A nerd jealously guarding his Dungeons & Dragons game against a hipster invasion? Sounds like a great film. Hundreds of people agreed and stumped up $25,150 to help fund Zero Charisma, a film which was then only an idea and a (pretty awesome) preview trailer. So now we will hopefully see a feature length telling of the story of donut shop worker and part-time Dungeon Master Scott Weidemeier's battle against a neo-nerd hipster who he sees as alienating him from his own players.
With big studios collapsing under their own weight, and RED revolutionising the pro video camera world, it's a pretty good time to be a budding filmmaker. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are short-circuiting the traditional producer route and helping join up directors with smaller budgets with audiences looking to endorse great projects with cash. We spoke to writer-director Andrew Matthews about where the film goes from here.
Tell us a bit more about arranging funding for the film, and the response you've had. One person made a personal donation of $5,000??
The response we got from our IndieGoGo campaign was truly amazing. We originally decided to make a proof-of-concept trailer just to show potential investors and producers. Then, we attended a SXSW panel on crowdfunding and thought, "Well, we've got a video to post, let's give it a try!" Though we can't really speak about any specific donations, what really shocked us was how much of our funding came from unexpected places, despite being warned that that rarely happened. Ultimately, it gave us a lot of confidence to know that people weren't just being nice, they genuinely believed in the film and wanted to see it completed.
How do you think this kind of social funding, coupled with increasingly affordable semi-pro gear will affect the film industry?
I think that's what a lot of people are wondering. I will say that we are very glad we launched our campaign when we did, because since then, it seems like everyone we know and their brother is on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. That can be great news for indie art, but it will also make it harder to get noticed in the future.
As for the cost of entry, it seems to be falling faster than anyone can keep track of--but still high enough that you need some kind of support, which is healthy. Of course, this doesn't apply to most genres. But character-driven comedy seems to us very well-suited to small-scale filmmaking because it relies so heavily on writing and performances, aspects which, though extremely challenging, are not necessarily expensive.
The film centres on one nerd's battle against hipsterdom. Do you think that the preserves of the nerd are under threat from the assymetrical haircut and ironic hobbyist?
Beyond the cultural associations, they make great adversaries because nerds tend to take things too seriously, and hipsters don't seem to take anything seriously. That said, though Scott (our main character) perceives it as an invasion, who are we to say that the socially adept don't genuinely love their nerdery as much the socially inept? I think it's just a cultural shift, probably a result of an increasingly informational and entertainment-oriented culture. Being an avid gamer and movie buff, I'm hardly one to judge, but it does make me wonder whether we'll run out of real adults at some point.
Where do you think tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons fall in a world ever more ensconced in World of Warcraft?
This is an issue close to Scott's heart, kind of like those snobby music nerds who lament the advent of the compact disc. From my own point of view, it seems like there's a bit of a resurgence going on in table-top gaming, though that may be influenced by the town we live in, Austin, TX, which is very gamer friendly. I know more people today who are either playing D&D or clamoring to get in on a game than I ever have before. Maybe the novelty of online gaming and CGI is wearing off for some people and they yearn for more face-to-face, open-ended interaction. Or is that too optimistic?
The trailer has clearly captivated people, but is a pretty early indication of the final film, I'm guessing. What kind of refinements and changes do you think we might see in the final cut?
The trailer is pure proof-of-concept. None of that footage will appear in the film, though many of the actors, locations, costumes, etc. will. Our shoot for the trailer was very guerilla, making the best with what we could get our hands on in a very short time. The film will have a higher production value, better equipment, more detailed art direction, and more rehearsal. However, the trailer did an excellent job of communicating the level of energy, pacing and feeling of spontaneity that we want the finished film to have.
Your last film Best Worst Movie was met with far more critical acclaim than it's subject, Troll 2 (a fantastically bad film). What single thing made Troll 2 so awful (the kid urinating over dinner to prevent his family from eating it sticks out for me), and do you think it has taught you some potential pitfalls in film-making?
I can tell you what my favorite parts is: Don Packard's portrayal of the Drugstore Owner. That is a performance that a lot of filmmakers would kill to have in their movie. He was not "playing" a goblin masquerading as a local shop owner, he was a goblin masquerading as a local shop owner.
Believe it or not, Troll 2 sparked a lot of deep film conversations between Katie, myself and Best Worst Movie director Michael Paul Stephenson, and at the end of the day, it taught us more about good filmmaking than bad. Claudio Fragasso (the director of Troll 2) did a lot of things wrong, but he did one huge thing right: he did not make a boring movie. There are worse movies than Troll 2. There are crazier movies, too. What makes it a good bad movie is that ultimately it's entertaining and even kind of engaging, and when you hear Claudio's philosophy of filmmaking, you realize that that was no accident. For all his faults, Claudio knew that you always had to be earning the audience's interest and emotional investment. Having people watch your film is such a privilege--real people, not just family, friends, and colleagues--we know we need to be constantly asking ourselves, "Why should they give a damn?" That was a lesson we implemented in the making of the documentary, and one we hope to carry with us into Zero Charisma.
How's pre-production coming along? Any idea when we might expect a release?
Very well, thank you! Right now, it's a lot of office, legal, and financial work, but we hope to start casting within the next month or so, which is very exciting. We'll be formally announcing big milestones as they happen, and you can always "like" us on facebook to stay informed!
For more info, visit facebook.com/zerocharismamovie