When we talked to Jeremy Snead last summer, his documentary Video Games: The Movie, had just premiered at the Texas Theatre. The local filmmaker, who is also behind the Mediajuice production studio, lined up some big names to be interviewed for the project, like Sean Astin, Zach Braff, and Chris Hardwick. The final result was a great overview of the history of video games, touching on its pioneers and its trends, all in a comfortable runtime of under two hours.
Now the film can be seen on Netflix Instant, as well as Blu-ray/DVD, we caught back up with Snead to talk about what he's doing next. From the film finding its way into the Library of Congress to his upcoming TV series on video games, Snead is a busy guy these days.
What's the response been to Video Games now that it's available on streaming and DVD? I hate to use the word "mixed" because I know that's usually cover for getting bad reviews, but it has been mixed in a sense. I think the gamer nation, for the most part, love it and feel like it represents the gamer community and the game industry. I've heard from a lot of people in the industry use it as a tool for employees to give a crash course on where they've been, where they are and where they're going. I get about two or three tweets a day from people who say they love it and have never seen anything like this. And then once every couple of weeks, I get the haters. "Hey, why didn't you talk about this topic?" or "Why didn't you go deeper into this?" Which is fine. I forget who said it, but it's the old cliché of you'd rather have people loving or hating your film than not having any response at all.
David Lynch said something like that about the initial reaction to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Yeah! [laughs] Sounds about right. I'd much prefer my film to be polarizing than people having a lukewarm response to it. [Seeing negative reviews online], I can't say that kind of stuff doesn't affect me. I doesn't affect me day to day, but of course, I know it's the vocal minority. For whatever reason, certain areas of gaming history or the culture weren't touched on enough, it just set them off and they made it their job to give it a rating low enough on the sites they frequent. It's unfortunate, because iTunes uses RottenTomatoes.com as part of their algorithm and it breaks that part of it down. It stinks, to be frank, but there's been enough positive [feedback] that I don't focus on the negative.
As a creative person, whether you write books or make films, at the end of the day, you're proud of what you put out there, that you did something about it, instead of sitting at home and complaining. There are so many clichés about doing versus talking about doing. Steven Pressfield, one of my favorite authors, talks in his book The War of Art about the difference between an amateur and a professional. He says amateurs are weekend warriors that take their chosen passion seriously, but not seriously enough to make it a profession. I'm a creative professional. I work in film and video for a living. I don't pay a lot of heed to people that make it their job to be critical. Of course, people who make it their living being critics, you listen to those people more, but for the most part, the major outlets have had a balanced response to [Video Games].
A nice recognition is how the film will be in the Library of Congress. How did that come about? I was e-mailing back and forth with the copyright office at the Library of Congress. We had been talking about filing the copyright and trademark documents, like you're supposed to with every film. A few weeks ago, they were asking for more documents and a high-resolution copy of the film, to the point where I was getting frustrated. We had done all this filing last summer, but the reason why they were asking now was that they wanted it in the permanent collection. It will be preserved for future generations. They see it has cultural or significant value, so they include it for students or anyone going in there for research.
There's now a full-length documentary about the E.T. Atari video game debacle, something you touch on in your documentary. Your film didn't strike me as the final word on video games, and you've said in the past that you wanted to make a series that touched on specific topics and people. What's the status of that project?
I saw that documentary and it was great. They really dove into that. My team is in production on a series on gaming.
You've posted Instagram pictures of interviews with Kevin Smith and William Shatner for this series, so what can you tell us? Not a lot. We haven't announced the full cast. The short pitch is, it's not going to be a series where there's a single episode on one game or topic in gaming. We're taking a broader approach, taking a look at game developers and designers, exploring their stories and games. We talk about how games have affected people, positively and negatively. We're going to look at the outliers, games in government, games in military, games in the medical field, and how all of these things intertwine. Video games have infiltrated every part of our culture now.
Do you hope this series will be on TV or exclusively on the web? It will definitely be on TV. We've met with several networks and pitched our concept and got a lot of interest. But like any network, they want to see the goods. We're not necessarily shooting a pilot. We're full-force in production. We hope the first episode will be done by May and then we'll circle back to the networks.
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You have a TED Talk coming up this weekend in Lubbock on Saturday. How did this come together and what are you going to talk about? They called me up and invited me to come speak at their TEDx conference at Texas Tech. I'll be talking about gaming and the value of playing in our culture and our lives. That should be online sometime next month.
You mentioned last year that you had projects in development with Sean Astin and Zach Braff, can you share anything about those projects?
Sean is officially one of the executive producers for the TV series. It's been great. He can get us into rooms we can't get into on our own. Zach, we've been in touch, but he's a busy boy with his own stuff, so he hasn't been involved much. Aside from those guys, I should mention that I've been working with a company in Mansfield called Mouser Electronics. They produce electronics primarily for engineers, and they have a campaign that we've partnered with called Empowering Innovation and they've brought on Grant Imahara, who used to be on MythBusters. He's well-known for doing special effects for the Star Wars films, the Energizer Bunny, Battlebots. He's their new spokesperson and we're shooting a series of webisodes where we go to different locations and look at what people - whether they're engineers or not - are doing in the world of electronics.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jeremy_Snead