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Outtakes inspire documentary 'Winnebago Man'

July 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The new documentary "Winnebago Man" started with a fondness for a 1988 tape featuring the foul-mouthed outbursts of one man's very bad day. It's Internet popularity spurred one filmmaker on a quest to find the angriest man in the world.One very hot day in Iowa in 1988, Jack Rebney tried to make a commercial video for "Winnebago." A four-minute reel of outtakes from that day made their way around the country and then eventually onto the Internet.

It got director Ben Steinbauer wondering, "Who was this mystery man?"

"I knew I had a great character here in Mr. Rebney," said Steinbauer. "I had a real interesting conflict that was particularly modern. There was this old media personality who found himself clashing with the new media landscape."

Twenty years after it was first made, Rebney still didn't know of the existence of these outtakes, much less their popularity. Then a friend called and told him he was an Internet sensation.

"I said, 'I beg your pardon? I am on it? Why?' He told me that I had to listen to this and so he played me a bit of it," said Rebney. "My instant reaction was, and I said, 'That's me. That is who I am.'"

Steinbauer began the long and arduous task of finding Rebney. Turns out he's spent the past 15 years living an almost hermit-like existence in Northern California.

After the two met, the filmmaker realized he really did have a story, one that looked at how the Internet age can affect us all.

"Starting out I had no idea that would be the outcome," said Steinbauer. "I just wanted to explore this new type of unintended celebrity and this strange technological advance that had created this bizarre type of notoriety."

"Now, you've got to keep in mind, this is not 'War and Peace,'" said Rebney. "This is just regular people doing what they do. That's the essence of all of this. I am a common man."

"Winnebago Man" is already winning awards at festivals.


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