Insights into making a documentary about an arcade classic

 

An interview with Filmmaker Martin Touhey on his film Inside the Dragon’s Lair
 

How long have you been working on the film and where did the idea come from?

I’ve been working on the film since January 2009.

I started by writing down ideas for documentary films and I wanted to do a documentary film about something that impacted my life and continually brought me great pleasure. After doing a search on Google and finding no feature length documentaries made about Dragon’s Lair, I knew what my subject was.

The GameRoom Blog Have you made any prior films?

I’ve made an attempt at a web series that was kind of short lived. I called it RetroSmash and I got a decent amount of hits and feedback on it, but I couldn’t dedicate the time to it that I wanted to, so it fell by the wayside. I only put out 3 episodes. I’d love to return to it someday when I have more time. As far as features go, this will be my first. My producer Justin Maine has a feature documentary under his belt. It’s called So Right So Smart and explores the increased profit potential of corporations that strive for environmental sustainability.

The GameRoom Blog So I take it you have been doing some learning on the fly. What aspects of making a feature documentary have turned out to be the most challenging so far?

There are many challenges in any filmmaking endeavor, but I would say the most difficult aspect has been and still is finding the right approach to the story and/or stories. I not only want to create a documentary that Dragon’s Lair fans will enjoy, but a documentary that anyone can enjoy. I find that some docs tend to stick to their core audience and this can be off-putting to viewers who are not familiar with the subject matter. In this case I need to make Dragon’s Lair as interesting as possible for the newcomer without boring the die-hard fan. In short, the execution of the film will have to be carefully finessed. Also it will be a challenge to find stories that will tap into people’s emotions, something that people can identify with. Without a sense of drama or conflict the film may only be an informational reference and perceived as sterile, or worse, boring. I like to think I have a few cards up my sleeve, however.

As many independent filmmakers can attest to, funding is an incredibly difficult ordeal as well. So far everything is being paid for by myself and my producer Justin. We have a strategy that will be put into place within the next few months and hopefully it will work. It won’t determine whether or not the project gets completed, but it will determine its completion date.

New challenges will spring up as well. Ones we can expect are marketing and distribution. I’ve already begun a small marketing push through forums, Facebook, and Twitter and in regards to distribution; it’s a very tricky subject for independents. As of now there is no distribution for the film. This is not uncommon. Most independent films will make a festival run in order to attract distributors. Unless something amazing or magical happens, I’ll probably attempt the same. As for the unexpected challenges, we’ll just have cross those bridges when we come to them.

I think the expectation of the film will also pose a challenge to me. There are many Dragon’s Lair fans, arcade game fans, Don Bluth fans, and just plain old documentary fans. Pleasing one of these groups might be easy; pleasing them all is a whole other story.

The GameRoom Blog I think you hit the nail on the head. It needs to be able to appeal to people on a few different levels. Not everyone is going to be a hardcore fan, but others certainly will appreciate it based on the technological advances or the great animation.

On the funding, have you considered Kickstarter or IndieGoGo for funding? There have been a few documentaries that have been funded through them and I think the subject matter would go over well.

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are fantastic resources for film makers and is part of the funding strategy that my producer and I came up with. We decided to choose Kickstarter for a few reasons. First I like that the application process is a bit more stringent on Kickstarter, not just any project can make it through. Also I like the “all or nothing” aspect. I think it really is a motivating factor and will push us to get more fans. When you have something to lose, you’re more likely to work for it. Anyway, the basic idea is to shoot interviews with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman to show that the project has the endorsement of the creators. We hope to have interviews with Rick Dyer and John Pomeroy as well, but our current state of funds and time may not allow for that.

Once we have our interviews, we will cut together a more solid and focused trailer and then launch the Kickstarter page. It’s important to note that we’ve started the fan page on Facebook, the Twitter feed and my involvement in the forums at klov.com, dragonslairproject.com, and dragonslairfans.com is all in preparation to build an existing fan base before we launch the Kickstarter page. All too often people launch projects only to find that they don’t have the proper fan base to back it up.

The GameRoom Blog Is there anything specific that fans can help you with? Do you have a goal to complete the film by a certain target date?

Yes, the fans can help in numerous ways. First and foremost they can promote the Facebook page and Twitter feed to their friends. The more exposure the film gets the better. At this point the fan base is rather small, but it grows every day and with every new like of the page my confidence in the project increases. Fans can also donate to the film through Kickstarter when the page is launched within the next few months. Movies are expensive, and this one is no different. Lastly I received some feedback regarding the film on the forums at klov.com. There are those out there who find Dragon’s Lair very unappealing and those viewpoints would like a voice in the film. I’m not opposed to giving this viewpoint a chance and I’ve called out for people to send me links of videos or create their own videos about why Dragon’s Lair sucks. Keep in mind that I am a fanboy of the game and most of the film will shed Dragon’s Lair in a positive light, but I’m not going to ignore the fact that some people truly dislike the game and for understandable reasons.

My goal is to complete the film by the end of 2013 as that year marks the 30th anniversary of Dragon’s Lair. June 19th would be a fantastic date to release it as that is the precise date that the game came out in 1983, but it isn’t likely. So realistically it’s the end of 2013 if not the first part of 2014.

The GameRoom Blog The 30th anniversary! Wow we are truly getting old. That sounds like a great plan. Please keep us up to date with your progress and when you get the Kickstarter page up and running. We would like to help you promote that. Thanks so much for your time in doing this interview.

The pleasure was totally mine. Thanks for your insightful questioning and I look forward to seeing the article. I’ll definitely keep everyone updated on the progress of the film through the fan page and Twitter. I don’t think there’s anything that else that needs to be asked at this point. Things are still in the early stages of production, so there isn’t really a wealth of information I can give quite yet. Take care.