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LARP: the movie interview

If you've been following this blog, you have probably noticed a lot of interviews and news about various larp media projects so far - documentaries, series, movies... All of them in English.

And while there were certain... disappointments (Knights of Badassdom), other media projects do look better. And there's quantity as well. All of this means one thing: greater media exposure, which is positive for larp overall.

One of those projects is a movie, simply called LARP: the movie by Ex Machina Films. It's being funded via the kickstarter campaign that seeks to raise $80,000 and it will end on May 16th.

Do you wish to know more? I interviewed Nicholas Dunn, the director and co-writer of the movie.

1) First of all, tell us a few things about yourselves. Who are you? When did you start larping? Do you have previous filmmaking experience? Which larps do you typically play?

Nicholas Dunn

We are a production company called Ex Machina Films, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The core members of the Company are Nicholas Dunn (me), Connor Rickman, Michael Burnet, Jacob Dickey, Jamie Greenland and Gordon Dunn.  We all have worked in the film, television, media, and theater industries for years, as writers, directors, editors, cinematographers, producers, and production assistants.  We've worked on big budget features like Need For Speed and Everwood, all the way down to very independent features and short films.  Our Company has made a number of commercials, music videos, industrials, and promotional videos, and Larp is a first feature film as a Company.  Gordon Dunn and Jacob Dickey had participated in Larping events over the years, but as for me, I hadn't really done any larping until after we started developing this movie.

2) How did you end up working on the LARP: the movie? What made you get involved in the project? Why did you choose such an universal name? :)

The initial idea for the movie came from a commercial we shot for the Utah Film Commission to promote Utah as a filmmaking destination during the Sundance Film Festival. We had made three commercials, each in a very different genre: We did an Old Western, a black and white Film Noir, and a Fantasy.  We had so much fun making the Fantasy, because it looked so close to legit, but just subtly short of authentic.  We liked this idea, and started to develop it, and arrived at the idea of a movie about Larping.  At that point, we started to meet with and interview some Larpers, and we came to understand that there was something very sincere and very profound at the heart of Larping that really had not been depicted in a movie yet (that we know of), and we wanted to capture that. We ended up deciding to call it "Larp" because we wanted a title that was instantly recognizable... You see it, you know what the movie is about... Or so you think.  If you're not a Larper, you probably have some misconceptions about it, and so the universal, blunt title helps to be the gateway into that world.

3) Is the larp presented in LARP: the movie based on any specific larp that you played? Was it filmed on one of the existing larp terrains, or on its' own?

The Larp that will be presented in the film is based loosely on Nordic larping.  The characters are participating for days at a time, and are avoiding breaking character or allowing anachronisms as best they can.  They are playing out an elaborate story, and the combat is quite authentic.  Of course, it's a movie, so in some cases, we step outside the Nordic fashion, or overlap with other styles to keep the film as universal and accessibly as possible, while doing our best to maintain the integrity of the story and the characters.  We'll be shooting mostly on private and state property, so as far as I know, the locations are not existing Larp terrains... At least not officially.  I happen to know that one of our locations was used for an isolated Larp event a few years ago.

4) What made you decide to fund the movie via Kickstarter?

We decided to use Kickstarter in the hopes of speeding up our funding.  We've been working on the script and the movie for a few years now, and we've attached investors, sponsors and companies to the project, but we really want to be able to start shooting this fall.  In order to do that, we need to complete our financing by mid-summer.  So we're hoping that by reaching out to our audiences, they'll reach back and help us to push this last domino over, so to speak.  It's a tall order, but we're ready to make this movie, so we're doing all we can to get to that point.

5) What makes LARP: the movie different from previous attempts to portray larp on film?

Other Larping movies that we've seen, approach the Larpers and the idea of Larping from a very objective point of view.  Most portray it as very silly, sometimes in a loving way, but our philosophy is that if you're going to tell a story, don't put the audience on the sidelines watching, put them in the game.  Our story starts out looking at Larp from the outside, and our main character, Preston, does view it as a silly and even kind of frightening thing, but once he's pulled into that world, he's the outsider.  In fact, the more he begins to buy in to the story and commits to it, the more real it begins to seem to him.  The Larpers in our script are very committed, and are portrayed as being skilled craftsmen, fighters, and story-tellers.  Much of the comedy of the story comes out of how mundane normality is by comparison.

6) Your Kickstarter page mentions you developed a ruleset that will be used in your movie's on-screen larp. Any chance we might have a peek at that?

My co-writer Ehren Remal and I did develop a list of rules and guidelines for our Larping world when we were writing the screenplay.  We based much of it on the Turku Manifesto, but of course, made sure that there was always breathing room for the story to be told the way we felt it should.

7) Once released, how will the movie be available to the viewers?

Once we've completed the film, we'll look to submit to festivals and Comic and fantasy conventions, but we'll also be looking to secure a distribution deal through American Film Market or some of the relationships we already have established with distributors.  So we'll be seeking a deal that will give it a theatrical release, a dvd/blu ray release, and online on Netflix, itunes, amazon.  We want the movie to be accessibly to as many people as possible and of course, to those who really want to see it or who contributed on Kickstarter but would like to see it on the big screen and not just in the copy they receive from us for pledging.  We'd love to arrange special screenings for Larping guilds, and make an event out of it.

8) Can you share some other funny or memorable stories that happened during the production?

We've yet to shoot the movie, although we've shot a lot of test and proof-of-concept footage at this point.  But one of my favorite stories happened at our first formal Table-read of the screenplay.  We had a lot of our actors there.  One of them, Jonah Taylor, is an actor out of Chicago.  He's a very athletic actor who often does commercials for the NFL or things like that.  Frankly, he's not the type of guy who plays video games, watches fantasy movies or would be likely to be found Larping.  But he's an excellent actor, and so he's wonderful at getting into the head of a character and experiencing their point of view.  When the read was done, and we were getting feedback from actors and designers, Jonah said that after experiencing the script, he was thinking it might be really cool to try Larping.  At that point, I knew we were on the right track.

9) What are your expectations of the movie?

Our hopes and expectations for the movie are many, from making the best movie we can, to getting it done within a year, to getting a deal on the movie that gets it front of as many people as possible, but as the co-writer and director, at this point my eye is on a single goal: To do the story justice.  I want to take the audience on a journey with the main characters.  I want the audience to experience the highs and lows, the thrills and anticipation that the characters experience.  I want them to think about themselves a little bit, about what inspires them and what blocks them from inspiration.  So at this point, my expectations are simply to make something great that people will enjoy.

10) What do you plan to do next?

We've got a long way to go with Larp, but we have other movie projects in the pipe once we get to the end of this one.  I can't say too much more about them now, but we're quite excited about the possibilities ahead.  Also, we're thinking about expanding this world into a web series, teaming up with another larping web series out there, although I can't say which one at this point.

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

It's been really exciting to us to have Larpers reach out to us as we've begun this process.  We're realizing that they are hungry for a movie like this, something that really gets to the heart of who they are and why they do what they do.  So we're feeling all the more motivated to make it, and make it right.  Our actors are now beginning to feel the importance of the parts they'll be playing, which is absolutely wonderful from my point of view.  I want everyone involved to realize going forward that not only is the movie we're trying to make funny and exciting, it's also important.

Kaza Marie, the Larp Girl, who also got interviewed in the most read article ever on this site is also involved in production. Depending on the mercy of Kickstarter backers, her character will live or die...


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