Interview: Video Games the Movie
We've seen a number of video game related documentaries pop up as of late, haven't we? Special When Lit tells a great pinball-related story about the industry; Chasing Ghosts chronicles the golden age of arcades; Tilt! tells a fascinating story about pinball; and of course, we dare not forget about The King of Kong, easily the most popular of the bunch, where the record for Nintendo's arcade classic is battled for.
Now a production team called Mediajuice Studios is hard at work on a new documentary called Video Games: The Movie, which is promising to be one of the most in-depth documentaries about the subject yet. The crew, currently in production with the film, have already talked to a number of fans and high-profile players in the industry, including Earthworm Jim co-creator Doug TenNapel, the awesome Wil Wheaton, and, as expected, this very author...because who doesn't want to talk to me? Heh.
Anyway, the president and creative director behind the project, Jeremy Snead, took the time to sit down with us about the motivations for making the film, how you can contribute (and possibly star), and other little pieces of info.
First off, why do you think it's so vitally important to have a film that talks about the history of video games? Can you really cram so much information into a couple hours time?
Not only is the history of video games an untold and fascinating story, the modern day phenomenon and behind the scenes inner workings of the game industry are largely unknown. In terms of length, it is a challenge but also the reward of telling any worthwhile story.
Who have you been talking to in regards to content for the film? Is it a mixture of industry experts, fans, competitive players, industry analysis folks? Give us an idea of how you choose who to talk to.
The game plan is to represent the business, culture and industry that is video games. The story will evolve as we shoot. To do this we plan on talking to the top publishers, indie game developers, game industry pioneers & veterans and...yes the fans.
Comic-Con must've been an amazing week for you. Tell us some of your favorite stories from that. (And you don't have to include me, ha!)
Comic Con was amazing. Some of my favorite moments would have to be interviewing Doug TenNapel, creator of Earthworm Jim, Iizuka-San, head of team Sonic and the king of geekdom himself, Mr. Wil Wheaton. It's one thig to admire these men's work; it's another thing entirely to sit and "chat" with them.
Are there certain rules you have to follow when it comes to making a documentary? We've seen others do it and are just interested in your perspective.
Yes and no. There are "best practices" for making a good doc; like having a good story outline and asking your interviewees the right questions to inform that story, and we are trying to adhere to those where we can. But documentary filmmaking is unlike dramatic narrative filmmaking in almost every way so you have to toss out some of those rules and just blaze a trail of your own. If I look at the documentaries I enjoy they all have a few things in common - engaging interviews, b-roll footage that reinforces the story being told, (archival or "found footage" for historical pieces) and emotionally engaging music. Those are the only production guidelines I am using for this film.
How do you feel about a lot of the responses you've been getting for film content? It must be interesting getting so many different answers regarding questions in the industry.
I am constantly surprised and refreshed at the unexpected and enlightening answers we have gotten to our questions. Many times something someone says will give a new idea or the direction of the story.
Have any interviews been rough so far? Like subjects who don't know how to provide the right response? Or has it been "smooth sailing"?
That's a tough question. I think the responsibility of getting a good interview falls to the interviewer not the interviewee. Creating the right environment, asking the right questions and being able to improvise with the person is vitally important. To me that's the real "directing" in a doc.
We understand you have an Indiegogo fund raising program in the works. What is this particularly for? And what should happen if you're not able to meet the necessary funds? Will the project be put on the "back burner"?
The short answer is no, we will continue on our own steam if the campaign isn't 100% funded. It will just be much more difficult and take much longer. So support us if you can! (www.indiegogo.com/videogamesthemovie) That said, our IndieGoGo campaign is a "flexible funding" campaign which means all the money we raise, we are awarded (minus IndieGoGo's percentage.) We started the fundraising campaign about 3 weeks ago and it's been a learning process. Crowd sourcing is an interesting and exciting new phenomenon but you have to be very organized and strategic about your campaign. It's really a full time job to run a successful IndieGoGo or Kickstarter campaign, so that's been a challenging balance.
Have you gone to other documentary filmmakers for advice on how to approach this the right way? Morgan Spurlock, perhaps?
I have not, but I have watched loads of great, award winning documentaries and gained a lot of insight from those. The behind the scenes and director commentaries on those films are also extremely helpful to an aspiring documentary filmmaker.
Finally, if you haven't gotten them yet, who would be your dream interview for Video Games: The Movie?
This is an easy one - Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, whose agent we've been corresponding with and Steven Spielberg, whose agent we have also been in touch with. He's a big gamer and contributed a lot to the video game industry the past 20 years. Most people aren't aware of that.