About this project
Real. Honest. Journalism.
Video games are made by people. Did you know? Some people don't. And that's a HUGE DEAL.
Knowing how games are made, by whom, and how helps us to appreciate the medium for what it is: a modern art form.
"Worth watching." - Gamasutra
I've been making things for big media companies my entire career. I've been making things for big media companies my whole career. Big budgets. Big strings. Big headaches. And they now own almost everything I've ever made.
This film is independent. It's for you, not a corporation. And it needs your support.
We're making short documentary films about indie game makers all over the world, starting in Chicago, USA. And the best part: You can help us decide where we go after that. Future seasons of Stage of Development will focus on different locations around the world. And where we go is up to you.
Watch Our First Teaser-Trailer
With hundreds of video game websites and magazines out there, you'd think stories like this would be all over the place. You'd be wrong.
Watch our second teaser-trailer
The kind of detailed, documentary journalism we do costs money and takes time, and those are both things traditional games media can't afford to devote to stories about people. So we're doing it ourselves.
Watch our third teaser-trailer!
This Kickstarter is for *at least* four short films (10-20 minutes, maybe longer) and a full feature-length documentary (50 minutes or more) about different people or indie teams making different games or projects.
Watch our fourth teaser-trailer!
In fact, we've already shot a pilot. And you can watch it right now!
The following video is from San Francisco, and our time with Alphabear and Steambirds developer SpryFox.
*(We incorrectly credited the "We Are Chicago" interview video. That should be credited to PC Magazine. Sorry!)
"This is an ambitious project, but if you ask us, it’s an important one that can only help foster the Independent Game Development community and enrich the appreciation so many have of Indie games." - IndieHangover
We start in Chicago, with the vibrant Chicago Indie scene at their world-famous summer festival, Bit Bash. We will learn about how this festival came to be, and who keeps it alive in the face of many challenges. There we will also meet Chicago indies of all shapes and sizes, following some of them to the houses, offices and studios they call home. Bit Bash is the annual showcase for Chicago's indies, and will play a huge part in our entire series
Our tour of Chicago will take us to many different places where we will meet many different types of people. All of whom make games. All of whom call "The Indie City" home.
"Bit Bash might be the next great indie game festival." - Polygon
"It's an object lesson in how the experience and medium of gaming is constantly being reinterpreted and redefined, far away from the multimillion-dollar studio blockbusters that many reflexively think of as video games." - Chicago Reader
Young Horses (Octodad: Dadliest Catch)
"The Young Horses were unofficially formed in March 2011 at the Game Developers Conference where they were nominated as a Student Showcase Winner for Octodad. Despite everyone being convinced that the game was about a normal human dad, the game was a cult hit, gained critical acclaim, and was an Independent Games Festival Student Finalist in 2011." - Reddit
William Chyr (Manifold Garden)
"William Chyr isn’t your typical game developer, and his first game, Manifold Garden, doesn’t look quite like anything else we’ve ever played. After studying physics and economics as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Chyr worked for several years as a sculptor and installation artist before taking an unexpected turn into game development." - DigitalTrends
"[Manifold Garden is] just this absolutely beautiful strange thing that gives me a little pleasure spike every time I see it." - Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Culture Shock Games (We Are Chicago)
"I remain deeply curious about We Are Chicago, a game about Chicago being made in Chicago that hopes to convey what it’s like to live here." - Kotaku
"Culture Shock is taking a decidedly different approach to game development, one that focuses on educating gamers while simultaneously providing them with enough entertainment to keep them hooked. The studio knows the relatively serious subject matter won’t be for everyone." - iDigitalTimes
The Men Who Wear Many Hats (Organ Trail: Director's Cut, Max Gentlemen), Trinket Studios and more.
Once complete, the films will be made available to backers digitally. We also have a tentative distribution deal with a major digital media publisher. This is an outfit that loves what we're doing and wants to help share it. But we have to pay for the production ourselves, so we need your help!
Our budget for this series is simple, with layers.
It's going to cost us at least $32,200 to shoot and edit the four (and probably more) episodes. And that's not counting the money we've already spent. We wanted to get to Chicago in time for Bit Bash, even though this campaign couldn't be launched any sooner (long story). So I spent some of my own money and a little bit from outside investors on the principal shoot in Chicago. To finish the series and edit it, we need $32,000 more.
How did we get that number? It costs us approx. $1,000 per day in crew costs (I'm not getting paid) to shoot and edit a documentary. We're shooting this in five days and editing it in 20 (approx. 3 edit days per film—not a lot). So $22,500 is our starting number.
Music will cost us $5,000. So now we're at $27,500.
Travel will cost at least $4,700. So now we're at $32,200.
Since things sometimes go wrong, we add in a contingency, bringing us to $38,640.
And then we add in the fees Kickstarter charges, plus the costs to produce our rewards (estimated at $4,251) which brings us to $42,891.
So that's what we're asking for.
At $42,891 we will produce the full series with a crew of three; me and a videographer named Christian, and an audio guy named Austin. My videographer and audio will get paid, but I will not. And you will receive at least six episode of Stage of Development.
Simple. Back us, we make the videos, you get to watch them. Done.
If you like this idea so much you think I also deserve to get paid for it (thank you), then if you unlock our first stretch goal that's what will happen.
If you like this idea so much you want more, unlocking our second stretch goal ensures we will produce at least two additional episodes.
Simple, right? But layered. If we raise at least $42,891, we're making this series. Any more than that just helps us do it better.
Some people look at video games and see a number: a score, or an amount of hours. Other people see pixels, triangles, colors. Still others see violence, fear.
When I look at video games I see people. I see the people who made them. I see the people who marketed and packaged them. I see the person who had an idea one day about how to entertain or share an idea through a video game. And that makes me want to learn everything I can about those people, and share their stories with the world.
You can help me do that. By backing this project, you'll be supporting my documentary crew as we travel around the world to meet real game developers and learn about who they are, what drives them to make games, how they got started, and how they do what they do.
I've been a filmmaker for 30 years.
I was a producer for TechTV's The Screen Savers. I was editor of The Escapist for six years, and during that time I won six Webby Awards. After that I helped co-found Polygon.com, where I produced the video series Human Angle.
I even wrote a book about how video games are made, called "How Video Games Are Made."
I left Polygon in 2014 to work as an independent. Since then I've founded Flying Saucer Media, produced short documentaries for clients like Harmonix and Epic, and produced a short documentary about the charity Take This (which I also co-founded).
I'm currently also shooting a feature-length documentary about Desert Bus for Hope.
(Bit Bash photos by Andrew Ferguson.)
Risks and challenges
As always, the biggest risks here are that planned participants will change their minds or get busy; or that something will break, we'll lose footage somehow, or otherwise need to spend money on something we hadn't expected to spend money on.
The first concern is mitigated by our traditional style of "overshooting". We always get more story than we need. Which often means we have to cut great stuff to meet targeted time limits. But that's actually great for this series, because it means we can tell the stories we find in as many episodes as we need. We will get the number of episodes we promised you, and probably more.
The second concern is mitigated by the "contingency" portion of our budget. I have managed productions of all kinds for over 20 years. Something would have to catastrophically fail in a bizarre and completely unforeseeable way for us to exceed both the primary budget and the contingency. And if something that weird and dire happens, we'll probably be too busy fighting off zombies or aliens to worry about it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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