Interview with Film Festival Winner for Best Action – Mike D’Anna!


CoH Warcry Interview
Film Festival Winner for Best Action
Mike D’Anna!

Q: What is your background with gaming and MMOGs? How would you describe yourself as a gamer?

I’ve been videogaming as long as there have been videogames, and in my younger days did a fair amount of tabletop RPG’ing. I started playing MMORPG’s during the last glory days of UO, grinded my way through EQ for a couple of years before the dreaded powergamers drove me out & drifted through a few more before winding up happily in City of Heroes, which suits my style better than any MMORPG so far.

Q: What about comic books? Were you comic book fans before playing City of Heroes?

Comics literally taught me how to read. One of my earliest memories was sitting on a bench with my mom at the corner drugstore, reading the issue of Amazing Spider-Man in which the Jackal first cloned Gwen Stacy. Lifelong Marvel fan, but I’ve found myself gravitating DC-ward in my advanced age…

Q: How do you feel about winning the festival? And about being included on the special DVD edition of City of Heroes?

I was thrilled to win the festival, but I was just happy that I finally got to make a superhero movie…even if it was on a slightly smaller scale.

Q: How has the City of Heroes community reacted to you since winning the festival?

I’ve had some very nice comments from people in the community, but I think the star of the movie, Captain Meteor, has gotten more requests for autographs. He’s more camera-friendly, anyway.

Q: So what attracted you to City of Heroes in the first place? And what made you stay?

The chance to be a superhero without risk of serious bodily injury brought me here. The fact that its a great game has kept me around.

Q: Before the film festival, did you have any interest on filmmaking and machinima?

I’ve been an amateur filmmaker since I was about 10 and a professional one since my early 20’s. This was my first attempt at machinima, a word I had to look up the meaning of for this question, incidentally.

Q: What were some of the things that helped to inspired your filmmaking?

I remember going to see the Dino De Laurentis version of FLASH GORDON in 1980 and sitting in the theatre thinking “I wanna do THIS when I grow up!”. If anyone out there has the remake rights, give me a call.

Q: Why did you enter the contest in the first place? Did that motivation change once you realized what you were getting into?

I actually hesitated entering because I knew if I did that all my play time would turn into work time for a while, and that I’d immidiately enter my director-mode and potentially annoy all the members of my supergroup whose help I would need. But, I did it anyway & they eventually forgave me…

Q: Creating your films must have been a daunting task. Can you tell us a little about the process you went through?

Actually, thanks to the design of COH, it was easier than making a live-action film. Once I saw that the game engine would allow me to treat the gameworld as my virtual set, I just went throught the same process I do in the real world: picked a character for my cameraman, wrote the script, cast the parts, scouted locations, set up the shoots, barked orders and shot the film like I would any other.

Q: How long did the process take from start to finish?

About three weeks, much of which was just organizing shots & reshooting ones that didn’t work. Once all the footage was compiled, editing & post-production didn’t take more than a few days.

Q: While making your film, did any unexpected complications and solutions come up? How did you handle those?

I learned that a flying hero in “hover” mode makes a great steadicam rig, and that, even in a video game, people will do anything to be in a movie.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently?

One thing that I did not know of at the time that I would have utilized more of had I known was demo editing; the only demo editing I did was to remove playernames & damage dispays. I have since seen some of the amazing shots people have created from scratch with demo editing, but all the shots in our movie were filmed “live”.

Q: What did you think of the experience? Would you do it again? Can we look forward to future films from you?

I had a great time making the film, and definitely plan to do another one someday. The next one will probably show a bit more personal style, since we won’t have to stay within the parameters of the contest.

Q: Machinima (i.e. Film making in a virtual environment) has become increasing popular and complex in the recent years. What do you think of machinima and the future for it?

This being my first attempt, I was amazed at the potential for this type of filmmaking. If one knows how to harness it, they literally have the biggest set, cast, and costume department in the world at their fingertips.

Q: MMOGs and games in general have also become increasing ambitious. What do you see in the future for them?

Hopefully some more unique takes on different genres; we’ve seen medieval fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes…I’d love to see a western-themed game or a horror-based one. I’d be there day one.

Q: We’ve also seen a debate starting to develop around the question “Are video games an art form? Can they tell a story and communicate ideas?”. What do you think? Do you see games-as-a-story-medium becoming a mainstream idea?

Absolutely. Games offer an opportunity for an evolving, ever-changing immersive story in a way that no other medium, such as movies or books, can ever deliver. We haven’t seen it yet, but I fully believe a day will come when the game designer has the opportunity to be on a level artistic plane with the writer, composer, artist, or director.

Q: City of Villains is just around the corner. What do you think about the expansion?

I’m more interested in playing a hero myself, but if the game keeps the same spirit that COH has & does not turn into a refuge for all the uber-l33t PvP’ers as some fear, it could certainly be interesting.

Q: How about villain-related films?

Again, the dynamic of COV could provide for an interesting type of film, but villain films could probably be made just as easily right now, just by using a little creativity. Every film HAS to have a strong villain, after all…

Q: The film and demo making tools for City of Heroes that are available are fairly basic. Would you want to see more indepth film and demo tools supported for City of Heroes? What kind of features would you want?

I’d like to see a demo toolset comparable to the one in Neverwinter Nights, for example. There’s only so much command-line-editing I’m willing to learn, so a graphical editor would be a wonderful tool. A free-floating camera option in the game would also be nice. And a virtual bullhorn.

Q: Okay, now for some quick one-line Q&A. If you could have any super-power, what would you pick?

Ever since I saw Zapped, I’ve been a sucker for telekenisis.

Q: What you would say to an aspiring director?

Grab a camera & shoot, anything, anywhere…as often as you can.

Q: The web series Red versus Blue?

Never seen it. Should I?

Q: City of Villains expansion?

We’ll see.

Q: City of Heroes five years from now?

I think it will still be around. A good game is a good game.

Q: City of Heroes 2?

2 words: wall-crawling

Q: Any last comments?

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Liberty League movie, coming soon to a PC near you!

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