I really can’t say enough good things about “Indie Game: The Movie,” the documentary by directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot that won a lot of praise at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be available for digital download this week. What’s so amazing about the film is that you don’t need to have any interest in gaming to appreciate the themes of “Indie Game,” which is just as much a film about the creative process as it is a film about game development.
In the film, Pajot and Swirsky focus on the developers responsible for creating three particular games: the award-winning 2008 game “Braid,” the critically praised 2010 game “Super Meat Boy,” and the long-struggling, but similarly celebrated “Fez,” which was still in development when the film ended. The film looks at the experience of creating a game and all of the time and energy that go into the process — as well as the emotional toll the it takes on creators.
I interviewed the directors of “Indie Game” for Digital Trends, and it was a fun, fascinating conversation about their film, how it came together, and what’s next for both the directing duo and their subjects.
Here’s an excerpt from that interview:
Did you find yourself having to edit the film with a mainstream audience in mind, toning down some of the more in-depth elements in order to appeal to people who might not be as gaming-savvy?
Pajot: Yeah, that was the fine balance of what we wanted to do with the film. We wanted to make it satisfying for gamers and game developers and the core audience of the film, but make it open and accessible enough that people who don’t have that experience could be able to access it and feel like they’re part of it and not feel alienated. That was a hard balance, because we had lots of parts of the film that were a bit more technical, and were a bit more interesting in terms of discussions of game design and such, but we felt like everything we needed to put in this particular film had to serve the story and serve the experience of the characters in the film. So that was always the question: Do these parts that talk about the creation of games serve the story at all? That’s where we were coming from. We wanted to make a film that anybody could watch and appreciate.
Swirsky: We knew wanted to tell a universal story about creation and that process. and I think with any kind of specific documentary there’s always a risk of getting a little too esoteric, and we found ourselves in the edits dipping into that a little bit and having to pull back. You can get bogged down in the technical stuff pretty easily. If it’s a more mainstream or general audience and you get into that esoteric stuff, it starts to cloud that universal story you want to tell. We’re fascinated by the technical stuff, so we would’ve loved to put it in — in fact, we kept putting it in and then realizing we went a little too far sometimes. [Laughs]