Video Premiere: A Man, a Plan, a Palindrome

Vimeo / Vince Clemente
Vimeo / Vince Clemente / Vimeo / Vince Clemente

Mark Saltveit makes palindromes. He also edits The Palindromist, the world's greatest (and quite likely only) magazine devoted to palindromes.

In this short film, we learn the story behind one of Saltveit's greatest palindromes, which won him the 2012 World Palindrome Championship. It's an epic tale of playful palindrome-writing, and I'm proud to premiere the film here for the first time online. (This film had its first public screening on Saturday at Will Shortz's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.) Enjoy:

A note for regular mental_floss readers: Fellow writer Arika Okrent featured Mark Saltveit just last month, in an article about Bletchley Park codebreakers who were also palindromists.

Kickstarter for a Full-Length Palindrome Film

Director Vince Clemente has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length film about Saltveit and other master palindromists leading up to the 2017 World Palindrome Championship. There's also a Facebook page for the film.

Q&A with Director Vince Clemente

First off, full disclosure, I know the director of this film—he was Producer on a certain Tetris documentary I love, and we're working on a separate documentary together. Here's our discussion about the short film above.

How did you learn about Mark Saltveit?

I was eating dinner and I overheard Mark telling someone else that he was the Palindrome World Champion. I knew at that moment I had to have a conversation with him. You don't hear that statement and not have a million questions to ask. So I did, and we exchanged numbers. At this point I knew I wanted to film him and just see what would come of it. I knew something was there.

What made you realize that Saltveit would be a good candidate for a documentary?

You really couldn't ask for a better subject for a documentary film. Mark has it all. He's great on camera, open, excited, charismatic, interesting, articulate, expressive, friendly, funny, and just has a wealth of knowledge.

Tell me about how you made the film—was there travel involved, how many days did you shoot, that kind of thing.

The original short was filmed over the course of 3 days. Mark and I picked a weekend where he had a couple things going on and then I flew up to Portland. The original idea was to show up and just see what would happen. The editing and animating took a while to get to a place where I thought it was perfect.

Do you have a favorite palindrome?

Well, besides the one featured in the short film, I'd have to pick Jon Agee's "Go hang a salami! I'm a lasagna hog!"

You've worked on films before that deal with niche hobbies and passions, like Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, dealing with the world's best Nintendo Tetris players. Do you have any hobbies or passions that would be considered a little unusual?

I spent years collecting every game for the Nintendo Entertainment System just because I simply wanted to play each game. So, now I have every game ever made for the NES library, with its original box and manual, besides one, Stadium Events. Something I've been eyeballing for a while, it's just a little too crazy in price. I do own the PAL (European) version though.

There's a lot of animation in the short film. How did that come about?

There is no doubt that this film has to be full of fun! So including animations was a no-brainer. Palindromes plug themselves directly into the imagination. You wouldn't hear "Taco Cat" and not think of some cat wearing a taco costume and start laughing.

What's next for this film?

The short film has done so well that now we're expanding it into a feature film! We've begun a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to follow all the top palindromists we can find leading up to the next championship in 2017. You honestly wouldn't believe the history of palindromes. It's a story that hasn't been told and really needs to be. The goal is to film all these great palindromists while we pepper in the history of palindromes. Poof, you have an amazing documentary film!

Where to Find the Film Online

A Man, a Plan, a Palindrome is on Kickstarter, on Facebook, and the film itself is on Vimeo.