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Swordplay: An Interview with Eric Power

By Rappar


Eric Power talked to us about a documentary Swordplay - he made on a Live Action Role Playing Game (LARP) called Amtgard. You can read more about Amtgard here and view the one-minute trailer for Swordplay here. The film itself will be shown at conventions across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

PTGPTB: Hi Eric! Let's start, with who are you and what you do in life?

My name is Eric Power. I am 23 years old. I do not work as a programmer, although I learned to program in school. I am a self taught filmmaker. I started working in the field of animation about seven years ago and have created numerous animated shorts. I decided to move on to larger projects and so came up with the idea of a documentary. I've been a gamer for a long time, but only in the area of video games. In fact, my original goal for college was to become a computer programmer in order to make games.

PTGPTB: How did you come up with the idea to film Amtgard? What did you intend to do with a documentary?

I used to live in El Paso Texas where Amtgard first originated. One of my good friends was a member of the game and told me numerous stories about his personal experiences at some of the larger events : what the event was like, what kind of battle games they played, and so on.

I was captivated by his tales and decided I wanted to know more. Many years later I came across a group playing in Austin Texas where I currently live. I remembered all the stories and decided it would be really fun to bring it to life on film.

My intention with the film was to show the world of Amtgard from the perspective of a new member (myself). I decided to take a more personal approach to the game and join along with my partner Desiree Robinson. We both joined and made a huge effort to find out everything we could about the game including the magic system, combat, and governing structure.

I didn't want to depict Amtgard in any final way, instead I wanted to show my perspective as well as the interviewees perspectives on what the game means to them. Also, I intended to enlighten the audience with how the game is played, the ways you can play, and a glimpse into the culture.

PTGPTB: What did you use to make this film? It is certainly more than what I could do with my webcam ;-)

As the film was completed on a small scale budget, in the most independent sense of the word independent, the materials I used were fairly basic. I traveled around with a Canon Xl1s camcorder and made it work from there. Post production was done in Avid and animation was done using my still cameras and computer programs. In terms of a budget, there was none (all out of my pocket) so I made do with what I had and in my opinion made an entertaining film out of it all.

The entire process was a huge learning experience for me. I had only worked on short films previous to this and there were many issues and problems I faced throughout the production. It was like a giant Roller Coaster Ride, with lots of ups and down and twists.

In my opinion though, if you want to learn how to make movies the best way is to go out there and make one. Now I have the knowledge to apply towards my current projects and improve. It's all about self improvement.

PTGPTB: What do you tell in the documentary? Did you interview gamers ? How did they react on the spot?

I attempted to include as many aspects of the game as possible in terms of battle scenarios, rules of the game, and so on, in order to portray a picture of what people can expect to see at any given Amtgard event. Of course, the culture is so rich and constantly evolving so there is always something new going on.

I was extremely pleased with the gamers' reactions while I was filming. Most everyone was very accommodating and eager to teach me more about the game. I also got a ton of practice in terms of combat and was even taught how to make armor and chain mail!

One of the coolest things about joining the game was how much art I realized goes in to the making of the various costumes, weapons, and armor. I feel playing Amtgard encourages the creative side of people and was often very impressed with the artistic abilities of the various people I met.

I certainly talked about people's motivations for playing the game, and gave a good sense of the time and effort which goes in to creating a persona and individual style.

PTGPTB: But your trailer shows gamers with T-shirts, jeans, sport shoes, caps and ranger hats? Of what you saw, how many gamers are serious about their costumes? There's a guy with a black T-shirt bearing a big Nike logo!!! :-o

There are always some people who will not be wearing the attire the game promotes. Some of these people may be new members who have not yet made the proper garb, others may just not have any. From what I saw, I would say a large percentage have taken the time to work on their outfits. Amtgard strives to promote the atmosphere where proper attire will be worn, for instance, if you do not have the correct clothes on in a battle game you may have to play as a peasant severely limiting your abilities. For example, you can't cast magic as a peasant, and no points are added on for armor.

PTGPTB: Where are the plots and scenarios? On Amtgardinc I downloaded the rulebook - which by the way looked like 1st Edition D&D - and there was nothing about background, stories, intrigues or plots. Much unlike Vampire LARP could be, for example. Is there anything else in Amtgard than battles? :-)

I'm glad you took the time to check out the rulebook. There is certainly a lot to Amtgard that may not be apparent simply by viewing a few snippets of footage and reading the rulebook. I am not familiar with other LARPS so I am in no position to compare.

PTGPTB: Your trailer doesn't show other interviewees than the one whose single interesting sentence is "it's OK to be creasy" :-) Are there more interesting interviews? Don't I look too aggressive with this last question ?I hope this is not too aggressive :;-)

Yes, there are numerous interviews in the film. The woman in the trailer is just one of many. The trailer is a teaser which is why it doesn't really focus on any one thing in particular. The purpose of the trailer is merely to announce the film as well as give some idea of what the subject matter will consist of.

That's not a very aggressive question. I've had a lot of people wondering what the trailer was all about. I'm glad I get those kinds of responses since the whole idea is to raise questions that will pique the interest of people who may want to see the whole film.

PTGPTB: What were the reactions of audiences unfamiliar with RPGs? Games reports are usually boring to people who didn't participate; how did you avoid that?

From the audiences I've shown to so far, the reaction has been excellent!

People unfamiliar with the game were very interested and impressed by many aspects of the world of Amtgard. A few people commented on how they didn't realize the amount of intricacies involved in the game. Some examples include the multiple levels of government within Amtgard and the sometimes complicated rules of combat and character classes. The fast pace of the film and exciting combat helps engage the audience as well as the amount of interesting people I have interviewed.

I tried to keep the film interesting for people in it as well as out of it. The fast pace of the film and exciting combat helps engage the audience as well as the amount of interesting people I have interviewed. I wanted to make it a learning experience as well as a fun film.

PTGPTB: What do the animations mean? For example the one with the silhouette on the violin?

The animations are used for a wide variety of purposes such as explaining the rules of the game, character classes, and sometimes merely for fun. The silhouette with the violin was used in a segment portraying a zombie battle.

The incorporation of animation helps spice things up in the film and give a fictional element to some parts that is not typical of a documentary - doing things not expected of a documentary. I wanted to give the sense that you don't know what is coming and surprises are waiting around every corner.

Each event I went to, I tried to focus on different aspects of the game as well as play on the format of documentary. In many ways, the film is experimental, as I hoped to dance around the line between reality and fiction through the use of animation, narration, and the live footage.

Basically, I wanted to keep the film fun rather than cut and dry.

PTGPTB: Thank you Eric! We wish success to your work and to other documentaries about our hobbies!

For a list of conventions the film will be showing at, you can check out Eric's website. You might also like to checkout his other interview at Gaming Report.

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