GameLoading: Rise of The Indies is the latest film from Lester Francois and Studio Bento as it explores the rise of independent development in both Australia and abroad. We recently had the chance to chat with Lester and discuss the film.
RN: What’s the primary message you’re pushing with the GameLoading: Rise of The Indies?
We’re trying to show people that there is more to games than just shooters and platformers. There’s so many amazing indie games being made that are redefining what a game can be. There are games being made about cancer, depression and love. And these games are being made by all sorts of people from different backgrounds and artistic backgrounds – artists, comedians, filmmakers – it’s not just programmers that make games anymore. Now anyone can make a game.
RN: There’s a handful of indie developers that feature in the film, what decisions went into choosing them specifically and having them share their stories?
When we set out on our first overseas shoot, we had a whole list of people we wanted to film but a lot of those interviews didn’t happen as life got in the way – Kelly Santiago had just had a baby for example. Then when we were filming we met different people who seemed a great fit for the film.
We were too poor to pay for our accommodation so we couch-surfed a lot which worked out really well for us. We met Richard Hofmeier and Davey Wreden through our first couch-surfing host, Dylan. So our casting process was pretty organic. We interviewed a LOT of people and many of them didn’t end up in the film. Some people were really interesting but their story didn’t quite fit in the film so they had to be cut out. That’s just part of the documentary process, the story comes together in the edit.
RN: Were there other developers you wanted to bring in for the film as well? What were the limitations faced?
Our two biggest limitations were money and time, in that order! We would have really liked to cover the indie scene in South America but couldn’t afford to fly there. Also, a film about the global indie scene covers a lot so we simply couldn’t fit everything in the film, unless we made it 5 hours long.
There were a few developers that we filmed for quite a while that we had to cut from the film which was heartbreaking. There just wasn’t room for everything and the film was way too long.
RN: What was the reason as to why you wanted to make this film?
We hope that when people finish watching GameLoading that they will be inspired to either play an indie game, or better still, to make one. We’ve had lots of people write to us who after watching our film sat down and started making their own game straight away. It’s been amazing hearing these stories.
GameLoading has also changed people’s perceptions about games – we’ve had people watch it at film festivals who thought they hated video games come up to us and tell us they were amazed by all the games they saw and the indie community. To see our film making a difference to people’s lives is incredible!
RN: This is your first foray into a feature length film, what were the challenges you faced, both big and small?
So many! Money was a huge problem, we had to invest a lot of our own money along with raising money through two Kickstarters.
Like a lot of indie game developers we were a tiny team making this film so we had to wear a lot of hats. We did all our own marketing, social media and financing so it was hard to find the time to actually make the film. We are also self-distributing GameLoading which has been a huge learning curve. Self-distribution is a lot more work than we anticipated and doing it while touring with the film makes it twice as hard.
RN: Furthermore, this is your first time as a Director – yes? What was it like balancing both a producer and director role on a feature length film?
It was a tough balance. I think in the future having a full time producer will definitely help with us focusing on the creative side and telling the story.
RN: You travelled a hell of a lot – were there any particularly funny stories to come out of traveling around with your crew for such a long time?
We couch-surfed across the US and Europe. Our second couch-surfing host lived in a frat house in Seattle. We got a tour of the fraternities and sororities during hazing. It was like being introduced to a cult, watching all these blonde clones doing strange humiliating rituals.
Our hosts girlfriend was a stripper/burlesque dancer/falconer! She had her falcon staying inside the house and we all got to have her perch on our arms. That was a pretty amazing experience.
RN: You had two kickstarters! Explain how they went and what they entailed.
They were both VERY hard work but apart from the money raised we built a community which was fantastic. Our backer community have been very supportive and gave us advice and tips about games and devs.
RN: The film’s done now, but for those interested, what would your advice be for those wanting to start up a kickstarter project? What kind of research went into crafting your pitch and the like?
Start your research early! Build your social media community early! Develop your KS page early! We made our Twitter and Facebook page a year before our Kickstarter knowing we had to build a small online community first.
RN: And again, for those budding filmmakers – what’s the most honest advice you can give?
Just do it! Start small, make mistakes and learn from these mistakes.
RN: And finally, where to from here for you?
We’ll be releasing a lot of extra content throughout the year. We have a lot of short videos to be released and two short documentaries – one about the Japanese indie scene and a second about the Adams brothers who are making the game Dwarf Fortress. Tarn and Zach Adams have been working on their game for years and don’t expect to finish it in their lifetime. There is no other game that has been made on this scale – their dedication is insane.
We’re really excited about these two documentaries – we’ve already started making both of them and hope to release them both this year.
GameLoading: Rise of The Indies is available to watch now via Steam, iTunes, Xbox Platforms, PlayStation Platforms, Humble Store and through the film’s official website as well.