Special When Lit

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Special When Lit
Directed byBrett Sullivan
Produced byBrett Sullivan
Clayton Jacobsen
Julian Chow
Emily Rickard (line)
Edited byBrett Sullivan
Music byBrett Sullivan
Steam Motion and Sound
Distributed byPBS International
Release date
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$150,000 (estimated)

Special When Lit is a feature length documentary film about pinball written and directed by Brett Sullivan.[1][2] The film is produced by Steam Motion and Sound.


Filming took place from mid-2006 to 2008 in several trips to the U.S., France, Italy, Sweden, Australia and the UK. Post production was completed at Steam Motion and Sound in London during 2008 and 2009.


The pinball industry made more money than the American film industry during the 1950s through the 1970s. Special When Lit explores the former pop icon of the pinball machine, and through interviews with fans, collectors, designers and champion players from across the globe, traces pinball's history through to the present day.


Eye for Film wrote "It's not the sort of subject that you'd think would suit a documentary, but it works surprisingly well." It "offers fascinating insights and makes for an enjoyable watch. Special When Lit is reminiscent of that other great documentary Spellbound. Both draw the audience into a world of obsession, impress upon you the level of devotion, and charm you with the people in that world"[3]

Tallahassee Democrat wrote that the film was a "surprisingly compelling documentary".[4]

Chicago Sun-Times called the film a "significant flick in a lineup that runs the gamut from light to heavy religious to political".[5]

Raindance Film Festival director Elliot Grove wrote that the documentary was "masterfully shot" and that its director, Brett Sullivan, was able to bring out a certain nostalgia in his film that was both intriguing and fascinating, with its interviews like "an emotional and sensitive area, with pinball’s fans describing of the game like a relationship, their faces lighting up as if they were recounting their first kiss." He found the winning film to be "encapsulating and absorbing."[6]

The Montana Kaimin wrote "With a gripping intro, the film draws you in and keeps your attention with its larger-than-life characters."[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Release and distribution[edit]

First premiered in October 2009 at London's Raindance Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Documentary. Subsequent festivals included: Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival, Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival, Bronx International Film Festival, Indianapolis International Film Festival, Da Vinci Film Festival, Tallahassee Film Festival, Los Angeles United Film Festival, USA Film Festival, and Wisconsin Film Festival.

The film was picked up by PBS International Distribution for worldwide sales outside the United States. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2011. The Documentary Channel in the United States premiered Special When Lit 21 May 2011. The PBS Channel in the UK premiered Special When Lit 5 November 2011.



  1. ^ Hinson, Mark (2 May 2010). "Here's one pinball wizard who misses all the magic". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  2. ^ Australian Associated Press (4 January 2010). "When pinball was king". Business Day. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  3. ^ Dudhnath, Keith. "review: Special When Lit". Eye for Film. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  4. ^ Hinson, Mark (9 April 2010). "Film fest is out of the blue and into the black". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  5. ^ "Celebrating the true indie movie spirit". Chicago Sun-Times. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  6. ^ Grove, Elliot (20 September 2009). "review: Special When Lit". Raindance Film Festival. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  7. ^ Stugelmayer, Jessica (19 February 2010). "Kaimin Arts takes a look at the final weekend of the Big Sky Film Festival". Montana Kaimin. Retrieved 15 March 2011.

External links[edit]