Interview with Film Festival Winner for Best Comedy – Brian Shapiro!

CoH Warcry Interview
Film Festival Winner for Best Comedy
Brian Shapiro!

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

I’ve played a lot of MMO’s: EQ, Asheron’s Call, Ultima Online, Anarchy Online, Earth and Beyond, SWG, Final Fantasy XI, and even Phantasy Star Online on the DC, GC, and X-Box. MMO’s are my game of choice. I consider myself a die hard gamer. In addition to the PC, I have all the consoles and enjoy a variety of games from fighters to RPG’s to strategy games. I also enjoy reading many of the game publications and websites.

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

I have never really read a lot of comics. I prefer movies of superheroes.

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

I can’t describe how exciting it was to win. I love the DVD camcorder I received, but I must say the most exciting prize was having my film included on the Special Edition DVD. I’ve always done film making as a hobby, so to see my film published is a real thrill.

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

It has been very positive. Players will often send tells while I’m online congratulating me or telling me how much they enjoyed the film.

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

I’ve been interested in film making ever since I saw STAR WARS when it came out in 1977. I was 10 years old, and not only did I enjoy the film, I began to wonder how they made such a thing. I took my Dad’s Super 8mm film camera and started making movies with friends and family. I also did a lot of clay animated films. As I got older, I continued to read and learn as much as possible even though I pursued a career in dentistry. Eventually I switched to video, and then started using computers to enhance my films.

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

I love science fiction, horror, and fantasy. As a result, all my films fall into one of these categories. I also like to try different story telling formats like live action and animation.

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

I entered the contest because I always wanted to try a Superhero movie. I also thought it would be great to have a film appear on the Special Edition DVD. This motivation remained unchanged.

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

(See Below)

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

(See Below)

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

It’s easier to answer the last three questions in one answer. Making “Sometimes the Hero” was a lot of work. The contest gave us about 3 weeks to make our entries, and I was on vacation during the first week. It was on vacation that I thought up the idea for my film. When I came back I had to film the live action scenes during lunch in my dental office. I didn’t have anyone else help me film them, so all the scenes of me were filmed by me using a tripod and remote control to position and operate the camera. The patient was played by my father, also a dentist. He was very busy the week I filmed the movie and there wasn’t a lot of time to film his scenes. It then took another week and many late nights to create the in-game sequences and special effects. My poor character, Director, went into big time xp debt fighting Dr. Vazhilok!

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently?

Actually, this is one the few films that came out exactly as I envisioned it. If I had to be picky, though, I’m not good with lighting. I wish that could have been better. Personally, I wish I had more hair as well!

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

I loved the experience and hope to make more films!

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?

I think it’s a great art form, and this was my first endeavor in it. I think it has great potential, especially if the tools become easier and more intuitive.

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

There’s a lot of potential in MMO’s to craft your own story and adventures. As the technology advances, the worlds will become increasingly more realistic, perhaps including more interaction with the environments. Also, hopefully communication with other players will shift more to voice and less to type chat.

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?

I think games are the future of storytelling. There’s so much more you can do in a game than you can in film. That’s why we see so many “Director’s Cut” DVD’s. Because of all the commercial constraints of movies, filmmakers can’t always make the film they want to make. They have to keep things marketable. With games, there is more freedom to take things in whatever direction you want or even in multiple directions! That’s the great thing about interactivity. Also, there’s no constraint to get the story told in 2 hrs like in the movies. Games can be 10 to 100 hours long, and in the case of MMO’s, indefinite in length.

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

Who would we all rather be, Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker? Nothing’s more fun than playing the villain!

Q: How about villain-related films?

For sure!

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’m pretty happy with the tools as they are. I can’t think of anything specific I’d like to change.

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


Q: What you would say to an aspiring director?

Read as much as you can, and see as many movies as you can. You can learn a lot that way. Whether you have a lot of money to spend or not, you can make anything with creativity.

Q: The web series Red versus Blue?

Not familiar with it.

Q: City of Villains expansion?

Can’t wait for it!

Q: City of Heroes five years from now?

I see it going strong. The developers have not only created a great game, but they have encouraged the community to get involved with film, writing, and costume contests. It gives us all the chance to be Superheroes, and a little Stan Lee at the same time!

Q: City of Heroes 2?

I think that’s a given, but lets enjoy City of Villains first!

Q: Any last comments?

I just want to thank NCSoft and Cryptic for a great game and for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks as well for all the great feedback I’ve received from all the citizens of Paragon City!

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