Master Filmmaker InterviewedFilmmaker Jethro Ryan "jrb" Brewin, winner of five Golden Llama awards for his film, "Tricking iT2," is one of the few who doesn't believe he's taking gaming movies to the next level.
At age 30, jrb has already stamped himself as one of the most talented movie-makers in the gaming community through a series of frag films -- clips made with footage taken from games like "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" or "Quake 3." His films set a very high standard of quality, raising the bar in editing and special effects for future productions in the genre.
His latest film, "Tricking iT2," presents brilliant in-game acrobatics performed by clan Infinite Trajectory in "Quake 3," embellished with unobtrusive special effects and has five different soundtracks, two of which are perfectly synchronized with the video.
Winner of five Golden Llama Awards, jrb (an IT administrator by day, and in his spare time, a member of Shaolin Productions, a club for filmmakers like himself) talked to the GGL about his filmmaking/gaming career and where he's headed next.
Honestly now... You knew your movie was nominated seven times. You knew it's really good. Did you expect as many as five awards?That's just the thing - I didn't think it was that good. I'm very modest, I see flaws in everything I do. For me, it's thrilling to see the other movies that were nominated because they're truly inspirational. I think it's great to be in such great company; everyone one of those productions deserved to be winners at least as much as "Tricking iT2" did...
I never expected so many wins. Usually, if there's a clear winner in terms of the number of nominations, it's very unlikely that they will turn a majority of those nominations into wins.What faults are there in "Tricking iT2"? Technically, there's always things that can be done better, whether it's the tracking of lens flares, to the timing and synching of the visual to the music, or the overlaying of some keyed elements. Some of these things are very hard to go back and change once they're in place and you've moved on.
I personally think that no one should look at something they've created and see perfection. There has to be room for you to improve, to better yourself. Otherwise, you stagnate and become complacent about what you're doing. That applies to anything, not just movie-making.
After looking at some of the other nominees I find myself thinking, 'Well, that was pretty damn cool. Why didn't I think of that?' Or really admiring the technical and creative skills shown by other people. So that always spurs you on to make something better, to reach the next level.So "Tricking iT2" is not the same movie that you conjured inside your head before you starting your work on it?Most people working creatively don't have a clear, well-defined image of something they want to create before they create it. You start out with an initial image and it grows, evolves and ends up at a final product. Or not. "iT2" didn't include a lot of ideas I had for the movie, and while I'm not 100% happy with it, overall, I'm happy with how it came out.
A lot of that has to do with keeping a certain, small, critical group of people happy. The Quake3 trickjumping community, I think, is very set in its ways when it comes to movies and how their art form is portrayed. So I think my overall goal was to keep those guys happy while producing something that had some originality in it.
So, more goals to achieve than an overall vision.After "Tricking iT2," is there any point in making tricking movies for Quake 3?I think there's a hell of a lot of creativity in the tricking scene. And we've seen some excellent movies that have come out since "iT2". Ultimately, a movie should be about the content, so as long as trickjumping can stay fresh and new and interesting, then there's no reason why there shouldn't be more movies out there showing what these guys are doing. I certainly don't think "iT2" is the be-all and end-all in tricking movies.
There was a time when there were a lot of generic tricking movies coming out. Each was well made, but they really weren't doing anything new with the content and the editing, so people became bored, especially people not into trickjumping. Movies like "M@RS," "Freeform," "Deception," and "iT2," I think, have showed that the trickjump movie isn't dead, both from a movie-editing or content point of view. So I'm personally looking forward to seeing what today's editors are gonna throw at us!What does the movie-making process involve from conception to uploading it for the people to watch?For me, the first steps are more about the feel of the movie. So that covers the config, any post-processing done to clips and any overall effects applied to clips, as well as the musical style and branding. The opening music track is very important, as I think it sets the tone of the rest of the production in the work I do, if only because I feel the music has to flow seamlessly and be interwoven with the visuals.
The next step usually involves hitting a huge directory of demos and sorting the crud from the good. Most editors will tell you this is usually the worst and most boring part of making a movie, so I prefer to farm this off to the people I'm making the movie for.
The editing is usually the most fun part for me, finding out how clips fit better in one place than another, and how to evolve the music and the flow. Unfortunately, I tend to get so tied up in the details that I often find myself totally oblivious to glaringly obvious spelling mistakes. :D
The second worst part of movie production is encoding and usually I spend a good few days just tweaking video codecs to ensure it looks just right. Pretty dull work, but important.
And then all that's left is the final upload and distribution. Then it's sitting back and waiting for public reaction - the most tense moment.Were you ever disappointed with the last part of the process? I don't think so, no. I'm a very paranoid person, so I went through a large part of the production looking at my work negatively, wondering what the hell I was doing. I think if it weren't for the great support from the rest of the SP and iT teams, I probably would never have finished it in the first place.
Looking back, I'm actually pretty damn proud of myself for making the movie that finally came out. Some of that is delayed - for example, the Golden Llama Awards - or seeing that it's posted on sites predominately visited by non-quake3'ers and seeing that they love the work too. Or general acceptance from peers. I remember Sean [Kuehnel] (own-age) saying as he picked up the Best Picture award in 2003 for "Annihilation" that it's great to hear all the positive feedback from people all over the world.
It doesn't get any better than that, to hear that people 'get' what you've worked on for so long, especially as gaming movies are really a marginal aspect of the online gaming community.How did you get into fragmovies?I got into fragmovies back when I was playing RTCW for a U.K. clan called one.soldier. There were a lot of Wolfenstein frag movies that were coming out that weren't really pushing the realms of what was possible. And I thought I'd see if I could do any better.
Ironically, our team was much worse than all the other teams featured in the movies that I didn't particularly admire, so we had to try to show another aspect than the well-trodden road of "here's another head shot, here's another one, and another," which I personally found boring.Do you have any experience with cinema from outside gaming?Nope. I've been asked to work on a couple of non-gaming productions. But usually through lack of time, I've never taken them up on the offers. The gaming environment is really great to do the kind of special effects which are costly and time-consuming to do in real life, such as dynamic cameras, keying, etc.
Game engines, especially the Quake 3 engine, offer too much flexibility. It's great once you get to grips with it. To walk away from that flexibility would be difficult.What do you think are your biggest assets as a director?Jeez. It's like being in a job interview! I think patience (very important when it takes days to create just a few seconds worth of work) and a true love for the gaming movie format.Do you get inspiration or learn from what you see in TV or on the big screen?I could definitely say something was influenced by things I'd seen in traditional media like film and print, certain effects, for example. However, I think most of my inspiration comes from the music I listen to. I find it very easy to envision how a certain camera shot or effect will fit to a particular part of a song.
Some of the stuff Hollywood has been doing for the last few years with cameras and virtual simulation is just crazy. I love that kind of stuff. I know a lot of people cite "Bullet Time" and "The Matrix" as a strong influence on them and I'm no different. The way the Wachowski brothers worked the camera, action and audio together is very inspirational and few producers can match that.Why haven't you done a hot fragmovie so far?Actually, I've done two fragmovies for "Return to Castle Wolfenstein." I think it often gets overlooked because of the not-so-over-the-top action when compared to Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament.
Some of the movies I respect the most are frag movies, such as "The Badge" series, "Annihilation," "Fragaddict," "Last Dinosaur2." So, for me to attempt something at that level would be almost be like treading on holy ground. It's a bit scary.What is your next project?I've signed on to do a defrag / frag movie for Ahfeel, a Quake 3 player. No name for the project yet and I haven't started it yet, so don't hold your breath for it.
Posted by Carmac on Aug 24 2005 3:36PM