Monday, August 27, 2012

Incorporating LARP Into Your Next Film Project

This post is addressed to all those aspiring filmmakers or documentarians who have recently heard about LARP and think it would make a fine subject for their next project.


Now, you've just discovered that there's a hobby which involves dressing up in unusual costumes and telling stories to each other. And you think this would make a fascinating subject for your next project.

I have to say, I agree! LARP is amazingly fascinating! It's a story within a story within a story, and I can completely understand why you'd want to do a film or documentary or reality show based around us. And perhaps this is just an artifact of living in Los Angeles... but for the game I Staff for, we're getting requests from the media at the rate of about one a month. People who want to film us or interview us. And, after one very bad experience, we're quite camera-shy.

So what follows is a list of what to do, and what not to do, if you want to film a LARP or incorporate LARP into your film project. 

The first thing you must realize is that LARP is not only about the game. We're also about the community. Not only that, but we are a very geeky community - meaning, we love those who share our passion, but tend to get clannish around those we think are just tourists. Please keep in mind that many adult geeks suffered ostracism or bullying when we were younger, often for loving what we love. So if your project intends to make fun of LARPers, or to treat us like a zoo exhibit (an exotic species for 'normal' people to gawk at)... back to the drawing board with you!

I really can't emphasize community enough. I've seen more than one potential filmmaker or academician attempt to understand LARP and fail, because they could not understand this one point. Community. Players will stay with a game they're not fond of, because they love their community. And players will abandon a game they love if the community is horrid. 

So if you want to convince us of your sincerity, become a member of our community. Attend a game, attend more than one game. Don't film, don't even try to film, just participate. Get into costume, create a character and swing some foam or throw some chops. Don't know what that last sentence means? Learn! And don't leave the game when it's over - if there's an after-game gathering, attend! Get to know LARPers in and out of character. You'll get some great insight into why we love this hobby, you'll understand our community, and you'll find that some LARPers will be more willing to help you once you've demonstrated a respect for our often-maligned hobby.

Secondly, realize that we're here for the game. We love performing, but that doesn't mean we want to perform for your camera. The performances we give for each other, at every game, without being filmed, are more than enough for most of us. Having a camera crew show up is intrusive, and it breaks our sense of immersion. We don't really care about lighting or framing a shot or re-doing a scene to make it more photogenic. Trying to get that out of us will just cause irritation all around. Consider setting up a special film shoot, not at an actual game, but involving LARPers in costume and in character.

Thirdly, realize that LARP doesn't translate well to film. Most of what we LARPers see is in our mind. We can look at a camping pavilion, card table and cooler and see a tavern. Most of your viewers will only see the card table and cooler. To really show your audience what LARPer 'sees' when we LARP, you'd need a Peter Jackson sized budget to match your special effects to our imaginations. Your audience won't get it, and your project will fall flat (free hint: if you want to convey the complexity and depth of a given LARP's story, consider animation or rotoscoping).

And for the LA filmers: please understand that more than a few LARPers are also professional actors. Some of them might be part of SAG-AFTRA, and as a result must be protective of their image. Be conscious of that. But if you want your web series to be SAG... please send me an e-mail, I know where to direct you. Or if you have any other questions at all - I'm always happy to help promote positive images of LARP!

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