his way through many botched attempts to describe the selling points of Winnebagos. In apparently stifling heat, he swats at flies and drops f-bombs by the ton. He heaps verbal abuse on a production assistant named Tony, but flagellates himself mercilessly for forgetting lines and flubbing words like “accoutrement.”
Yet, the Journal says filmmakers have already won over a seemingly tough audience in Winnebago, which had briefly hired Rebney to hawk its RVs back in the day. In a voiceover in the film, filmmaker Ben Steinbauer says that Winnebago had rebuffed his queries, part of its continuing, low-level effort to distance itself from the off-the-wall video.
However, after completing “Winnebago Man,” the filmmakers screened it for the company’s public relations representatives, who gave them a thumbs up and even some Winnebago swag. “The movie is well done,” says Winnebago PR director Sheila Davis, adding that her team briefly considered screening the movie at a rally for Winnebago owners, then thought of better of it. She says, “We’re pretty Midwest conservative. Some of the language made us cringe.”
That industrial film was shot in 1988. Not long after, Rebney’s unintentional highlight reel leaked out via dubbed VHS cassettes, then made the rounds through a subculture of tape traders who trafficked in oddball videos. One of the recipients of the Winnebago tape was Steinbauer. He set out to find Rebney in 2005, when YouTube was exploding in popularity, bringing a host of anti-stars like Rebney to the masses.
Directed by Steinbauer, the documentary film “Winnebago Man” follows the filmmaker’s quest to locate the hermetic Rebney and the thorny relationship that develops between the two men.
Originally, the Austin, Texas, director’s goal was to explore the side effects of “unintentional celebrity” on someone whose embarrassing moments go viral. But the film turned into a broader character study of Rebney, a former TV journalist who became disillusioned with society well before it made him a laughing stock. “He was just someone whose expectations for the human race were way too high. He wanted to sequester himself, live on top of a mountain and read Immanuel Kant,” says Steinbauer, who hired a private detective to hunt down his subject.
In one scene, the hosts of a cable access show that aired underground videos – pre-YouTube – seem baffled by Steinbauer’s quest to find Rebney in real life. “It destroys the whole illusion,” says one host. “I don’t want the reality of it. I want to see the buffoon on stage, performing for me.”
In the next scene, however, an organizer of the Found Footage Festival describes Rebney as “the holy grail of stars to meet from these videos we’ve obsessed over all these years.”
Where you fall between those opposing views might affect your enthusiasm for seeing “Winnebago Man,” which opens in about 11 cities on July 9. The filmmakers are hopeful that they have a built-in audience among the people who forwarded Rebney’s original rant to their friends and collectively watched it some 2 million times on YouTube alone.
“This will be a really interesting test case. Will something that people love on the Internet translate to the theater? I’m uncomfortable making any predictions,” says Joel Heller, a producer of “Winnebago Man.”
A “Safe For Work,” bleeped version of the WINNEBAGO MAN theatrical trailer has been released by Kino International. This new version is viewable on YouTube at http://bit.ly/wmtrailersafe [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=64y9gvdab.0.kwo7gvdab.rka89lcab.0&ts=S0493&p=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2Fwmtrailersafe]
Jack Rebney the real name of the RV salesman who became known as “The Winnebago Man,” whose hilarious, foul-mouthed outbursts circulated on VHS tapes in the ’90s before turning into a full-blown Internet phenomenon in 2005, seen by 20 million people worldwide, according to a news release.
Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer goes in search of Rebney — and finds him living alone on a mountain top, unaware of his fame. WINNEBAGO MAN is a laugh-out-loud look at viral culture and an unexpectedly poignant tale of one man’s response to unintended celebrity.
Release date: July 9, 2010
Kino International has announced the theatrical release of the award-winning documentary feature WINNEBAGO MAN, directed by Ben Steinbauer, according to Jornal.us.
Described by Michael Moore as “one of the funniest documentaries ever made,” WINNEBAGO MAN premieres in New York City on July 9 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, located on 143 E. Houston St.. The film is set to expand to other U.S. markets during the summer and fall of 2010, and a DVD release is planned for the holidays.
WINNEBAGO MAN reveals the story of Jack Rebney (a.k.a. “the angriest man in the world”), who has delighted and fascinated millions of viewers with his hilariously foul-mouthed outtakes from an RV sales video — one of the first and most infamous underground videos to be passed hand-to-hand on VHS tapes, before YouTube turned it into a full-blown viral phenomenon.
Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer takes on the seemingly impossible task of tracking down Rebney, who turns out to be more savvy, deep, weird and cool than anyone could have imagined. In short, he’s a star. WINNEBAGO MAN is a hilarious, smart and unexpectedly poignant look at one man’s response to unintended internet celebrity, and ultimately a story of how a so-called “humiliation” can become a beacon of light to many.
WINNEBAGO MAN is the first film about a YouTube celebrity to come to the big screen. With social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube growing more important by the day, WINNEBAGO MAN illuminates the power of the Internet video phenomenon and its impact on media, celebrity and privacy. April 23, 2010, marks the 5th Anniversary of YouTube, and this month’s Wired Magazine features the Winnebago Man outtakes clip as an example of one of the first YouTube hits, along with Evolution of Dance, Chocolate Rain and OK Go’s Here It Goes Again.
Coincidentally, 2010 also marks the 100 year anniversary of the RV, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). In 1910, the first mass-produced auto campers and camping trailers were built in the United States, and today, RVIA estimates that there are as many as 30 million RV enthusiasts nationwide.