Back in December, I tried to round up all the D&D and gaming related movies on DVD that I could find. Even in the course of four months, even more have come out. One of the most promising of the new releases is the Mocumentary/Documentary Fellowship of the Dice, which was just released on DVD on April 24th.
Starring indie favorite Aimee Graham, Fellowship of the Dice follows the plight of Elizabeth, a recovering party girl desperate for a new group of friends. After a chance meeting with avid gamer Sanford (Alastair Surprise) lands her an invitation to play the popular fantasy role-playing game, “Wizards, Warriors and Wyrms,” she spends a long afternoon and evening plagued with confusing rules, high adventure and nerdy drama. Jasper (Jeff Coatney), the Game Master, rules his gaming fiefdom with an imaginary iron fist. His painfully shy wife Gwen (Lucia Diaz) spends most of the game quieter than a deaf-and-dumb church mouse. Kevin (Jon Dabach), a temperamental eleven-year-old trapped in a twenty-five-year-old’s body, continuously locks horns with Jasper over everything from missing DVDs to his tyrannical and unfair use of the game’s rules. Larry (Jon Collins), the gregarious aspiring actor, struggles to keep the peace. Things quickly spiral out of control and Elizabeth is forced to decide if she just wasted a night of her life, or if she truly has something in common with these oddball weirdoes.
Seamlessly blending an improvised “mockumentary” with facets of a real documentary, Fellowship of the Dice is unique. Peppered throughout the film are interviews with seasoned gamers, describing their love for the game while introducing the uninitiated to this eccentric hobby. It is this combination of real and fictional elements that make Fellowship of the Dice a singular film experience, something that both gamers and non-gamers can enjoy.
Critical Hits was fortunate enough to conduct an email interview with two of the movie’s creators, Jon Collins and Tom Hietter. Here’s what they had to say:
CRITICAL HITS: First, I wanted to thank you for taking the time for doing this interview.
Tom & Jon: Thank you!
CH: To start us off, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Jon: I’m an actor. I don’t know. I like Thai food and long walks on the beach
Tom: I’m a writer. Worked a lot in reality television. I used to do crappy theater in Chicago and got sick of that, so I thought I’d give Los Angeles a try and see if I couldn’t sell a screenplay or two. I also like Indian food and karaoke.
CH: How did you get interested in gaming?
Jon: I don’t really remember how I got started playing it. I just remember playing it in grade school and liking it.
Tom: It was my brother Pat. He brought home the original red box, D&D Basic Game and in it there was a piece of graph paper that had the beginnings of a dungeon map drawn on it. He told me he had been playing with some friends during lunch. I remember looking through the book, being enthralled by all the weirdly shaped dice and the fact that there was no board and that it was all done with your imagination. A few weeks later, I played a game with my friend Paul. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was hooked.
CH: With all the movies that have come out in the past few years about gaming and gamers, what makes Fellowship of the Dice different?
Jon: It’s a combination of Mockumentary and Documentary. It’s put together as a guide to the outsiders, the non-gamers, those “normal” people.
Tom: With the character of Elizabeth, she’s the eyes and ears of the audience. She’s the outsider coming into this world without a clue as to what to expect and the movie stays on her and that helps non-gamers stay with it. It’s her story.
Jon: Also, it’s more about the relationships that are built around the gaming table. The real reason we do this: hang out with our equally eccentric and geeky friends.
Tom: Get your geek on!
CH: Are the characters in Fellowship of the Dice based on people that you know or have gamed with?
Tom: Well, I’ve been gaming for over 25 years, so yeah, a lot of what happens in the movie is based on things I’ve been through. I like to say that some of my best friends and some of my worst enemies have come from gaming.
Jon: I don’t know if I want to answer this.
Tom: All the characters are a combination of a lot of characters we’ve played with. I mean it’s a hobby that often attracts the… socially challenged… and it gets them to be social and that is just asking for trouble.
Jon: If there’s any one character in it that is a direct parody of someone real, that would be Larry, the actor, who I play. I’m really spoofing myself with him. Using gaming as a kind of acting class. As a way to ham it up and be the center of attention.
Tom: Yeah. That’s Jon.
CH: Did you do any gaming on the set? (Real gaming, not gaming in the movie)
Tom: Not on the set, per se, but before shooting, I invited all the cast, except for Aimee (who plays Elizabeth) and a few other friends who we game with, to give the actors a crash course in role-playing. Only myself, Jon and Alastair, who plays Sanford, had ever gamed before. To everyone else, it was totally foreign.
I wanted to keep Aimee away so her reactions to the rules, the bickering, the setting, everything was as honest and real as possible.
Jon: And they were! Her reactions are priceless.
CH: What made you decide to release the movie on DVD with a convention tour circuit?
Tom: The convention tour circuit allows us to bring the movie right to the core group of fans – the gamers.
Jon: We got an offer by a distribution company to distribute the film into stores across the US and Canada on DVD. Seemed like a great way to reach a lot of people since more and more people are renting and buying DVDs these days than going to the theater. So, why not?
CH: What movies would you list as your inspirations?
Jon: Well, obviously the Christopher Guest films are inspirations for us. Best In Show and Waiting for Guffman in particular. And Trekkies as well, especially in that film’s tone – respectful of its fans but celebrating their eccentricities as well.
CH: How about any inspiring games?
Tom: Well, the game in the movie is called Wizards, Warriors and Wyrms. The rules are kind of a mix of old school, first edition AD&D from TSR and one of my all time favorites, Tunnels & Trolls from Flying Buffalo Games.
CH: What’s next for you after Fellowship of the Dice?
Tom: We’re spending the next year promoting it. We’re also planning to do webisodes to continue the story – either in a comic strip or animation format. I do have a script for a feature film that’s currently in preproduction called ‘Shoot’.
Jon: We are just trying to the word out about our movie… and make some people laugh.