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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 12.12.17] Sweden horror documentary vampires werewolves

It has been a really great year for movies but one of the highlights of my film watching this year was first discovering and then having the opportunity to see World of Darkness (review), a documentary which delves head first and deep into White Wolf, "Vampire: The Masquerade" and the "World of Darkness."

As a teenage obsession of mine, I was anxious to see how this tidbit of pop culture affected others and the implications of it on the wider culture and World of Darkness did not disappoint, bringing together experts, players and the creators themselves to talk about the phenomenon in a documentary that features something for hardcore fans and newbies alike.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with the film's writer and producer Kevin Lee who took some time to speak with me from Sweden. In our nearly thirty minute conversation, we talk about everything from his interest in games to how he managed to get Steve and Stewart Wieck and Mark Rein-Hagen together. Sort of.

Below is an abridged transcript of our conversation but be sure to listen to the full interview for all of the highlights.

This isn't the first documentary on gaming that you've made. Last year you made Gaming the Real World. How did you get into making documentaries about gaming?

If you think about gaming as more than just a form of entertainment but as a phenomenon of how it has developed from a geeky thing to something like what we looked at in the first documentary, to helping plan and make cities. I'm not a gamer at all but the interest comes as more of the social impact of gaming and how we spend our time and how we use gaming as a form of escapism.

Paradox Interactive which is a Swedish gaming company, was involved in the first documentary, and then they bought White Wolf and I thought "What's that?" I looked into it and the idea to figure out what this [World of Darkness] was, this phenomenon. The more I looked at it, the deeper I realized that it was something that had touched fans, entertainment and been a big influence on pop culture.

In preparation for doing the documentary, how much research and planning went into trying to shape what the documentary would say or did that emerge naturally from your interviews and the research that you did?

I did a lot of prep work. First of all I needed access to the founders and to the fanbase and to find out more about whether this was an interesting story, what kind of story would it be; there were many other ways it could have gone.

There's one aspect with Mark Rein-Hagen. He's a very odd character but he's also what I'd call a tragic genius. The first idea I had with him is that we'd make this film about people who are a little bit odd and who created a place where they felt they were at the centre. It was more about that kind of community. As we got more into it, we discussed it as a team and came to think that this story is more about the effect that this little band of people had on millions of fans around the world and also the entertainment industry because I wanted to get that across as well.

There's 25 years of history here that I had to condense down into a feature length. As with any documentary, you have to make decisions on how you tell the story. I really wanted this to be for a broader audience than just the fans.

How long was the research period? Lining up interviews, travelling and trying to piece together all of this information before even going to editing; how long was that process?

We edited for about 12 weeks and we had the first screening in Berlin for an internal White Wolf audience in May of this year. I'd say we started with the edit in mid-February and the whole process, from starting to write the synopsis and the story outline and then filming, was about a year.

We were lucky because White Wolf had organized an anniversary for "Vampire: The Masquerade" in New Orleans so we jumped on that. They had invited some people and as part of my production budget, we tried to get the other people. We had to sell the idea to Mark, for example. He didn't want to go.

I spent quite a bit of time with Mark, interviewing him.

One of the things I wanted to do with this documentary too was to have enough material to do a documentary just about Mark because he lives in Georgia, in the old Soviet Union. My idea at first was to go there and interview him there and dig deep into this guy and learn more about him. I have loads of material left over. At the moment I'm a bit World of Darkness-ed out but I'm saving that until next year. Maybe then I can sit down and do a mini documentary on Mark and see what comes out of it.

He's a fascinating guy.

And I have to say the Wieck brothers are such nice people, I could spend days with them talking through stuff.

I'm curious: what was the most interesting or surprising thing that you discovered while making the documentary?

For me, because I didn't know anything about it, was the influence it had on Hollywood and the vampire genre. That was the most interesting thing. The more I did the research and the more I watched Blade and "True Blood" and the more I read, I understood what the people at White Wolf were saying.

There's a bit of animosity at White Wolf because they've never been recognized [for their influence]. There was the court case with Underworld which they settled out of court and got some money. Then the Aaron Spelling mishap you could call it, with "Kindred" that came out and not really making the show as it should be.

That was the most surprising thing; that it had all of these influences.

That's also the great thing of being a filmmaker because you go and find this world that you knew nothing about and you realize that it's influencing and affecting millions of people's lives. It's affecting industries and the way art is done and books are written and the vampire myth. That's what I found most fascinating: the affect it had on how we view monster culture today. We take it for granted that werewolves and vampires are even in the same world - it wasn't always that way.

Was it difficult to get funding to make World of Darkness?

We funded it ourselves because it's kind of narrow. Most people don't know about it unless you've played it. I had a hard time convincing the other partners in the company that this is something we should do but we bit the bullet and we did it.

I have to say that it was surprising when I met people outside of this film doing other things and telling them what I was working on at the moment and they would know about the game.

What's next for you?

We're looking at a sequel to Gaming in the Real World called Gaming in the Real Life about how games are used in other areas apart from city planning and urbanization.

My thing is how are things affecting people. I'm really interested in people.

Recommended Release: Underworld

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