AUSTIN — YouTube fans everywhere know the “Winnebago Man,” a.k.a. Jack Rebney, or the Angriest Man in the World. In 1988, Rebney, a former broadcast journalist, threw a series of deeply vulgar tantrums during the shooting of a promotional video for Winnebago Industries. Ultimately, Rebney got canned and vanished. (In fact, the outtakes were cut together by the crew in order to get Rebney fired.) Austin filmmaker Ben Steinbauer tracked him down in the tranquil wilderness of Shasta County, California, where he remains angry as ever. The resulting documentary — called, yep, Winnebago Man — premiered at South by Southwest last week, delivering a poignant, funny and ultimately very strange look at Rebney’s curiously irate disposition.
Winnebago Industries, wanting to distance itself from the infamous video, declined to participate. With the film poised to generate a lot of buzz (rumor has it that both IFC Films and Oscilloscope are interested in buying it), we asked Winnebago Man producer Joel Heller whether the filmmakers would indeed be allowed to use promo footage should the movie go to theaters. He assured us they would be: Everything was provided by Rebney himself, not Winnebago, and lawyers associated with the movie say the footage falls under the protection of fair-use laws. Hilariously, Heller describes Winnebago Man as “one in a long line of documentaries that educate the public on emerging media trends and their social impact.” Steinbauer — while he neglects any mention of the joy of hearing borderline insane, expletive-laden rants — has a slightly more satisfying take on the documentary: “The film ultimately celebrates Winnebago and their most famous pitchman. I consider it a love letter.”