March 1, 2011 10:00 PM | jeriaska
Filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot of BlinkWorks are currently preparing the teaser for their documentary Indie Game: The Movie. While numerous segments from the film have already been posted to Vimeo, the upcoming preview will offer a more well-rounded sense of the structure of the feature-length film.
Production on Indie Game: The Movie resulted from BlinkWorks' meeting with fellow Manitoban Alec Holowka, co-creator of IGF Grand Prize winner Aquaria. As it turned out, both those documenting New Media Manitoba's Business Showcase and their subject shared many of the same creative aspirations. Funding for a full documentary on independent games was soon secured through the Kickstarter crowd funding network, while the completed film is currently scheduled for release later this year.
In this interview, we hear some concrete details about the documentary's narrative structure. Indie Game: The Movie will tell the development stories of Phil Fish of Fez, together with Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen of Super Meat Boy. These personal journeys will be complemented by a range of viewpoints from other designers and industry experts, including Jonathan Blow, Derek Yu, Brandon Boyer and Jason Rohrer.
What are some of the key dramatic elements that define the narrative context of your film?
James Swirsky: Going into this we weren't too sure what that narrative arc would be. We didn't want to make a film where someone could watch ten minutes from the beginning and ten minutes from the end and not know which was which.
While still doing research for the film, we caught up with Team Meat during the IGF Awards. Within ten minutes of interviewing Tommy and Edmund [designers of Super Meat Boy] we kind of looked at each other and were like, "There's totally a movie here."
These guys have a great story, and we caught up with them early enough that their timeline for the game perfectly fit our timeline for production. It provided a nice narrative throughline of sacrifice and passion, which turned out to be quite dramatic.
Lisanne Pajot: While doing our Kickstarter campaign, we kind of envisioned it as an essay piece like Helvetica or Objectified, where you take an idea like indie game design, you fracture it, and you look at it in a bunch of different ways. We have these storylines and a dramatic plot that makes the subject richer. It's morphed into something bigger than we previously thought.
Today during the Team Meat postmortem, the designers chose to emphasize the heartache and suffering of the most grueling phase of the development. Is some of this drama captured in the film?
LP: We're there when some of these things happen. We're also there for the journey of Fez with Phil Fish in Montreal. Taking the viewer into that experience of what it's like to be making something that you've always dreamed of making, I think that feeling of risk-taking will resonate with a lot of people.
What is your observation of Phil Fish's work? Do you find a clear perspective comes through while you're interviewing him for the film?
LP: He's fascinating. It's really exciting when you're filming with someone who is living something so completely. What's interesting about Phil's work is that while people have seen a few gameplay trailers, there are layers that he's adding into the game that people don't know about. That will be really exciting to finally see.
JS: Edmund, Tommy and Phil represent what we were hoping the subject of the film would be. They're people making games that are complete reflections of themselves. The line between the game and who they are as a person ends up being blurred.
Do you find that all of the resources at your disposal, from Final Cut Pro to Kickstarter, have offered you a unique mode of independent expression? Is it perhaps something that resonates with the ambitions of your subjects?
JS: When we went to the IGS in 2009, one of the things that drew us to the independent guys was that their experiences were a lot like our experiences. When financing the movie and thinking about how to promote it, we looked at Wolfire and Cortex Command.
LP: There are a ridiculous amount of similarities. We've gotten to the point where we are competent enough to actually make something, while the tools are available enough that we can do it. We're exceptionally lucky.