Bedrooms to Billions makers turning to the ZX Spectrum for their new documentary

The dear old ZX Spectrum is, I suspect, where many readers will have had their earliest computing and gaming experiences. It was an astronomically popular computer in its native United Kingdom, and the “bedroom programmer” boom it inspired resulted in the thriving, lively and vibrant games industry the country enjoys today.

With the recent passing of Sir Clive Sinclair and the 40th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum’s release just around the corner, the little rubber-keyed wonder is on everyone’s minds right now. And that’s why Nicola and Anthony Caulfield, makers of the From Bedrooms to Billions trilogy of video gaming documentaries, are hoping to make what they describe as “the definitive documentary film celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum”.

The aim for the project is to make a standalone 80-minute feature film documentary similar to the previous From Bedrooms to Billions titles, plus additional smaller features and game design stories.

Over the course of the film, the Caulfields want to highlight all the things that made the ZX Spectrum so remarkable, such as its affordable price point, its nature as a pre-assembled home computer and the fact that it allowed people to do more than just play games — it was (relatively) easy to get up and running making them too!

The film will chronicle the details of how the ZX Spectrum was created in the first place, the impact it had on the home computer and games industry, and the various iterations of the computer over the years — including the very latest ZX Spectrum Next that was released in 2017. The Caulfields intend to talk to people including the designer of the Z80 microprocessor at the heart of the compouter, plus the designers of the computer and the most active members of the development community for the platform.

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Not only that, they’re keen to hear from fans, too; after all, the culture surrounding the ZX Spectrum was as much about the kids buying games on cassette with their pocket money after school as it was the people coaxing the very best out of the little machine’s hardware. What was it like to be a ZX Spectrum fan in the ’80s — and how did other factors such as computer magazines and the inevitable playground arguments contribute to the culture of the period?

The Caulfields want to move beyond just interview footage; they want to film recreations of what it was actually like to play games on the ZX Spectrum, as well as program it, create art for it and compose music for it. They also intend to incorporate a round-table discussion that includes ZX Spectrum developers, games journalists and gaming fans all talking about the little computer that could.

The smaller featurettes that will run alongside the main feature include an exploration of the playground wars that the rival home computers of the time sparked; how one could use a ZX Spectrum for more productive matters in the ’80s; the art of a good loading screen; and a series of “making of” featurettes about some of the best ZX Spectrum games.

ZX Spectrum games
Some of the ZX Spectrum classics the Caulfields hope to cover.

This is an ambitious project, but the Caulfields have proven they’re up to it with the quality of their previous work. As an independent project, they still need funding, though, so they’ve turned to Kickstarter as a means of getting support directly from the community. At the time of writing, there are 24 days to go on the campaign, and it’s already raised over £30,000 of the £35,000 the Caulfields are asking for; no stretch goals have been announced (yet?) but everything over that £35,000 will be able to make the final product all the more remarkable.

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As with anything on Kickstarter, you can back the project for however much you like, but for rewards you’ll need to pledge at least £22 — this will get you a digital download of the final product and your name in the end credits. A £35 pledge will get you a factory-pressed DVD or Blu-Ray copy of the documentary, plus your name in the end credits. Beyond that, there are also posters, postcards and various other bits of lovely looking art and merchandise up for grabs if you’re willing to dig deep and support the project.

At the upper end of things, £5,000 will get you an “executive producer” role with your name in the opening credits and the film’s IMDB entry, while £8,000 or more will make you an official sponsor of the project.

If you’d like to find out more about the project and show your support, head on over to Kickstarter and take a look. The campaign ends on November 21, 2021, and the project’s estimated completion date is December of 2022.

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