With Joey (a.k.a. Making Contact ) Roland Emmerich payed a tribute to one of his favorite directors: Steven Spielberg. Emmerich was deeply impressed by Spielberg's film E.T. when he saw it in 1982, and he decided that his next film should be an homage to phantastic Hollywood movies in general and E.T. in particular. Emmerich quotes and references and uses many techniques of fantasy, horror and sci-fi films such as E.T. , Star Wars , Jaws , Carrie , Christine and Raiders of the Lost Ark .
The story is about a 9-year-old boy named Joey , living in a small town somewhere in Virginia, who refuses to accept the death of his dad. Joey develops telekinetic abilities: He can move around things with his mind and revive toys. Those abilities open the door to another dimension, and the world around Joey is changing. His red toy phone rings, at the other end of the line, his dead father speaks to him.
Of course, nobody believes Joey when he tries to tell others, instead, he is teased by his classmates and becomes an outsider. As if this isn't enough already, Joey also finds an evil ventriloquist's puppet in the cellar of a deserted neighbour's house, who, just like Joey , has paranormal abilities, which it uses to make life a hell for Joey . This puppet named Fletcher abducts Joey's school friends into a mysterious ghost world, where it comes to the decisive battle of good vs. evil...
The film was made in English language again, for Emmerich wanted to target an international audience, after his first film Das Arche Noah Prinzip hadn't been a big success at the German box office. He recruited most of the actors from U.S. military bases in Germany, and used his contacts to friends in the USA, who helped him with suggestions and props, to create the American look of the film.
Again, Emmerich was far more interested in the visuals than in the story itself. The effects work in Joey was done by Hubert Bartholomae, who had to build up an own studio to experiment with different ways of creating the effects needed for the film. They used matte paintings, travelling mattes, stop motion, blue screen and also a computer controlled motion control camera, similar to what was used for the effects in Star Wars .
Because of the complicated postproduction the release date of the film was postponed several times. Nobody realized how much work it would be to create all the effects, as a huge effect film like this had never really been made in Germany before. But Emmerich and his dedicated team proved that it was indeed possible to make a film like that in Germany, and even with a very low budget. In the end the film cost less than 3.5 million Deutsche Mark.
(source: Book "Roland Emmerich - Eine Werkbiografie" by Jo Müller)