Monday, February 9, 2009


On Saturday, February 7, our first big filming opportunity arrived in the form of Unity Games XV. Close to 400 (maybe OVER 400) people attended, and it was a blur, a blast, and amazingly fun!

The saga for me started the night before. Mind racing, not sleeping, one of those deals. I think I got maybe 4 hours tops, when at last the alarm clock went off.

The three of us (me, my husband, Adam, and his fellow War of the Ring addict friend, Chris) got ready, packed all the gear (which consisted of a rather heavy bag of lights, tripods, cameras, and contingency equipment) into the car, and, with Dunkin coffee in hand, were off to Woburn. OBVIOUSLY you can't go on a film shoot without a coffee.

As we pulled into the parking lot around 9:30 AM, I immediately kicked myself for not having the camera in hand and ready to shoot, as a constant trickle of people carrying huge crates of board games to the entrance met our gaze. That is without question establishing footage I will need to shoot at the next Unity. I also forgot my still camera, which wasn't essential, but would have been nice.

We went into the hotel and up to the registration desk. Shortly after, my camera man (aka my brother, John, with a lot more film schooling and experience than me) arrived. Adam and Chris went off to set up...War of the Ring, and John and I scouted the site for good interview locations and such. We met Dave, the owner of the event, and staked out a home base amongst the wall-to-wall stacks of games people had brought to play.

We took some footage of the convention room in general, just the overall crowd and ambiance, and tried to find and introduce ourselves to the number of people I'd corresponded with before this event with the intention of interviewing. We found some of those, and then picked our a likely teaching table where 2 games of Dominion were going on. We wired the instructor for sound, and then began filming the session.

We got about half an hour of that on both cameras. Then we went back to home base, where a couple tables of a game called Crokinole were set up. Hadn't seen that one before, and it looked pretty neat, a large round wooden playing surface where wooden tokens were being slung around like shuffleboard, so we filmed a session of that.

More random shots of games and atmosphere, and before we knew it, it was lunchtime! We ate, and then shifted focus to the 1-on-1 interviews we had as a goal for the day. The original location we'd scouted for interviews near the registration area was now far too active to use, so we found a really beautiful little waiting room near the entrance of the hotel, with a fireplace even, and more importantly, very quiet.

We did our first interview down there, then relocated to the show floor to interview Dave about the event. Because he started these events, we wanted the loud ambient sound and crowd activity all around him for his interview.

We got that, missed a couple of people we were trying to tag between gaming events, and then got a great interview with a whole family of gamers. One aspect I definitely want to include in the film is how great board games are for connecting with your kids, as a family activity. Good stuff.

We went back down to our "quiet" interview room, and, noticing that we only had a couple hours left, started beating the bushes to get people down there for their interviews. We got 3 more, including Derk, the co-creator of Board Game Geek, and Greg, a self-publishing designer of games. Really REALLY good stuff.

While I personally think board gaming is a fabulously photogenic hobby that obviously deserves a documentary, things aren't that simple. You ideally need a storyline to make the film interesting. We'd gone to Unity with the goal of just getting our feet wet, meeting people, getting general interviews (our questions list was pretty generic), sort of starting the conversation about board gaming, and seeing where it led. I'm not positive just yet, but I think I've hit on what I want that theme to be.

Suddenly the clock struck 6, and it was time to go. I hated to leave with so much yet to do, but like I said, 16 hours probably would have had me feeling the same way. I've quickly learned that filming expands to occupy whatever time you have available. All in all, it was a phenomenal kick-off for the project, I met dozens of really great people (the entire room was filled with happy friendly gamers) and I can't wait for the next opportunity.

Now, to start going through all that footage and see what we've got...

You can see pictures from the event here.


  1. I'm hardly a documentary expert, but be careful choosing a storyline. You obviously have to choose what to film, what people to follow, etc., but the actual storyline usually doesn't emerge until very late in the project, once you see all the great stuff you've recorded.

  2. You are absolutely correct about that. I guess it would be more accurate to say I've landed on a theme I like, vs. a straight storyline, but even so, I'm quite open to changing themes if it feels like it's not working out later on.