Video has NSFW language near the beginning.
15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft personalities of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, from the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.
It used to be that any mainstream media coverage of gaming that didn't completely denigrate gamers rated rabid cheering and high-fives all around. Things have gotten better in recent years, but we're often left with a sense of lingering embarrassment when journalists miss the boat and ask all the wrong questions from all the wrong angles. It's with great relief, then, that we report on documentary project that's working hard to get it right. LFG Productions, the brainchild of two film industry vets who are also WoW players, is filming a behind-the-scenes look at the intersection of hardcore raiding and real life by following a top-ranked PvE guild through the post-ICC lull and into the coming expansion. (See a sample of some of the raw footage they've collected at last year's BlizzCon, above.) Documentary co-creator John Keating, aka Xod of <Royal Militia> on Bleeding Hollow (US-A), has been corresponding with us for months now about the LFG Productions team's efforts to put its finger on an accurate portrayal of the hardcore raiding lifestyle.
Guild <Royal Militia>
Realm Bleeding Hollow (US-A)
15 Minutes of Fame: How did you first get the idea to bring your work and your gaming together to create a WoW documentary?
John Keating/Xod: About a year and a half ago, me and Zach (my friend and co-worker) decided to collaborate on a documentary. I had produced and directed five of my own short films. And Zach had just finished directing a documentary about spinal cord injury research for Cure Paralysis Now in association with the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Each of us compiled a list of 10 possible subjects for our documentary and pitched the ideas to each other. The subject that we kept coming back to was the MMO. It was an easy choice for us, as Zach also spent his youth gaming (D&D, Nintendo, Magic the Gathering).
How did you meet Zach?
I met Zach while working on an indie film starring Jason Biggs and Isla Fisher called The Pleasure of Your Company. That was five years ago, and we have worked together since.
Were you already into WoW back then? You're pretty deep into the game yourself, aren't you?
I would categorize myself as a would-be hardcore raider. My work schedule at the moment varies between 12 and 14 hours per day. Making raid often involves luck and always involves rushing home.
I got into WoW after Zach and I decided to collaborate on a documentary about MMOs. We decided right away that part of the research would have to involve immersing ourselves into the game. I had previously spent the last three years playing Star Wars Galaxies.
I have been playing video games all my life. I was 8 when we got our Atari 2600, and I've had a console for every new generation of gaming. I played Age of Kings RTS for years along with Counter-Strike from its earliest mod days and Team Fortress Classic. My first attempt at an MMO was actually WoW. I made a Horde shaman and got it to level 30 in vanilla. At this point I would have to say that WoW may very well be the best game experience that I have ever had, and that is really saying something.
Tell us about the specific angle of the film you're creating about WoW. What areas of the gaming lifestyle will you be examining?
We are featuring the world-ranked guild <Blood Legion> (Illidan [US-H]) for our documentary. We want to know how being a player in a world-ranked guild affects people. We are fascinated by the relationships that form through the game and the drive to take <Blood Legion> to the top. We have met quite a few of its members, and all of them have an interesting story that we believe will make an interesting film.
So how does one go about funding something like this?
We are funding the film ourselves. In our 12 years of working in film and television, we have come to befriend some very talented filmmakers. We plan to use all of our friends in this endeavor.
That's right, you have extensive film backgrounds yourselves.
I got started in film and television in 1996. I took the New York Film Academy's basic and advanced courses and then went on to intern on small projects until I knew enough to be useful as a crew member. I have been lighting film and television as a grip for 12 years. These are the television shows I've worked on: Third Watch, Lipstick Jungle, The Black Donnellys, 30 Rock, Rescue Me, Law and Order, Nurse Jackie and Sex and the City. These are the films I have worked on: Swimfan, The Stepford Wives, Garden State, The Good Shepherd, The Nanny Diaries, Burn After Reading, You Don't Mess With the Zohan and Hollywood Ending. I am currently working on the new HBO drama, Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi. It's set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition.
That's a lot of projects! Aren't the hours of someone in film production fairly prohibitive to be able to indulge in something like regular raiding? How do you manage?
Yes, very prohibitive. I'm committed to working 12-14 hours per day during production. For the last two months, I have had Thursdays and Fridays off to develop this documentary, which I have also used to make an extra raid day. My guild, <Royal Militia>, is a really great guild. Even with my attendance issues, I have managed to get 9/12 ICC 25-man hard mode, and I really owe them all for letting me be part of that. They really are exceptional people.
<Royal Militia> is currently 9/12 of the ICC-25 hard modes. We are working on Putricide at the moment.
Back to the movie -- are you looking for any specific talent, sources or players right now? What's your focus right now?
We have begun filming our project. At the moment, we are arranging our shooting schedule so that we can visit as many of the <Blood Legion> crew as possible before BlizzCon.
We have decided to shift the focus of our documentary to the worlds 10th-ranked guild, <Blood Legion>. We will show the real people behind the guild and the way being a top performer in an MMO plays out in their lives. We have just finished our second shooting day with Sabina Hemmi, aka Lawliepop (co-GM of <Blood Legion>) and we are planning visits to several states, including a trip to Anaheim to visit the <Blood Legion> crew at BlizzCon.
Have the pre-expansion blues played into your project?
The pre-expansion blues give us a unique advantage in filming. It gives us the chance to see the side of the player that you can't capture during progression. A guild like <Blood Legion> has had ICC on farm for some time now, so this is really a good time to catch them hanging out with family and friends or pursuing other hobbies and interests. When Cataclysm launches, we expect to get the "all business" side of the guild, and we look forward to seeing this dynamic play out as well.
Learn more about the project at LFG Productions. To contact the project directors, email Mystory@lfgproductions.com.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players. These WoW players from all walks of life range from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to Olympic medalist Megan Jendrick ... from a quadriplegic player to a player who's racked up every achievement in the game.