Film & TV

World 1-1 Filmmakers on Their Atari Documentary at Cosford

It's been over a year since Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez created the Kickstarter for their documentary, World 1-1, and recently the filmmakers presented their film to a delighted audience at the Cosford Cinema here at Miami. It's been months since their premiere in San Francisco at the Roxie Theater, but their film is still garnering plenty of attention, and it's not surprising why.

The documentary covers the early years of the video game industry in North America -- specifically the rise and fall of Atari and others that spawned from them. The documentary has officially been released on demand. On January 15, World 1-1 hit the web through VHX for rental or purchase, and with that, we took some time to talk with its filmmakers about the making of the film as well as their plans for the future.

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New Times: What's the history behind the film -- which one of you approached the other with the idea/how much interest did you have in video gaming and filmmaking before this? And what past experience did you bring to making this movie?

Daryl Rodriguez: A few years ago I read Replay by Tristan Donovan. I instantly fell in love with it and wanted to see this be done in a film format. Around that time I started to learn filmmaking, a little in school, and then a lot more doing local weddings. Eventually I decided the weddings weren't teaching me fast enough, so I brought the idea back up and decided that Kickstarter was a way to actually do it. I quickly learned that ideas are easy, and real life is harder, but with lots of possibilities and opportunities that are normally hidden to us. As far as gaming goes, I've been doing it since the age of two.

Jeanette Garcia: Daryl approached me with the idea that he wanted to do a film about the early history of video games. He mentioned he had the idea for a few years after reading a book on the subject. I thought it was an excellent idea and really encouraged it, especially because at the time, there were really no documentaries that focused on that era. We got together and started working out the development of the film, who would be in it, the script, and soon realized that the one thing stopping us was funding. We both had the passion and drive for it, both having grown up with a love for video games and film, but needed to figure out a way to raise money for it. Although never technically trained in video, I have always practiced photography for myself and have loved film and video games from an early age. I was first awestruck by film when I saw Jurassic Park and was later exposed to video games at my neighbor's home. My parents didn't get me a system until the N64, so I relied on going over to his house to play up to that point.

This kind of endeavor must take everything you've got -- even with Kickstarter - so what kind of obstacles have you both leapt through to get this done?

DR: The Kickstarter itself was one of the toughest parts for sure. Without a proper marketing campaign, even if you have the confidence and/or talent to make something happen, you might not be able to finance it as simple as you would expect.

JG: I did not anticipate how much stress came with the Kickstarter. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I did not expect it to be so draining, especially this being our first project and not having any followers aside from our friends and family. We had to reach out to a lot of people and it was just two of us and whatever exposure we could get.

How tough or easy was it to find a lot of the archival footage that you guys have in the film, both photographs of the industry folks and the admittedly golden commercials that you've got spread throughout (that "my husband is in love with another man" Pacman one especially)?

DR: The archival footage was also very challenging. Sometimes you can't get what you want, and what you do get is not what you want. You just have to be ready to make some lemonade.

JG: The archival footage was tough to come by, but luckily we had a lot of support and a lot of people who offered us what they had. We spoke to at least a hundred people or more to uncover what we did find. We also tried to get the best quality possible, but given that some of these archives are dated by technology, we did the best we could.

And in terms of accessibility, managing to get as many interviews as you did must have been quite the journey. Between figuring out exactly what people to meet with, what stories to include in the film after interviewing them, and working within the limitation of what you were able to raise, how hard was it to narrow things down?

DR: We basically made a list of people that we wanted, or knew we could get, and then tried to go for that. Half of those people either didn't want to or couldn't do it, but the half that did had contacts and friends of their own that wanted to do it. So the ones that said yes brought us more people and that way we filled up our cast.

JG: The scheduling was interesting because a lot of them were busy, going on trips, or out of the country. We had to travel out twice because some interviewees were not available during the first round of production. Aside from that, everyone was very flexible and many of them offered us their homes or businesses to film which was very kind of them.

Did you want something that would cater more towards people who already know about the North American industry or people who don't really know all that much about that time in the gaming industry? Because I certainly walked out knowing more than I used to about the rise and fall of Atari than I formerly did.

DR: Definitely for the people who don't know much about it. The Atari name brand is big enough so that people today have heard about it and know generally what it is, but they didn't actually experience it or they don't have an intimate connection with it. There's a reason why the Atari name is still a household name today, and this film tells that story.

JG: Our audience would be individuals who are not aware of what happened or what it was like. At the same time, we made it in a way that the personal aspect of our film and the fact that the creators tell their stories could allow a familiar audience to be just as engaged. Some of the stories they mentioned have not been discussed before even among an audience that knows the history quite well. We hope that these stories and experiencing their personalities on screen can draw in the knowledgeable audience as welll, bringing even more life to the history.

Obviously you both have a massive passion for the subject you're presenting, and with just how prevalent gaming is in the world eye right now -- with things like gamer gate and its seeming war against women in the industry especially -- I think it's very interesting that you actually gave a bit of a look at the way women in the industry (Dona Bailey in particular) back then sort of worked within this boys club, and even created game that weren't specifically tailored to women but brought an eye to female gamers as early as then. Would you mind talking about that a bit and how you think their presence back did or didn't have an impact on today's industry?

DR: From a professional standpoint I think that those women (Dona Bailey, Carol Shaw, Carla Meninsky) showed that women can make good video games. From a creative standpoint I think that as human beings have different personalities, having a variety of different types of people can offer a different perspective on life.

JG: I think that they were definitely at the forefront of breaking down stereotypes about women entering the industry. Even though those stereotypes and that resistance to women in the gaming industry and gaming community still exists, I think that they had a huge role in tearing down this idea that video games were for males only or that they were somehow a male dominant medium of art and entertainment. They produced great games that are still praised today and they also played them. Dona was involved with Centipede. Carol Shaw did River Raid and Video Checkers among others and Carla Meninsky is known for Warlords. We tried reaching out to Carol and Carla but unfortunately did not hear back. We would've loved to have had them in the film.

So once the film itself launches online, what are the plans for the future? Wider releases, follow-ups (World 1-2, perhaps?) with a different focus?

DR: We definitely plan to keep promoting World 1-1 as far as possible. It will be on our website for now, and the best way to support independent artists or creators is to support them directly. This way we make the transaction between the creator and the person who is interested directly. There is no middleman and it's just us talking to each other, which is the purpose of things like Kickstarter. Sure, Kickstarter and VHX take their cut, but it's the closest interaction between the creator and the consumer without me actually handing you a copy of the film.

JG: We want to keep distribution in our hands as much as we can as Daryl mentioned. Aside from distributing through our site, we definitely want to have screenings nationwide especially at special events such as conventions. The film will also be available on disc in the next few months on both Bluray and DVD. It'll also be available to stream in 4k with Nanotech Entertainment. We also want to look into other options to bring it to an even wider audience, especially internationally.

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Juan Antonio Barquin is a Miami-based writer who programs the queer film series Flaming Classics and serves as co-editor of Dim the House Lights. Barquin aspires to be Bridget Jones.

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