Dreams can come true, but we didn’t know that at the time, when Kevin Finn and I sat across from each other at the table during high school art class, talking about making movies. This was way before YouTube and digital video existed. I was the only person I knew who made movies, until then. Since Kevin and I both shared the same dream, of making a big feature film, we vowed, one day, we will team up to write/direct it together. But I thought that was just a pipe dream.
Fast forward sometime into the new millennium, we went our separate ways, living on opposite sides of the country, dividing and conquering, perhaps. I had made over 400 short films and videos, and established a popular website (Cinemassacre.com) and web series (The Angry Video Game Nerd). So the time was ripe, to finally make the big feature film. Kevin and I reunited, along with high school friend Sean Keegan, as producer.
It was a chance to work with old friends again, but it was also a chance to fully celebrate the character and brand that I had so successfully reached audience with. The film was 100% funded by fans, which showed true generosity, that others wanted to see me live my dream. It is the culmination of all my efforts.
We borrowed elements from many genres like action/ adventure / science fiction / horror. We have robots, giant monsters, aliens… all the things we love. All we wanted to do was make an entertaining film.
The story was very ambitious to pull off on the screen. We wrote something that would be better tailored for a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster, except it’s a low budget independent film. We hope the ambition and determination shine through. This film is not a Hollywood production. It is a do-it-yourself kind of project, made by regular people. I hope that young filmmakers are inspired to pursue their own dreams. I hope our film paves the way for more people to have the ability to do what we did. To me, filmmaking is art. Not business.
That said, I don’t want to make it seem like it was all magical and great. It was a stressful ordeal, which we spent several years of our lives on. I’ve made many personal sacrifices. Like the Nerd character, I was on an adventure with many trials and tribulations, which I took my wife along with, who has been very hard-working behind the scenes. I went into the whole thing with simple intentions, but didn’t know what I was getting myself into. None of this can be explained in anything less than book-form.
With the final result, I am very happy about what we managed to accomplish. Dreams can turn into nightmares, but in the end, they become dreams again.
I’d like to formally apologize for breaking my father’s camcorder so many times as a teen and budding filmmaker. In those free-wheeling and formative years my two closest creative partners were James Rolfe and Sean Keegan. Today I’m pleased to report that little has changed- my collaborative cohorts are the same, and my father’s camcorder is still broken.
In particular James and I continued to make films together through college and in ’04 were now disoriented graduates. I remember sitting with him at some artsy, flop house barbecue in South Philadelphia. I had just made a music video that had aired on VH1 and James (despondent with his night gig at the liquor store) was wondering if this could be a viable way to make art for a living. All I knew is that I had lost money on every music video I made at the time. That summer had the feeling of trying to climb a staircase in the dark, fumbling for the feel of each new step. “You can’t make a living off of short films”, I told him with conviction. Of course youtube didn’t even exist yet.
I eventually made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles to unite once again with my other creative partner Sean (and soon to be producer for the film). A late night phone call with James in ‘06 had me learning about the mythic Atari Landfill and how he wanted to incorporate this into one of his Cinemassacre videos- now starting to catch fire. I thought a mystery like that deserved to be a feature film and we began to write it. Thus began the process of Skype writing sessions and bi-coastal flights between the two of us. I started creative producing for Reality Television as a way to fund these trips and time off to write. Twelve-hour days on tv sets and then coming home exhausted to work on the film was the norm then for several years. Drafts later, themes started to emerge on the page that have always been important to me:
The movie’s villain, Dark Onward, is the xenophobic head boss of Area 51. And so the idea of xenophobia becomes prominent. His phobias have him erecting fences and pointing missiles at aliens, nerds, and anything foreign to him. His nationalism has made him blind to the fact that we are all one global community, spiritually akin not different. Onward’s failure to recognize this oneness leads him to self-destruct piece by piece. We’ve all been stuffed in the figurative locker and alienated by such bullies and we’ve all seen them come to a similar end. Nowadays much of the Internet has become a soothing anecdote for the world’s rampant divisiveness- a powerful way to connect. I hope that this film expands this international AVGN family as a place where you can come as you are and embrace your inner nerd.
I’d like to thank James and Sean for their loyalty and friendship throughout the years. I see our little film as the fictitious, fantastic, and magical take on the Atari Landfill legend and also our thank you to the fans. This is the story that gamers yearned for so much that they willed it into existence with a crowd source campaign. This is the film that the fans wanted so much that they endured long nights in the desert to act in as extras. This same fan support gave us over 80 visual effects artists and opened so many doors for us along the way. The family atmosphere they brought with them was a salve to our most arduous days and a way to reunite three old friends once again. I hope that when you watch it you feel at least some of that magic.