Neill Milton writes for Bleeding Cool.
This documentary film takes us into the world of independent video game development, and allows us to share the time chasing up crucial deadlines in the process of creating a video game either, solo (Phil Fish with FEZ and Jonathan Blow with Braid), or as a pair (designer Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes with Super Meat Boy).
These chaps aren't part of a large multinational game development company who have vast resources and thousands of developers on one game. They are creating unique pieces of interactive entertainment whose influences come from deep within themselves.
Unencumbered by a corporate directive to appeal to a certain demographic, or produce to a set design criteria, the three main subjects are free to create whatever the hell they want, but this freedom comes at a massive cost, both financially & personally as we see through the course of the film as the filmmakers provide us with a very up close perspective of the process of creating and releasing an independently developed video game.
Indie Game: The Movie is a superbly produced film, allowing the subjects to tell their own stories with hardly any noticeable prompting or audible questioning from the filmmakers themselves.
Each subject's location is presented simply with some beautiful external location establishing shots that made me feel I was right there with them. Fantastic editing built the tension as deadlines approached. This worked to such an extent that I had to pause the film after about an hour to take a breather.
And I WANTED them to succeed. I got emotionally involved with what was going on in the development of their games, but also in their lives, and the lives of those around them.
Indie Game will be an invaluable document in the future when we look back at the evolution of independently produced & distributed entertainment & art as we move away from traditional distribution of not only games, but film, TV & music. The film itself was partly funded by two Kickstarter appeals, as well as the personal investment of the filmmakers themselves.
Care and respect for the subjects shines through, and I experienced a certain sadness when it finished as I wanted to see more of this world we'd been allowed into. Luckily, as well as the current physical and digital distribution, they are also working on a special edition which will feature much more footage & interviews for future release. Can't wait!
This is a film about about drive, ambition, single-mindedness, and total commitment to reaching a sometimes seemingly impossible goal. And it's totally inspiring.
As with all the best documentaries, don't be put off by the subject if it doesn't initially seem to be your bag, because as much as anything else, it's about the people on screen and how the way the life they have chosen affects them, and those around them.
Indie Game is available now, both to download and stream.
Previously: the film's superb trailer.