Anyone who’s kept up with us here at The Documentary Blog knows that Darkon is one of our favourite films so far this year. (you can read Sean’s review here) The film that sees pretty regular folks working day jobs by day and fighting dark elves by night perfectly mixes the adventure and danger of the fictionalized world of Darkon with the banality and struggles of the main character’s every day lives. Recently I had a chance to ask co-director Luke Meyer a few questions about the film. Here’s what he had to say about making the film, LARP’ing, and the future of Darkon.
The Documentary Blog: What is LARP’ing?
Luke Meyer: LARP is an acronym for Live-Action Role Playing. It refers to any game in which each player assumes a character where they role-play the actions, decisions, and experiences of that character. There are many different types of LARPs. Darkon is war-game LARP in which physical combat is a large part of the game. However, there are other types of LARPs where physically battling other players is not a part of game play.
TDB: Could you explain your personal interest in LARP’ing? Did you look into any other LARP groups, or did the film grow out of Darkon Specifically?
Luke: There were a couple of things going on in Darkon that drew me to it. The idea of inventing a character separate from your own identity and playing out the life of that character is fascinating. It raises questions of the ways we all role-play in our day-to-day lives. We act differently – sometimes almost as different people – when we are at work and when we are with our boyfriend or girlfriend or with our parents. It offers some interesting ideas of what self-identity is all about.
Also, Darkon is a extremely physical game. In being so, it functions as an outlet for many of the game’s players. The world of today is in many ways a protected world. There are many intermediary elements that separate the efforts we put out into the world and the affects our efforts make. It’s difficult to have a complete sense of what effects our actions have. There’s a powerful feeling of liberation in seeing your opponent across the field, and then going in for a direct confrontation. Day-to-day life doesn’t afford this directness.
From the beginning of the project, we knew about Darkon. But still we researched other LARP groups to make sure that Darkon was in fact the group that the documentary should be about. Darkon is one of the only LARP war-games that has incorporated a land map which incorporates ideas of property ownership and raises the stakes of the fighting because there is actually something that can be lost in battle. This was one of the main deciding factors in why we chose Darkon as the group we wanted to make a documentary about.
Luke: We shot for grand total around a year and a half. When we started we just showed up with our cameras and shot the club fighting at their events. As we got to know people in the club, we began running interviews that went into more and more depth as time went on. But before shooting began we didn’t spend any time with the people in the game…aside from the fact that Skip, the film’s main character, had introduced Andrew [Andrew Neel, the films other co-director] to the game of Darkon a few years prior. Basically, it was through our shooting and time spent with the club that we got to know people in the game.
TDB: Did the subjects end up enjoying the film? Did they feel like you properly represented the game/their group?
Luke: The responses we’ve received from the people in the game has been largely positive. One player told us that playing Darkon has always been his “dirty secret,” and after watching the film, he now feels proud of his involvement. As documentary filmmakers, this was a great vote of confidence; that the subjects of the movie feel proud of the way we represented them. That said, some mages have told us they wish there was more spell-casting, some assassins wanted to see more dark dealings, but I think that response is to be expected. When you make a movie that is directed at a general audience, there will always be people who have detailed knowledge of the subject matter and who want more intricacies to be in the film. But in general, the response from the club has been really good.
TDB: Were you ever concerned about any laughter coming from the sometimes unintentional humour throughout the film? Do the members of Darkon take it seriously, or do they also find humour in their hobby?
Luke: Most people in Darkon have no problem laughing at themselves. They are totally aware of how ridiculous the game can be at times. At the same time, the game takes a great deal of effort – to make armor and costumes, to organize a country, to keep attendance up so you don’t go defunct. All this effort rests on some level of serious approach to the game. I guess the answer is that the game is a constant mix of seriousness and light-heartedness.
TDB: What does the future hold for Darkon? Are we going to see an eventual DVD release?
Luke: We are in distribution negotiations, and there will definitely be a DVD release, just not sure of a date yet.