Ghostbusters has been an enduring favourite. It’s difficult not to be charmed by a film whose secret weapon is being good-natured. The core of that goodness is shared in the documentary Cleanin’ Up The Town. And as much as it’s a film for fans, the creative skills and drive that it celebrates will strike a chord with anyone who has peeked behind the filmmaking veneer.
“The genesis of Cleanin’ Up The Town was that there had never been a documentary that was really in-depth about the making of Ghostbusters,” Claire Bueno told D&CFilm. Claire is the producer, and along with director brother Anthony, writer of the Ghostbusters doc. Claire and Anthony grew up in the South West, with Anthony still living on the South Devon coast.
“And it was Anthony’s favourite film from childhood,” she said. “For me, it was the first film I was allowed to go and see as a teenager with my friends from school without parental supervision.”
That rite of passage seems pretty common. The love of the film has passed down through families. And that tenderness is felt in Claire and Anthony’s treatment of the subject matter.
“We’d been making the film for 12 years, so we knew the cultural impact that it had globally. People had grown up with it, and then shared it with their kids,” said Claire.
The documentary was self-financed. This meant sporadic hopping on flights to the USA to interview and shoot locations. Then back to the UK to edit.
“There was never a point we were not going to do it,” said Claire, emphatically. “We just kept chipping away.”
What shines through throughout the documentary are the wonderful personalities involved in the making of Ghostbusters.
“That’s the beating heart of the film,” said Claire. “They were honouring us by allowing us to interview them. We couldn’t give up – we owed it to them.”
During the making of Cleanin’ Up The Town, some of the interviewees sadly passed away, which made Claire and Anthony more determined to finish. It was through the interviews that the film took shape.
“You have a structure in your head for the film, but when you start to interview people, stories unfold and you need to follow the threads,” said Claire.
If the responses so far are anything to go by, they’ve done their job.
“People are very emotional about it,” she said.
But how has a film from the mid-80s managed to find a place in people’s hearts?
“It’s about the story,” says Claire. “It’s a well-written script. And you’ve got a story of friendship. It’s a film that makes you scared at times (the library ghost is genuinely scary). And you’ve got a love story.”
It’s the combo of comedy, scares, love story, friendship and starting a business that all seem to connect.
Cleanin’ Up The Town does more than re-look at the evolving storyline. Ghostbusters had some ground-breaking special effects. The documentary pays tribute to old school, practical, in-camera effects. Those effects are tactile and tangible, from trailblazers like Richard Edlund. A lot of the team came out of Industrial Light and Magic. And those effects have stood the test of time.
Cleanin’ Up The Town premiered in Calgary, Canada. The screening was attended by Claire, Anthony and Derek Osborn, who was responsible for the motion graphics and was archive producer.
Claire remembers the audiences’ reactions. “People were really laughing along with the film,” she said.
Diehard Ghostbusters fans have come out of screenings being more than satisfied that they have learnt new things about the film.
Claire and Anthony have been touring the country with Cleanin’ Up The Town and taking part in post-screening discussions.
“The tour’s been phenomenal,” said Claire. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the response. And what’s been nice is that you get to meet other fans of the film. When we sit in on the screenings we spend more time watching how the audience is reacting and enjoy seeing them smile.”
You can see the love and passion for Ghostbusters in Cleanin’ Up The Town – Claire called it a love letter to the film. We’d go a bit further and say it’s also a love letter to filmmaking.
“For me, I think the role of a filmmaker and a documentary film is about honesty and authenticity and telling an unbiased story,” she said.
That includes getting corroborating stories. In 30 year’s everybody’s memory is slightly different.
“But you have to represent it as honestly as possible,” said Claire.
“Our responsibility is to have integrity about our work and never give up. It’s been a very tough journey. It is a testament to tenacity and in a society where everything is in an instant, you do stand by what it is that you’ve committed to.”
The team is currently in post-production of Too Hot To Handle, a documentary about Ghostbusters II. They are making a sequel about a sequel. Going through their footage, it became clear that there was so much rich content that a documentary about Ghostbusters II was needed.
“For some people, Ghostbusters II is the first one they saw,” said Claire. And there are plenty of adoring fans out there keen to get deeper behind the scenes.
In the meantime, if you want an inspiring gaze behind a surprise hit and enduring favourite, who you gonna call? Cleanin’ Up The Town!