How do you know the producer, Michael Verrechia? How long have the two of you worked together?
I met Mike almost 10 years ago in college. Since then, I've made some pretty average student films and Mike's responsible for the worst documentary about Bo Diddley ever made. Somehow our first feature went to Sundance. I guess we work well together.
How did this project come to be? I know that you saw the photo and it just clicked with you, but how did it come about after that?
I'll let Mike field the financial side. I just wanted to create something that guys my age could connect on some kind of nostalgic, emotional level. All my creative decisions, well most at least, were geared toward that.
What was the biggest challenge that you all ran into while making the movie?
Second to my well-documented struggle with the Wendy's Classic Triple was finding the right path in the editing room. Hours and hours of footage and too many stories to tell.
Were there any stories / interviews that you had to cut out for length?
There were several that I wish we could have kept in:
Walter, the official scorekeeper of Twin Galaxies, also happens to be huge into Transcendental Meditation. In one scene, we follow him into the TM levitation domes of Iowa. It's always hard to cut out levitation.
We also had to cut a foosball tournament, a defecation story, Knight Rider ... I forgot about some of these.
We don't catch up with all of the gamers in the photo in the present day. Did some people not want to participate?
The dead guy didn't want to participate. A couple of the players, for various reasons, did not want to be filmed. I guess some guys don't want the world to know they've lost their hair. I am one of them. Seriously, baring yourself to total strangers is a leap of faith. I was not surprised when a couple of players said no.
As a director, what are / were your biggest influences?
I watched a ton of docs, but I think the style ended up a cross between Dogtown and the 7-Up Series. I wasn't actively channeling anything, but apparently those two snuck inside my head.
The film shows the gamers in the present day struggling with modern video games. Do any of them actually play current games in arcades or consoles?
Not many, but their kids do.
How quickly did you all get Walter Day involved in the process, and how did that come about?
As soon as we found the LIFE magazine photo we contacted Walter by phone.
There's a lot of great 80s imagery that was shot in the present day, where did you go to get shots of the games themselves, the closeup of the quarter being inserted into the machine, and things like that?
That's all Lisa Wiegand (the director of photography). The idea was to show these machines in a new way, like perhaps some of our players saw them. Joel West describes playing Berzerk as a "spiritual experience" and that guided some of the imagery.
Have you seen The King of Kong, and what do you think about it?
It's definitely the white elephant in the arcade. The filmmaker in me respects what they've accomplished, but people I've grown close to are pretty distraught about their portrayals. So, it's difficult to find clarity on the issue.
Do you play any games? What systems do you play on?
I've had a 360 for over a year, but have only had time to name my Oblivion character "Kirk Cameron." Looking forward to many magical adventures with Kirk this summer, but realistically I'm too busy. MAME Berzerk is nice because I can dedicate 10 minutes and get back to work.
Did you guys play any games during production or post?
The crew was constantly rocking 4-player Gauntlet. "Food!"
What's next as far as the release of the film is concerned?
That is still being decided. Wish I could tell you more.
Would you do it all over again if you had to?
Of course! My first film went to Sundance, I spent a year of my life in an arcade, and tomorrow the Los Angeles Film Festival is flying me to Skywalker Ranch for 2 days. If Mike's Bo Diddley documentary was the only thing on my resume, I'd probably never meet George Lucas.