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Treasure Trapped interview

In late 2012, a new larp video project appeared on Kickstarter - Treasure Trapped. It set out to be a larp documentary, but there were a few things that set it apart from previously existing documentaries. It promised to cover a lot of larps, tour all the way to Denmark to visit Østerskov Efterskole, a school that teaches its' pupils using larp methods, and to show it all from a perspective from a typical larper. Brilliant!

Filmed by the Cosmic Joke, an indie film and video production company from Manchester, UK, Treasure Trapped is... well, it's a bit late. But the filmmakers have been busy, getting to film some really interesting larps this year, including The Monitor Celestra and the remake of Panopticorp.

The movie is getting close to release, and in the meanwhile I've been able to interview Alex Taylor, the director of the movie, and Shona Brown, his assistant and the production manager. Read on, but first - here's a trailer:

1) First of all, tell us a few things about yourselves. Who are you? How long have you been larping? How did you end up working on Treasure Trapped?

Alex: I first heard about LARP in 2010 when a friend of mine started playing the UK game 'Maelstrom.' Me and some friends were seriously intrigued by the concept of LARP, we'd never heard of anything like it before and decided to find out more. As I started to dig a bit deeper we started to think about filming our exploration and from there Treasure Trapped was born.

Shona: I joined the party a little later than Alex...we met on another film set and he told me about this exciting and colourful new project he had just started working on and I couldn’t wait to jump on board. I’d never heard of LARP before and I definitely didn’t know what to expect the first time I went and filmed with the crew. All Alex had told me was that we’d be outdoors, we were entering a nuclear apocalypse and would be living with the ‘monsters’! You’ll see from the film just what happened when we braved “Wasteland.” As may become clearer throughout this interview, myself and Alex aren’t actually LARPers! We’ve been to enough events now that we’re very clued up on the hobby and can wow outsiders with our knowledge and terminology, but on the whole, we’re still inexperienced. After the release of Treasure Trapped however, saying goodbye to LARP might not be possible...I know for a fact that our wonderful soundman, Rob Wingfield, is definitely keen to explore it further. He had his first taste back in Sweden on the Monitor Celestra (as all our crew did) and since then has shown a lot of interest in pursuing it further, so you never what the future holds for us all!

In terms of our involvement with Treasure Trapped, it’s Alex’s brainchild (along with Mike and Nick) and its his talented direction and vision that has taken us to where we are today! I’m the one behind him making sure it all goes to plan! It’s been a great experience and a lot of friendships have been made as a result.

2) There's a general feel that larping has often been misrepresented on film. How is Treasure Trapped different from other larp documentaries? What new things are you planning to show?

Alex: The treatment of LARP in the media is an issue we came across from day one. At first a lot of people were reluctant to let us film their games because they felt LARP had been unfairly represented in the past. We spent a long time building trust with players before we ever turned a camera on. A lot of the time the media like to poke fun at LARP or reduce it to Dungeons and Dragons stereotypes. With Treasure Trapped we've tried to take an honest look at what LARP actually is, in all forms, it's an incredibly diverse and interesting hobby so hopefully we've captured that.

Shona: I agree, it’s been a long road to travel and it hasn’t always been smooth, but I think Treasure Trapped will definitely benefit from taking this route. We said from the start that we were out to tell the truth and not to create fiction to the detriment of people who are just following their passions. What we’ve found from the first day we started filming is that the cruel stereotypes that exist are so far from the truth it’s crazy! The hobby itself is so multifaceted and complex and exciting and the people involved are just as interesting. They’re from all walks of life and do the hobby for so many differing reasons and have so much to say and it’s about time they were given a voice. We hope to also show how LARP can be much more than just people in a field (which it can be and that’s great!) but also an effective tool to help educate as well as function as a money-making industry.

3) What made you decide to fund the movie via Kickstarter? How was your general experience with the Kickstarter? (This is the place where I mention that I'm one of the backers too)

Alex: I think for the right project Kickstarter is a great tool, not only for raising funds but for building a community and an audience. We knew there were thousand of LARPers out there who would love to get involved - we just needed to reach them. Using Kickstarter also allowed us to keep the film under our control, which is really important for us, that we can portray LARP as we've seen it first hand. Kickstarter allowed us to build a network of like minded and amazing people without whom this film wouldn't be possible, so we'll always be very grateful for that.

Shona: What Alex forgot to mention also was the insane amount of hard work our team put into our Kickstarter campaign! We spent a solid month, night and day, interacting with LARPers and general film lovers worldwide, in order to spread the word and build interest in the project. It meant that whilst we couldn’t travel all around the world filming all these amazing LARPs, we could still widen the net, learn more about the hobby and the people involved. A highlight for me was definitely the final few hours when backers were spurring us on, really wanting us to reach our target...the excitement was amazing and really pushed us forward to make the best film possible...I hope that shows!

4) When is the release date? How will the movie be made available to interested viewers?

Alex: Well, we don't want to give too much away but it looks like the film will be starting a theatrical tour at the beginning of April... where it's going to hit and when is still being finalised but that's the start. After the film has toured it will be available through all the usual outlets and we're working on it being utilised as an online resource for the further development of LARP.

Shona: Yes, in terms of where it’ll be shown is still something we’re sorting out at this very moment, but it’d be great to take it to whole new places and finally show the people who have supported us along the way just what they helped to make! The more available the better as far as we’re concerned, we just hope people will want to see it!

5) The movie's name is historical - Treasure Trap was the first larp played in UK. What sort of a connection does Treasure Trapped have with it?

Alex: Well, you'll need to watch the film to see just how involved Treasure Trap is but, that original game has fascinated us from day one and you can still see it in today’s more diverse LARP world. Peckforton Castle where the game was played is just a few miles away from where I grew up and I never knew anything about it so to take a trip out there for the film has been great.

Shona: This is one of the things I love about Treasure Trapped, that we revisit the birthplace of LARP (up for debate I’m sure…). I had no clue about this exciting start to LARP until I joined Treasure Trapped and it blew my mind that two men started everything we know today in this beautiful castle in Cheshire. Our journey there is a special one and I can’t wait until Treasure Trapped is released and we can discuss it more!

6) Which larps (and other larp-related places) did you visit during your trip across UK and mainland Europe? Are they all going to be shown in the documentary?

Alex: We've seen all kinds of things in the last year or so. We've visited Maelstrom, Labyrinth, Durham University Treasure Trap and Wasteland in the UK. We saw Monitor Celestra in Sweden, Panopticorp in Denmark and visited Osterskov Efterskole - the only LARP school in the world.

Shona: Our journey has taken us to so many exciting places and whilst we’ve tried to do everywhere justice, we can’t make the film the 3 hours it needs. We’ve made sure that everything is in there in some shape or form and we’ve also planned to release some more online exclusives after the success of our Panopticorp mini-doc so nothing will be missed out at all.

7) Were there any cultural shocks and situations that you were unprepared for?

Alex: Nothing could prepare me for the scope of LARP in Scandinavia. I knew it was more popular over there but the production value of some of these games blew me away - I don't think I'll ever forget setting foot onto The Monitor Celestra and truly feeling like I was in a spaceship! The ways LARP is used over there is completely fascinating as well. I was shown the documentary about Kapo when I was in Copenhagen and it was like nothing I ever thought I'd see when the film began.

Shona: Definitely Nordic LARP was a massive cultural shock for me. The production values were mind blowing and the extremes that players pushed themselves to in some of the games left me speechless! But on the whole, LARP as a hobby still continues to surprise me. No matter what country, what event and the people involved, I just can’t get over how big the hobby is and yet how under the radar it still is.

Filming Claus Raasted in Denmark
8) Can you share some other funny or memorable stories that happened during the production?

Alex: There's been far too many memorable moments making this film! The best bits have always been spending time with people, hearing their stories, enjoying being welcomed into their world for a few days, we've spent time with some amazing people. As I said earlier a huge moment for me was setting foot on The Monitor Celestra in Sweden - it completely blew me away. I think I'll always treasure our time in Copenhagen too, it was the last LARP we filmed and on the last night had a few beers and finally played dress up with all the LARP kit we'd been seeing all lead to some hilarious videos and photos that will probably never see the light of day!

Shona: Yeh, there will always be the crazy stuff that never leaves the cutting room floor, in particular, all the travelling we did, there were some insane times driving in the dead of night to our next destination that led to some of the best moments and laughs ever! Memories to treasure though, there are so many. The many different faces we’ve encountered and the amazing stories people have shared with us along the way will stay with me. The big journey to Osterskov Efterskole and meeting the students really was the biggest turnaround for me though and really hit home that we were on to something a bit special with the film!

9) What do you plan to do next?

Alex: All I can focus on at the moment is showing the film to the world. It's got a long road ahead of it...then we'll probably sleep! It's been a gruelling but incredible few years. When all is said and done we'll get back out on the road for another film, as we do have a few ideas. We're also being approached to film LARPs which is something we'll always like to be involved if anyone out there has a big game coming up, get in touch!

Shona: Yep, getting ourselves back out on the road is a must! I for one have been bitten by the documentary bug and can’t wait to get back out there exploring the wonderful and exciting things the world has hidden out there. We definitely won’t be cutting our ties with the LARP world, we’ve made far too many great friends on our journey to leave behind now. But as Alex also mentioned, sleep is the most desirable plan once we have everything set and ready for Treasure Trapped!

10) Any final thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

Alex and Shona: We just want to say a massive thanks to EVERYONE that’s helped us along the way with Treasure Trapped. It’s been a great journey and we couldn’t have done half of it without the help and support of many, but most importantly LARPers worldwide who have continued to welcome us into their world and share their exciting hobby.


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