TORONTO – The Canadian makers of “Indie Game,” a documentary about independent video game designers, say they’re thrilled to have sold the concept to HBO and Scott Rudin, the producer behind mega films like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Moneyball,” “The Social Network” and “There Will Be Blood.”
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah over the weekend and the rights to adapt the idea for TV were quickly snapped up. Despite initial reports to the contrary, HBO isn’t looking to turn it into some kind of comedy.
“Our film is a thoughtful, mature look at video games and that’s what Scott Rudin’s team is attracted to in terms of the premise of the film — so it will definitely not be a sitcom,” said Lisanne Pajot, who made the film with fellow Winnipeg native James Swirsky.
“Indie Game” and two other Canadian titles are among the 12 films in the running for the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance.
Yung Chang’s “China Heavyweight,” chronicling the rise of boxing in China, and Jennifer Baichwal’s “Payback,” based on Margaret Atwood’s bestselling book “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth,” are also competing.
“Indie Game” follows the struggles of emerging video game makers and the fight to get noticed.
“It blew us away that no one was talking about video game design at all — at least not in a documentary way — because video games are huge, they’re larger than films (in revenue terms) and inform our culture in a very, very strong way,” said Swirsky.
The documentary focuses on the small independent productions that are typically crafted as labours of love by just one or two coders, unlike the big mainstream games that have huge corporate budgets behind them.
“They pour everything they have into these games and it ends up … a reflection of themselves. When you play their games and you hear their stories you can feel the designers through their games and that was actually the most compelling thing (in the movie),” said Swirsky.
For Chang, who is based in Montreal, “China Heavyweight” provided another opportunity to revisit his parents’ homeland, an experience he cherished while shooting the Genie Award-winning “Up the Yangtze.”
“I’ve always been exposed to that cultural side of things in terms of language and other parts of being Chinese but I think there was a sort of need and a yearning to go back to China to build a strong connection to my roots,” Chang said.
He was fascinated to learn how boxing is growing in China as a means for young people to seek a better life outside their small towns, where toiling over farm fields for little pay would be their only future.
“I found it interesting (how kids were learning) a sport like boxing — which is considered very American and was banned in China up until 1987 … because it was considered too capitalist, too western, too violent,” he said.
“It was very apparent that there was something (happening) … and that there was an interest from around the world in terms of looking at China as the next potential bastion of boxing champions for the world.”
The Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 29.