Documentary Quest – Part One

I’m going to make a documentary on the Games Media. This is going to be my open chronicle about all the stresses and behind the scenes thinking for anyone that likes that kindof stuff. You weirdo.

Why?

Over the past 5 years I’ve sat in and outside of Games Media in positions more boring than a Christian sex chronicler’s wildest dreams. Whilst this means I’m barely even a cupboard-hold known name and am remembered as fondly as a pane of glass, I have had the privilege of getting to know this industry from many different perspectives. I’ve worked on magazines, websites, digital publishing & video. I’ve had friends and colleagues set up their own brand names whilst others still have circumvented the traditional routes entirely and embraced youtube, crowdfunding or ‘other’.

I think it’s a weird, fun, underpaid & nonsensical industry with a low-entry point that is misunderstood by many on the outside and which many on the inside struggle to explain. There’s been the semi-wanky but fantastically engrossing “Indie Game: The Movie” shedding light on small-time games development, but the closest the Games Media side has come is to that narrowly focused and off-putting Polygon founding documentary.

I believe in the adage “if you believe you can do better, then do it” so I thought bugger it, I’ve needed a good project for a while and I’m in a good position in my life to make this happen (semi-employed, without a family & masturbating too often). I want to make something informative and enjoyable to watch, that might get people to think and appreciate or change this industry for the better.

But really, it’s mainly about making everybody look at me.

The Plan

So how the fuck am I going to pull this off? (as the nun said to the priest etc.). The basics so far is that I’m going to interview approximately 10 people from various roles in Games Media industry around the UK; travelling down to wherever they live and filming about an hour-long interview with them. Then once I’ve got my 8-15 hours of interview footage, I’ll then script probably about five 15 minute long episodes where I intersplice interview footage with host segments either explaining different facets or setting up a section of aforementioned interview clips.

Basically think of it like a shittier version of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe only with me as a much worst host, no budget and more focus on the people interviewed. At the moment I’m focusing on getting decent interviewees and covering as many angles as possible without feature creeping or losing focus. There’s no point hard-locking in what I’ll say in my host segments, as I want to be free to react to what might come out of the interview process.

I should also clarify by when I say Games Media, I don’t mean PR or other erstwhile areas. I’m focusing more on the places that cover gaming news, reviews and thought as part of their bread and butter. I’m only touching on it briefly in this documentary but in the future I would like to cover how the Games Media interacts with PR and actual Publishers/Devs and their perspectives, but I think that makes my focus too broad for now especially considering what I have in my budgetry range.

I’ll place the finished product on Vimeo/Youtube probably around the end of March. It’ll be free for all to watch, as I fully don’t expect to even make a single penny back let alone break even. If this kindof thing was profitable, someone in the industry proper would’ve commissioned it already.

Limitations

Money. Money money money. I don’t get my kicks for free. All of the equipment, travel, editing software, hospitality for me and 1-2 other people on the small crew I’ve got together is coming out of my pocket. A round trip to London (where most UK media is based outside of a few outlying places like Bath) driving down costs me around £80 in fuel alone, and if I can’t cram as many interviews as possible into the Weds-Sun slot I have each week it’s going to start mounting up.

It also means I can’t do the rest of the world’s Games Media any justice, as frankly I cannot afford to pay my own airfare and travel around the US or EU let alone for 1-2 others. I’ll try to cover some of the cultural differences between say the US and UK Games Media, but it’s going to be difficult to give it proper credence. I’m going to have difficulty enough making sure UK Games Media people are free and open to interview on a compatible timetable during the timeframe I want to film (Feb-March).

Another thing I fear is that on the 9th person I interview they raise a really interesting point that I’d really want to go back and ask all the other people before them. I’m just going to have to accept it as one of those things sadly, and hope the prep work and questions will be adequate. I’m also terrified that my host segments will drag the whole piece down, and writing a clear concise script that focuses on the key points I want to make on how Games Media works, why people choose to go into it & the past, present and future of it is a daunting task.

Why not Crowdfund?

The big thing I keep being asked when I mention this project is “What about Crowdfunding?”. Well, I have little to no social media presence and my mixed-insider/outsider status means I have difficulty getting others to view my work, let alone chip in money to an unknown & unproven person. Secondly I also feel that even if I did have a big following, crowdfunding makes me feel uneasy. In my mind (even though many cases have proven it otherwise) it doesn’t feel like a money for product service, but instead telling your audience “Could you chuck me some of your hard-earned cash to indulge my own dreams? Nothing’s guaranteed about what I’ll produce”. Some are comfortable with that idea, I’m personally not.  It’s why I’ve saved up my own money to make this project happen, so I don’t feel beholden to anyone.

A third issue is that I cannot for the life of me think of any decent pledge awards that doesn’t mean a fuckload of extra work for a one-man operation to organise. All I really want to do is focus on the creating side plus massive volume of filming and editing ahead of me, not ordering body-sized pillows with custom decals.

Open to Suggestions

I’ve never done anything even close to this scale before, and whilst I think I’ve got a grip on the basics of it I am still very welcoming of advice, ideas and importantly help (locations, places to stay, props) at this stage before anything is properly set in stone and I’ve approached people to interview. To reach me either give me a prod on twitter @EGTF, or email me at egtfenning (at) googlemail (dot) com.

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