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Why support THIS project?

I’m well aware that we aren’t the only documentary about Starcraft. The first job of any filmmaker when they start a project is to research other projects on the same topic. When I started pre-production, the first thing I did was get my hands on every video game documentary I could find and watch them.

When I started this project almost a year ago, there were no other documentaries. I’m not going to make a big deal about that, but I want everybody to understand that this isn’t some flash in the pan idea we had because it seemed popular. I started pitching the idea to friends and filmmakers last October, and contacted Evil Geniuses about the idea a month or so later when I had formulated a proposal and started my research. This is not a bandwagon project, and we had been working for months before any other films showed up on the radar.

We started filming at PAX East, and then picked up again at MLG Columbus. That was when several other films announced their projects. It very quickly became clear that each of the films had entirely different focuses and points of view. I’ve talked to several of the other filmmakers, and we all agree that there’s no use in us duplicating each other’s work. We also think that’s not going to happen.

For example, my film is focused on a single team and their journey through 2011 as esports stands as high as it has ever been. We’re talking to the players about their journey, yes. But we’re also talking to the team management and to different employees about their jobs within the organization. We want to know what makes Evil Geniuses work. Yes, this is also a film about Starcraft and about competitive gaming. But at it’s core it is a film about one team with their own struggles and successes.

I personally don’t believe in disparaging others in order to promote myself. So I’m happy to spend some time telling you why my project is worth your time, but not as a “those guys are doing X, and I’m going to do Y.”

I’ll just tell you more about who I am, the crew I’m bringing to this project, and why you should be as excited about their work as I am.

First, I’ve been making films for over a decade. Along with several short documentaries, I also made a long-form film called “Watashi Wa.” In it, I explored the world of cosplay at anime conventions. It was screened at several conventions in the years following it’s completion. What can I say, I really like making films about people that are passionate about things other people don’t always accept.

I’ve got two film degrees (a Bachelor’s and my recently completed MFA), if you care about those kinds of things. I’ve also got awards in both screenwriting and filmmaking. Last year, I wrote and directed two short films. Along with that, I’ve been working in the DC film industry on a wide variety of projects. I’ve learned how to make a film by being on a number of sets of every shape and size. You can find more of my credits and filmography on my website, http://www.ninehourfilms.com.

But enough about me. Nobody makes a movie by themselves. In my opinion, one of the main jobs of the director is to bring the right people in to do the job. I’m extremely lucky to have met some amazing and talented people during my time at American University.

DP Stephen Tringali, sound mixer Jeremiah Horan, and editor Banu Debre have all already helped the project immensely with their skills and talents. This is a crew that I have worked with before on multiple projects, and that I trust to make this film the best that it possibly can be. They’re a group of talented professionals who have the skills and experience to do the job right.

So we have a track record, experience in the industry, and as you can see on our video page, we aren’t just talk. As an added bonus, Stephen and Jeremiah are both gamers who love Starcraft. I’ve been a huge fan of Blizzard’s games since the days of Warcraft 2, and I spent most of my college days playing Starcraft on Battle.net with my friends. My senior thesis project for my Bachelor’s degree was actually a fan film about Starcraft and Blizzard called “Waiting for Warcraft.” I can bring the expertise of both a gamer and a filmmaker to this project.

I should also go ahead and address some of the concerns I’ve seen raised before, so that we can put your mind at ease (I hope).

First, people have wondered if other projects are just going to “take the money and run.” We’ve already put a year of work and a very significant amount of money into this project. I’ve put a lot on the line for this, and I hope that shows you that I’m serious. For that matter, I think it also proves that I’m not looking for somebody else to fund my vacation. I’ve spent more than enough to have funded a really great trip to Europe. Lucky for everybody, I’d rather make movies.

People have raised concerns over the timeline for a lot of these projects. The only thing I can say to that is that it’s just how the process works. To make a high quality feature length documentary, you have to put in the time. Our intention from the beginning was to follow the team for a lengthy period of time. This isn’t just a quick puff piece, it’s a film, and that takes time. We’re following them at least through the end of the year because that’s the actual story we’re telling, a year in the life of a professional Starcraft 2 team.

After we’re done filming, we have to go through post-production and that’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed. I’m sure you can all think of a film you’ve seen that seemed like they just slapped together some clips and free music clips. I’m just as excited about finishing this as (I hope) that you are about getting to see it. I want to show it to you as soon as possible! But if you’re going to support my film, I want to give you a worthy film to support. I know it’s going to take patience, but I think it will be well worth it.

I also want to point out that we have the full support of the team on our side. They have been with us every step of the way, and are just as dedicated as we are to making this something the fans want to see and can be proud of.

If you have any other concerns, then I welcome you to voice them. You can use the contact form here, tweet @ninehourfilms, email me…I’m pretty easily available. I want you to feel confident supporting my film. So ask away if you need to.

Where We Are, Where We’re Going

Hello!

I know we’ve been out of touch for a bit here on the blog, but the good reason for that is that we’ve been filming and working on exciting new stuff for the movie. First, we’ve been to MLG Anaheim and MLG Raleigh, which were both great events. We got a lot of fantastic new footage, and I can’t wait to show it to you.

Second, we’re planning our trips to IPL3 in Atlantic City and to MLG Orlando next month. There’s a lot of logistics to get in order to make it all happen, but things are coming together perfectly right now.

Of course, there’s also been a lot of changes in the world of Team Evil Geniuses, with their two new members and all of that fun stuff. We’ve been following all new developments and working on making sure everything you want to see is represented in the film.

We’ve got two new sneak peek videos that were posted last month if you haven’t seen them, Meet Anna Prosser and Meet LzGaMeR. Make sure you give them both a look.

We also got to attend our first Barcraft event, going to celebrate opening night of NASL Season Two with the fine folks from Barcraft DC at Public Tenley. It was a lot of fun, and I’m hoping to do a more complete write-up of it soon.

The team here is also hard at work on something extremely exciting, which should be going live in a matter of days. I can’t wait to share it all with you.

Keep an eye on this space! More to come!

Interview with WT Gaming

Last week I got to talk a bit with SQS from WT Gaming about Good Game, and his questions got right to the heart of a lot of things I’d been wanting to address. It’s a great interview, you should check it out. They even made the perfect screenshot for the film from our teaser.

Why choose Team EG? Is there anything unique about the team that makes them a particularly good for the documentary?

I chose EG for a lot of reasons, partially because I needed a team that had a group of interesting people with a variety of stories, play styles, and personalities. I actually started working on the project last October, just after I attended MLG DC. At the time, EG was still talking about plans in Korea and starting a team house there…

Check out the entire interview (and the rest of the answer to “Why EG?”) at their site.

Newest video: Meet iNcontroL

Want to know just what type of person it takes to spend 13 years playing a video game? Then let me introduce you to EG.iNcontroL:

Meet iNcontroL from Mary Ratliff on Vimeo.

Get to know Geoff Robinson, or EG.iNcontroL, a professional gamer who is one of the stars of Good Game.

This sneak peek features footage shot at PAX East, MLG Columbus, and the NASL Season One Finals. We will be continuing to follow Geoff and his teammates throughout 2011.

Anaheim: full steam ahead + BARCRAFT DC!

I’ve been spending the last week getting everything together to go to MLG Anaheim this weekend, with only a short break for my birthday last weekend. I’ve been organizing the logistics, getting my flight plan ready, and hiring one of the best DPs I know to come with me.

I’ve worked with Stephen Tringali on several other projects, from music videos to experimental films. I’m extremely happy to have him on board for this weekend, and I know he’s going to shoot some amazing stuff. Since he moved to L.A. we haven’t gotten to be on set together as much, so I jumped on the chance to bring him on for this trip to California.

While I’m excited to be going to Anaheim (only my second trip to the west coast!) I’m also a little sad that I’m going that I’m going to be out of town for the weekend.

It’s not a new thing in America for sports fans to gather at bars for their favorite games. I’ve not really done that a lot in my life, actually I’ve only done it twice. But the first time was actually one of the inspirations for me to make Good Game.

You see, my first sports bar experience was going to see the US vs. Alegria game in the group stage of the World Cup last year. I don’t know if you remember, but there was a pretty epic goal in the 91st minute of the game.

It was kind of a big deal, and it would have been exciting even if I was just watching it at home on my couch. But the reason this was such a big memory for me was that I was in a crowd, and I realized how much being in that crowd of people made everything just that much more FUN.

What in the world does this have to do with Starcraft? Well, Starcraft fans are a community. They are like sports fans, they want to get together and watch the ups and downs of the big event together. And having cheap beers while they watch certainly makes it all the more fun.

Which is why Barcraft exists. This weekend, the people who have been organizing meet ups in my area will be having a big event at a bar called Public Tenley on Sunday. And I really, really wish I could be there.

I wanted to make this film because as long as I had been playing Starcraft, and as much as I had watched Tastless casting, it wasn’t until I went to MLG DC last year, not too long after that experience watching the World Cup, that I realized just how much excitement and fun there was to be had in the world of e-sports. At MLG, I saw that same sort of atmosphere as I felt in the bar when that goal got the US to the next round of play.

If you’re in the D.C. area, then you probably won’t be able to fly out to California to attend the Anaheim tournament in person. But you CAN join everybody at Barcraft DC and I guarantee you that you will have a great time. Even if you’ve never seen a Starcraft game before, even if you don’t play games yourself, by the time you leave you will see how great this whole scene really is. You have to stop by.

(As a side note, if you’re not in Anaheim OR in D.C. then you can look for other Barcraft events on Reddit.

NASL: A lesson in live vs. streaming

While I’m hoping to do a post about each event that I attend, I hope that you’ll indulge me if I don’t want to do a straight recap of the action. I feel that e-sports writers are already more than able to cover that, as you can see by visiting ESFI, G4, or Team Liquid. If you want to know the exact action of the first NASL final, please visit there. As a bonus, the Team Liquid post has a mention (with picture!) of yours truly. So, what was a film about Evil Geniuses doing at a tournament where no members of the team were competing? Well, there’s the obvious answer that we were there to talk with and film Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson. While we’re interested in the tournament play of the team members, I also want to know what else they do, both in the Starcraft community and outside of it. This event was the culmination of several months worth of hard work for Geoff, and that was important to the story. It’s also the start of a new chapter, as he leaves NASL to focus on his own competitive play.

But I also was interested in seeing a new organization during it’s very first live event. How would it go? What would go wrong? What would go right? What lessons would the organizers learn, and how would the fans react? What goes into an event like this? I’m already attending MLG events, where they have years of experience under their belts. They’re the established franchise, so how are things for the new kids on the block?

Attending the NASL was eye-opening on a lot of levels. I learned a lot, I got a lot of great footage. But one thing that I found that I don’t know if I can fit into the film was an appreciation for the difference between being AT an event and watching it online.

The SC2 community has been very vocal about what they didn’t like about NASL. To say that there was a rocky start is an understatement. But most of their technical problems were hammered out after the end of day one, so only one complaint seemed to remain: the wait times between matches.

Online viewers, despite having exclusive content to enjoy that live audience members weren’t privy to, were generally unhappy about the wait. The common complaint was that they couldn’t believe an 8-hour Starcraft event would only have 2 hours of Starcraft. Now, that’s an exaggeration (not from me, but a paraphrase from a viewer) but there was usually at least 20-30 minutes between each set of games. There was also a built in hour break in the middle of each day.

For the online audience, that was irritating and boring. Even with extra content, they probably ended up staring at a static screen a lot. Since some of those people paid for the stream, they were upset. But sitting in the actual room, I usually appreciated the down time. I was able to reposition the camera and get more shots of the fans and audience when the lights came up. I could talk to people in between matches, and the fans were able to interact with the players and casters as they signed autographs and posed for pictures. There were booths with activities, similar to MLG, but attendees didn’t have to choose to miss a match (or five) to enjoy what the sponsors had brought with them. And most importantly, I was able to get food. Not even just the overpriced convention center food, but walk to somewhere else if I wanted.

Did the downtime ever get excessive, even for the live audience? Yes, and I think that’s something the NASL will address in the future. Do I want every event to change their format? No. MLG is a different animal, and they are dealing with hundreds of matches in three days. While I would love for them to at least have a dinner break, I can’t imagine how they would do it. The universal truth all event organizers face is the fact that there’s no way to predict the length of a match.

Obviously, there were things that NASL could have done better. But what I really learned this past weekend was that they do WANT to do better. Like anyone, they made mistakes. But unlike some people, they’re learning from those mistakes and implementing changes. But I would say that before someone complains about a particular decision they made, they should consider, “What was it like for the people watching it live? Could this have been for their benefit?”

*I do realize that another frequent complaint was the audio issues on the stream. Since I didn’t notice any audio problems live at the event, I can’t speak to that other than to say it’s another instance where the two different groups were experiencing very different things.

Next stop for Good Game: MLG Anaheim!

Twitter Questions/Responses no. 1

Today I decided that I was in the mood to tell people more about the project, so I posted on my twitter (@ninehourfilms that I was open to questions.

For now we only had one taker, but the question was one that I couldn’t easily respond to in 140 characters or less, so I brought it here to the blog.

asked:

What will separate #ggmovie from the other sc2 documentaries currently in production?

Leave it to the SC2 community to go ahead and get right to the point, huh?

For people who might be outside the Starcraft world, there were recent announcements of two other documentaries that are currently filming. By a coincidence and because we were all talking about MLG Columbus, the three projects all ended up coming to the public’s attention around the same time. Naturally, this has lead to everyone to comparing and contrasting the projects and there’s been a bit of an erroneous belief that they’re all the same.

In the course of my filming I have spent time talking with the director one of those films, specifically about our projects and how they may or may not differ from each other and what we can do to help each other rather than get in each other’s way. So I don’t want people to think we’re in competition with each other or that we’re rivals in any way.

However, I don’t think that it’s productive or professional for me to play compare and contrast. So what I will do is tell you about MY film and what I’m trying to do.

The thing about Good Game is that I don’t actually consider it a Starcraft movie. The comparison I’ve made to my crew and my producer is that the movie is about Starcraft the same way a film about the Redskins would be about football. Obviously it’s a part of the story, and it’s integral to the audience’s understanding of the film. But it’s what I would consider the B story, it’s the underpinning and the foundation of the film.

But the A story, the real focus of my efforts, is on the Evil Geniuses. Not just the seven players, but the managers, the administrative staff, the website content creators…everybody that makes the team run.

When I first got interested in the world of professional gaming, like most people I started talking about it with anybody that would listen. The moment I finished saying the words “professional video game tournaments” or “e-sports” the first question that every person had was “how does that work?”

That was part of how this project was born way back in October of 2010. I wanted to find the way to explain to people “how that works.” Since I’m a filmmaker, the answer to that was “make a film.” The way I chose to break down that question to explore it was to take a specific team, and figure out how THEY made it work.

So I’ll follow EG for the rest of the year. I’ll see how their players practice and train, how they interact with the community and each other, how they balance their life with their work. I’ll ask the management team those questions everybody has about sponsorship and the business of e-sports. I’ll ask the staff what they do, how they contribute to the workings of the team, how they found this job in the first place and why they work in professional gaming.

I want to show the outside world how our world of gaming is full of talented professionals, with skills and dedication. I want to explore why they should take Starcraft 2 seriously as a sport, and why they should be paying attention. To do that, I’ll also be talking to commentators, tournament organizers, and everybody else who has a hand in how we make this dream a reality.

But at the heart of everything will be the struggles and the triumphs of one team.

As an aside, what is also interesting to think about is that as three different filmmakers with different backgrounds, interests, and lives even if you handed all of us the exact same footage, I believe we would come away with three different films. Filmmaking is about storytelling, and everybody tells stories in different ways. My voice and my take on a subject is automatically going to diverge from what other people would have to say. And that’s why I’m excited to see all of our finished products.

I hope that this helps people understand what I’m doing, and I hope that makes you even more excited about the film. And please, if you have any questions about the film or what I’m doing, comment here or ask me on twitter! I’m always open for questions.

What happens in Vegas… Goes in the Movie

I’m a little late updating on our last shoot, but I’ve been so busy preparing for the NASL finals and MLG Anaheim that time got away from me.

First off, thanks to everybody for checking out our teaser! Don’t forget to leave comments on the video, or check out our contact form to ask us questions or offer suggestions for the film.

Now, our last shoot involved this slightly jet-lagged director flying out to Vegas. What was in Vegas?

Miss USA!

One thing you might not know about Good Game is that we’re focused not just on the players that make up Evil Geniuses, but the staff and management for the team as well. So I was off to Vegas to talk to Anna Prosser (or UnControllable) as she followed her own competitive dreams as Miss Oregon USA.

Anna has become a very visible part of e-sports over the last year, providing interviews and videos from various events through a partnership with Evil Geniuses and Kingston, one of their sponsors.

I filmed at the pageant, and did a few interviews while I was there, including a quick talk with Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson about what it’s like to be in the audience instead of on the main stage. My favorite by far was when I sat down with Anna at a media event for the pageant. I admit I hogged her time, but I got to ask a lot of questions that had been on my mind, about the pageant, about esports, and about Anna’s future with Starcraft 2. We even talked a bit about our common experiences playing team matches on Battle.net during the Brood War days.

I’m thrilled to have Anna as part of the film, and I’m happy to see her determination to make an impact on the world of e-sports.

I want to send a special thanks to the members of the Media Relations crew at Miss USA. They were all a huge help to me during my stay, and I appreciated everything they did for me.

Looking ahead: filming at the NASL finals, and a new video coming in July!

The teaser is released!

We’ve now officially released our first short video teaser for the film!  It’s just a quick nugget of footage showing off the seven fabulous guys that are going to form the core of the project, using the footage that we shot at MLG Columbus.

Enjoy, and tell us what you think in the comments!

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/25064919?portrait=0″ width=”400″ height=”225″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

Press Mention: ESFI World

Patrick “Chobopeon” O’Neill wrote up his experience at MLG Columbus for a post on ESFI World, and he gave “Good Game” a shout-out in the article!

I’ve sat in on about half a dozen interviews. “Good Game” is an independent film that will follow the Evil Geniuses StarCraft team over the course of a year. EG is one of the older institutions in American gaming and it’s easy to see the symptoms of that when their players sit down to talk. Instead of nervous inexperience, the EG players are hyperarticulate, calm and extremely self-aware.

An Idiot Goes to MLG Columbus

We completely agree with Patrick’s assessment, the members of Team EG were all very good to talk to, and we got several hours of great interview material out of the event. I’ve been transcribing them all week (with some help from a few wonderful friends) and every single interview has several of those moments where you just know, “that’s going in the movie.”

I can’t wait to show everybody.