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by Cressida Greening
August 8th, 2011

Last Saturday the Old American Can Factory was transformed into a gamers dream when we teamed up with Kill Screen to host the videogame festival as we explored and questioned the enduring prevalence of gaming in popular culture (as well of course as playing some video games and drinking some beer). Super There Will Be Blood was one of the short films screened; a hilarious one-minute long condensed version of Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic 2007 film There Will Be Blood, reimagined as an 8Bit nintendo game (watch it here). Rooftop spoke to the filmmakers Adam & Owen of Tomfoolery Pictures about cinema, videogames and iconography and how they managed to bring this all together.

Rooftop Films: What initially made you want to make a film using the video game as a basis?

Tomfoolery Pictures: It had been on our minds for a while, the idea of taking a grand, Oscar winning, very serious film, and making a wholly inappropriate game out of it. It seemed like it would be immediately funny to a certain group of people to turn a really actor driven film into a retro platformer or point and click. Possibly there’s some sort of satire in there about that particular time when games were made for completely unrelated films, but really it was just a good excuse for Owen to do his ace Daniel Plainview voice and for us to watch Daniel Day Lewis tear it up for hours on end.

RF: The film blends the aesthetics of video games and the narrative of film, in this case, There Will Be Blood, in such an innovative way. What do you feel is the link between cinema and video games in general?

TP: It’s been mostly a one way street so far, films feeding into games. Often a lot of stock is giving in making a game feel ‘cinematic’. Sometimes that’s a great, but often it can be really limiting. Good examples of cinematic games, like films, are coupled with great scripts and great acting. Honestly, I’m hoping games can keep improving those elements but move away from being too cinema based. The great thing about games their interactivity, not watching stuff happen that you can’t control or effect. But games are still a young media, they’re still learning the best way to do things, creating their own conventions, and understandably, borrowing from its closest relative, cinema.

What’s interesting now is that games are beginning to give back. Not in terms of video-game based movies, which have been almost uniformly terrible, but we’re seeing a lot more design and aesthetics being influenced by video games. As more film makers become game players, that’s only going to become more prevalent, but what’s going to be really interesting is how that starts affecting other, deeper, aspects of film.

RF: Super There Will Be Blood is showing as part of our Kill Screen series which looks into the role which video games have played in shaping popular culture. What do you feel is the cultural significance of video games and how do you think your film communicates this?

I suppose how well it’s played online says something about how recognizable that particular era of games is. We didn’t even think about the possibility that it wouldn’t be recognized, it’s almost ubiquitous. That’s the only reason it works really, that the joke doesn’t need to be explained, everyone gets it.

Beyond our film, we’re only really seeing the start of gaming being enveloped in more general culture. The thing that always sticks in my mind is in Scott Pilgrim (the book) when Scott gets a GAME OVER, when Ramona leaves him. That moment, being able to use that iconography and it have some emotional weight, seems like a massive leap forward.

RF: For your film you use the highly iconic original Nintendo game as your basis. What made you decide to use this game rather than more modern games?

TP: When you’re doing something like Super There Will Be Blood, you’re looking for shorthand ways of getting the information across, that’s sort of the fun of it. How to compress a really complex story about one man’s obsession and world view into a 60 second animation? The simpler and more basic we could make it the better. But there’s also a huge element of nostalgia there, from our side and the audiences. This was the sort of thing we grew up with – terrible platformers based on films they bore no relevance to!

RF: What do you think it means to be a video gamer in the modern world and how do you feel this has evolved over the years?

We’re certainly moving past the stigma of the geeky video game player. The discussion around games is more mature, there are auteur designers, and as the breadth of types of games increases so does the type of people playing. It wont be long until there isn’t really a stereotype of a gamer, any more than there is one of someone who goes to the cinema.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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