I have a handful of stories that begin with “I was there when that started”, but perhaps none which will have such a long legacy as this one. On a sunny day in Salamanca I met with Craig M. Wood to discuss the potential for future creative projects which would be both fun and challenging to make, which could be potentially profitable to allow us to continue creating, and by extension would allow us to create more and offer others the opportunity to collaborate with us. We spoke for a few hours about numerous topics like web distribution and trends and functionally how media worked in our current era, but nothing was really cemented as a project we could dive in to. There were just ideas and enthusiasm.
But as the meeting was drawing to a close Craig mentioned a song he wrote inspired by a game of D&D he had recently been involved in. I was enthusiastic. It felt like something that covered a lot of bases as a product that could have geek appeal as well as human drama and fantasy action. Why not make a web series? Something short and simple?
Short and simple.
From the outset we wanted to make something people would *want* to watch, whether they were interested in Dungeons and Dragons or not. We didn’t want to necessarily alienate any of the potential audience. In our meetings we discussed how to present the in-game world a lot, and whether we’d give everyone cardboard armour and hammy extras, or puppet dragons and live action backdrops, or green screen with animations or stills or stop motion.
Meetings would go on for hours discussing everything from finance and timeframes to costumes and concepts. The number of episodes started much smaller but grew as we decided it would be pretty straightforward to produce (I will talk about how wrong we were another time…) Auditions were held and we got some really terrific talent through the door which started persuading us to consider further changes and possible additional characters to take advantage of the pool of talent. The show remained quite fluid.
Shooting the pilot was the first major challenge the production faced and one we felt was critically important. Our plan to launch the campaign for crowd funding hinged on us not just having a nice video where we discussed the project we wanted to make, but having something that really gave the audience a taste of what the production would be like. Armed with little more than lunch money and some borrowed equipment, we toiled away to realise the look and feel of The GM, working only with concepts of things we wanted to happen and a steely determination to make the thing we wanted to watch in the hopes others would want to watch it as well.
Perhaps somewhat abstractly, the core creative team worked fairly separately, with Craig writing the screenplays unchecked, and myself storyboarding the visual look of the series. There were some clashes of thinking (of course) when these came together, but by and large the process of combining Craig’s writing and vision with my own was very smooth. With Michelle acting as Producer I felt it gave Craig and me a great deal of freedom to pursue to creative and technical aspects of our respective crafts without having to spend too much time buried in paperwork and budgets and schedules.
Part of the creative process is quite technical I think, in almost any medium. For this type of video production, the production and post production workflows needed to be established and tested before production could begin, which I will cover in a future article about the technical aspects of production and post production. I do enjoy the juxtaposition that is present in any deployment of technology with art, because the two must work in synch to create, much like a painter must select his brush and understand layering, so too must we treat modern media technology with the same deftness of touch and understanding.
The interesting thing is that the creative process is seemingly endless on a production like this. We are well into post production on the series (with about eight weeks of full time production put in so far) and still creative decisions are made regarding the show. Whether it is cutting lines, adapting edits to alter mood or delivery, colouring and mixing or even crafting trailers there is still a large amount of creativity in the series, though it is certainly much less taxing than the pre production period. This offers us the chance now to begin discussing potential future projects which we can slowly invest more time and energy in to as The GM winds up. This is also where we are finally getting to apply the lessons we have learned so far doing The GM to future projects, hopefully ensuring that The GM is not only a great series for our investors to enjoy, but that it will have been a great learning experience for all of us to make subsequent productions even better still.
- Justin (Co-director/Director of Photography)