When writing this post. It started off with the intention of a quick bullet point timeline of Indie Game: The Movie’s journey and development over the last two years. We thought it would be interesting to do a little chronicle post. A nice retrospective sort of thing to post on the eve of the film’s digital launch. We thought it’d be a medium sized post...
....we were wrong.
It ended up being a little more involved. But we’re going to run with it anyways. So, what follows are the major plot points in the IGTM Production Story. It is mostly the highlights. We mainly skipped over the low-lights, but believe us, there were many challenging, stressful, downright depressing moments. But, that would’ve likely doubled the size of the post. Plus, we wanted it to be a positive post. There’ll be more time for the ‘down n’ dirty’ talk later :)
So, without further adieu, here is what we’ve been doing for the past two and a half years...
Indie Game: The Movie: The Idea
Commissioned to produce a short documentary on Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo and Aquaria fame. The short introduced us to independent gaming in a much more serious way and inspired thoughts of a videogame documentary.
After a period of research, the filmmakers attended GDC 2010 and filmed a ‘test piece’ with Edmund Mcmillen & Tommy Refenes of Super Meat Boy. This shoot would ultimately produce the ‘Aether piece’ that launched the initial Kickstarter Campaign, and ended up in the final film.
May 18th 2010
First Kickstarter campaign launched
Using the ‘Aether piece' as its pitch video. ‘Indie Game: The Movie’ is officially announced. James and Lisanne ask for $15,000 in funding (planning to augment with other funding - $15,000 is a small number for any feature film). The filmmakers estimate that it would take 30 days or so to reach their goal.
May 20th, 2010
First Kickstarter goal is met after 48 hours. The campaign would go on to earn $23,341. James and Lisanne commit fully to the film, and begin to ramp down their commercial production company, turning down / tying up their corporate contracts. It was initially thought that the film would take roughly 12 months.
September 6th, 2010
IGTM Wins ‘PitchFest’
Presenting in front of film & broadcast industry, Indie Game: The Movie wins ‘Pitchfest’ at WestDoc 2010 in Santa Monica. The $5,000 prize gives the anemic budget a much needed boost. The win has a similar effect on the filmmaker’s confidence level.
September 12th, 2010
Shooting begins/resumes on Indie Game: The Movie.
James and Lisanne would spend the next 3 and a half months traveling the U.S. and Canada in a Yaris - gathering the stories and footage that would ultimately become Indie Game: The Movie.
October 20th, 2010
Super Meat Boy is released.
James and Lisanne spend five straight days filming Tommy and Edmund during what would become a centerpiece of the film. Lisanne films with Tommy in North Carolina, while James shoots with Edmund and Danielle in Santa Cruz, California. These shoots would mark the most challenging and rewarding production experience of both James & Lisanne’s career’s / lives.
December 21st, 2010
Editing begins on Indie Game: The Movie.
Throughout the shoot, James and Lisanne were organizing and editing certain aspects of the footage in various hotel rooms and airport lobbies. But all editing and post production was directed towards behind the scenes ‘extra’ pieces. Prior to the actual edit of the film, James and Lisanne produced and released online, 88 minutes of content. They credit these videos with playing a large part in the film’s growing audience.
March 14th, 2011
Shooting Ends on Indie Game: The Movie
After filming Phil Fish publicly show FEZ for the first time in four years, filming wraps on Indie Game: The Movie. As the filmmakers and Phil depart Boston, the future success of FEZ remains uncertain. The filmed events of PAX East prompt James & Lisanne to begin re-consider the focus of Indie Game: The Movie. Lisanne begins to suggest that the film may be best served by concentrating solely on the Super Meat Boy and FEZ story arcs. Both filmmakers remain unconvinced, but the seed has been planted.
April 5th, 2011
Major Editing Decision
After wrestling with a three hour cut of the film, James and Lisanne make the decision (or series of decisions we should say) that the film is indeed best served by concentrating on the development journeys of FEZ, Super Meat Boy and Braid.
April 15th, 2011
The First Rough Cut is completed.
It’s very rough - missing graphics, missing polish and held together with temp music and a lot of other ‘temp’ things - but there are 97 minutes of movie together. The film is beginning to feel good.
April 18th, 2011
Jim Guthrie signs on to score Indie Game: The Movie
On a hope and prayer, James and Lisanne send Jim Guthrie an email asking if he would be interested in working on IGTM. The filmmakers did NOT expect a yes. What they got was an enthusiastic ‘You Bet!’ from Jim that turned even moreso upon his watching of the roughcut (Jim was the very first person to watch a full cut of the film).
May 21st, 2011
Second Kickstarter Campaign is Announced
Realizing the film is growing into something larger and will require additional funds for post-production/theatrical preparation, IGTM debuts it’s official trailer in conjunction with a second Kickstarter campaign. A goal of $ 35,000 is set and achieved in a scant 25 hours. The total continues to climb, reaching $ 71,000 on July 22nd. The edit continues.
May - August, 2011
Editing continues and the rough cut is refined.
During this period, an additional two scenes are removed from the film. Most of the work is refining the rough cut, reworking scenes, creating motion graphics / visual effects, colour correcting and sound design. The entire process is done by James & Lisanne, with music by Jim. The editing schedule was loosely structured around the potential of premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival. In July, the filmmakers submitted a rough cut and was ultimately passed over for a TIFF premiere. However, several people loosely associated with the festival encouraged a submission to the Sundance Film Festival.
September 7th, 2011
Cinema Cut is Completed.
The film would continue to be polished and reworked until Dec 15th, 2011. But at this point James and Lisanne had a version they felt could play in a theater if it needed to.
Indie Game: The Movie is accepted to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival
James & Lisanne receive a call from festival programmer David Courier informing them that they are one of eleven films accepted in competition in the International Documentary category. The filmmakers receive this news while on the road, in a Starbucks. Overwhelmed, they begin to sob - given the odd appearance of a couple breaking up. This marks a torturous period of not being able to tell anyone that they have been accepted to one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world.
October - December 2011
Edit Polish and Refinement
Being accepted to Sundance demands yet another level of production. James and Lisanne continue to tweak and better the film in ways that can only be measured in frames, anchor points and vector scopes. It takes a surprisingly long time.
November 30th, 2011
It is officially announced that Indie Game: The Movie is a selection of the Sundance Film Festival. The news marks a huge public milestone for the movie and a huge personal relief for Lisanne and James - who were plagued with nightmares that they made the entire thing up in their collective heads. Indie Game The Movie receives 1500 emails that day and 800 the next.
James & Lisanne receive an email from the office of Scott Rudin.
This email marks the beginning of discussions that would see Scott Rudin and HBO option Indie Game: The Movie for development of a potential television series on HBO. Things become an odd mix of simultaneously being very real and exceptionally surreal for the filmmakers. They field the email from their Yaris in a Winnipeg Parking garage.
Later, on January 19th, while waiting backstage to be interviewed on the CBC program ‘Q’, James and Lisanne would close a deal with HBO and Mr. Rudin, signing an iPad document with their fingers while Margaret Atwood sits on the couch across from them.
January 20th, 2012
Indie Game: The Movie Makes its world premiere.
At 3:00pm at the Yarrow Hotel Theater, James and Lisanne show their film to a crowd of 300 or so people in Park City Utah. Prior to this screening, exactly 28 people had viewed the film.
January 21st, 2012
Indie Game: The Movie receives its first review.
IndieWire/The Playlist gives a glowing review, calling IGTM a ‘Big Hearted Celebration of the Artistic Spirit’. This review is the first of a many overwhelming postive reviews from the likes of Hollywood Reporter, Aint’ It Cool News, Variety, Crave Online, Huffington Post and more. James and Lisanne are beside themselves - the film appears to be resonating with a non-game audience in ways that the filmmakers hoped and dreamed it would.
January 26th, 2012
Brad Bird calls IGTM one of the best films at Sundance
During the Jan 25th screening, both Brad Bird (The Incredibles, MI:4) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2 & 3) of PIXAR fame were in the IGTM audience. They watched the film and tweeted some amazing nice things about the film.
Unbeknownst to Lisanne, she actually met Brad Bird in the lobby, offering his group extra tickets to the show. For Q&A performance reasons, both filmmakers are somewhat thankful they didn’t know the directors were in the audience. This viewing would later lead to an invitation from PIXAR for James and Lisanne to screen the film at their campus - which they happily accepted.
January 29th, 2012
IGTM wins ‘Best Editing’ at the Sundance Festival Awards
After hoping in a car 15 months prior to begin shooting their first feature film, James and Lisanne are up on stage receiving an award at the Sundance Film Festival. Visibly shocked, but unbelievably happy, the filmmakers thank everyone involved and everyone who supported them through Kickstarter.
They don’t thank their parents. Later, they will be (repeatedly) reminded of this.
February 20th, 2012
IGTM announces the Adobe Tour & self-distribution plan
After receiving multiple legitimate offers at Sundance, James and Lisanne decide not to sell the film to a distributor. A decision they describe as terrifying, stressful and hopefully right. The filmmaker put into motion a plan to team up with Adobe and tour the film across the U.S. with the aim of building the film’s momentum and profile - all towards a limited theatrical release - shortly followed by a wide digital release.
March 2nd, 2012
Adobe Tour Starts & Santa Cruz Premiere
Indie Game: The Movie kicks off it’s Adobe IGTM tour with a screening in Edmund McMillen’s hometown - where the film shot it’s first frames of film nearly two years to the day. A massive 660 people attend the evening’s show. Including Phil, Tommy, Edmund & Danielle - all of whom participate in a post-show Q&A.
March 4th, 2012
Game Developer Conference Screening
An estimated 1800 people line up to fill a 550 seat room as IGTM is shown during the Game Developer Conference. This marks one of the most stressful screenings for James and Lisanne. If any audience can confidently call ‘bullshit’ on the film, it is this one.
The film is received with a standing ovation. In the Q&A with ALL members of the films’ cast, Phil insults the nation of Japan ... according to headlines (it didn’t really go down like that).
March 5th, 2012
IGTM is featured in USA Today.
The film hits a media coverage crossover point that James & Lisanne never thought would happen. Bewildered high fives are exchanged as they pick up the paper. Tommy Refenes is titled a ‘Code Warrior’ in the article.
MEGA64 Parodies the IGTM Trailer
The guys at Mega64 give IGTM their treatment. It is hilarious. It is fantastic. When taking in combination with the USA Today piece, to James and Lisanne, it begins to feel like IGTM is becoming a real 'thing'
FEZ wins Grand Prize at the IGF
After nearly five years of production, Phil Fish and Renaud Bedard win the Seamus McNally Grand Prize for FEZ. James & Lisanne film the events with an eye towards an eventual epilogue. After filming stops, James, Lisanne and Phil realize that this was the very last moment of filming for the movie. They all get sad...and then remember that Phil just won. Happiness resumes.
March 9th, 2012
Indie Game: The Movie is screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Jim Guthrie attends. James, Lisanne and Jim Guthrie all meet, face to face, for the first time ever. The film is very well received.
March 11th, 2012
Adam Saltsman joins the Team
James and Lisanne meet with Adam Saltsman to discuss his packaging IGTM as an application that could possibly work within a Steam environment.
March 22rd, 2012
IGTM Screens at Valve
As part of their Seattle Adobe tour stop, James & Lisanne tour the Valve offices and show the film to Steam employees as a special private screening. IGTM gets the go ahead to be on Steam.
March 30th, 2012
After its Palo Alto tour stop, Indie Game: The Movie screens at PIXAR. The film plays on the same screen that the studio uses to verify & screen it’s own work before it goes to print. Indie Game: The Movie will never look better than it did on March 30th.
April 4th, 2012
Disney Animation Screening
After its Santa Monica tour stop, Indie Game: The Movie screens at Disney Animation studios - fulfilling a dream of sorts for Lisanne. This invitation was the only news to bring Lisanne’s mother to tears.
April 13th, 2012
FEZ is Released
On Friday, the 13th, FEZ is released to the world and is exceptionally well-received. The game connects and does everything Phil talked about when James and Lisanne first filmed with him. Committed to tour duties, James is exceptionally frustrated to not be filming Phil during FEZ’s release.
April 17th, 2012
IGTM has its First Bona-fide Theatrical Run
Indie Game: The Movie opens at the SIFF Film Center in Seattle. The film’s week long run is extended three times over.
April 25th, 2012
Last Stop on the IGTM Tour
Indie Game: The Movie screens at the E-Street Cinema in Washington, DC to a sold-out crowd. This screening caps off a very successful Adobe IGTM screening tour in which 13 of the 15 centers were completely sold out.
May 3rd, 2012
IGTM shows in 35 theaters across Canada
In conjunction with the HotDocs Film Festival, Indie Game: The Movie is shown in a special one-night only event in thirty five Canadian theaters. On this night, independent documentary is shown in places like Lethbridge, Alberta and Kamloops, BC - places that would never usually get such programming.
May 18th, 2012
New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Premiere
Indie Game: The Movie opens up in New York’s prestigious IFC Center. The film also opens in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix - like a real movie and everything! So real in fact, that this weekend qualifies the film for Academy consideration. The film would go on to screen 7 times a day in New York and be extended for a second week. The film ends up being extended to a four week run in San Francisco.
May 17th, 2012
VHX Joins the Team
After being introduced to VHX’s Jamie & Casey by Andy Baio on Twitter, James and Lisanne meet with VHX and immediately recognize the platform as a perfect fit for the self-distribution the filmmaker want to pursue. In seven short days, VHX puts its system into place for the upcoming May 24th release date announcement.
May 19th, 2012
New York Time’s Critics Pick
Indie Game: The Movie is reviewed by the New York Time’s and is award ‘Critics' Pick’ distinction. James and Lisanne buy an embarrassing amount of newspapers.
May 23rd, 2012
IGTM ranked as the ‘Top Reviewed Film of 2012’.
Upon recieving its 20th qualified review, IGTM is entered into Rotten Tomatoes all-time listings. It’s 100% fresh rating ties the film for being the top reviewed film of 2012. Despite silently questioning whether they empirically, made the number one film of 2012 - James & Lisanne wholehearted proclaim ‘We’ll take it!!’
Indie Game: The Movie Announces Digital Release Date
James and Lisanne announce the date that they have been working towards for the past two years. On June 12th, Indie Game: The Movie will be released on iTunes, Steam and DRM-free directly from their own site. The Steam story takes many by pleasant surprise, but is greeted with much enthusiasm.
James & Lisanne write a timeline blog post in third person for some reason. The two filmmakers type out the past two years and consider themselves incredibly lucky, blessed & privileged to be a part of this fantastic experience.
They thank everyone who supported them whether it be by Kickstarter, pre-orders, well-wishes, good vibes - all of it.
They are incredibly grateful to Tommy, Edmund, Phil and Jon and everyone else who went in front of the camera.
They thank Jim for giving the film a deeper soul than they ever thought it could have. And they even remember to thank their parents this time (Thank you Mom & Dad! and Mom & Dad!). They realize how wonderful the past two years have been.
And as they brace themselves for tomorrow, they hug their movie one last time, pack it a lunch, button its coat and send it out the door and into the world.
We really hope you like our movie.
James and Lisanne