Ego Central to Machinima Filmmaker Ken Thain

Monday, November 13, 2006

Festive Machine Cinema's Top 5

I wanted to post a really good overview of the 2006 Machinima Festival and started writing as soon as I got home. I wrote 2 pages and wasn't even past the first presentation. I then tried a second time and wrote another 2 pages and found it turning into a biography and tribute to each of the individual people I had the pleasure of meeting. Now its a solid week past and some pictures and footage is surfacing so I figure I'll just throw out my top 5 highlights with a mashup of the media that's out there now.

#5. Who makes this Stuff? Its Yummy! Even though I actively look forward to the Machinima festival each year, this was the first year I was able to actually attend. I did not waste a minute, catching every presentation (well, except the first 2 on the Sunday... ummm... yeah... It was a late night) to the point where it was bitter sweet because I had even less time to talk to all the friends I was finally meeting outside the presentation schedule. Each presentation was just so amazingly interesting it was almost fantasy like to be at something that was so focused on just machinima! Just seeing all the hands raised whenever someone asked, 'How many here have made machinima' was surreal (unless it was the machinima intellectual properties roundtable and the question is, 'How many here are from a game company.' and your the only hand being raised, then having Hugh Hancock lean over and say, 'Your very brave.' LOLOLOL). All of this was so well put together and came across so professional that I think the organizers can never be fully thanked. Having a full sized Mal show up was so hilariously funny, it was a great example of Frank Dellario's and the Ill Clan's genius, not to mention their live TrashTalk episode that wrapped it all up with its Oscar like mashup. Fantastic. And all this topped off with it being live in Second Life! (6.5MB wmv) When I came back to work a few people mentioned seeing my presentation live and Jonathan Perry shared his experiences of being at the festival fully through Second Life and experiencing it with other machinima filmmakers there. What an amazing thing. Revolutionary really.

#4. It's made of people! The festival is really the sum of its parts, and these parts come from the people that attend. Meeting so many people that I have such great artistic and intellectual respect for is almost overwhelming. Most people I spoke to I wished for straight one to one time just to get a deep dialog going but its too hard with so many great talents in one place. Even just going to get food was always with a roaming mob of 10 - 15 people because we all wanted to hang out together. Some real highlights was meeting Jason Choi(left), Ben Grussi (second from left), Ingrid Moon (second from right) and her Shiny husband Mark, Chris Burke, my buddy Friedrich, Todd Stallkamp (left), Nathan Moller (waldo), Frank Dellario (eyes up dude), Richard Gras, Brian Mayberry (second from left), Matt Dominianni (Ill Will - second from right) and of course Paul and Hugh. Also Richard Grove and Phil Rice which I don't think I really got to get across my fanboy like appreciation to them. Richard, who I think got thanked more than the G-man himself at the festival (and I'm not speaking Half-Life), has such amazing industry experience and knowledge to share I don't think I even got to scratch the surface of how much of a fan of his I was. And Phil (middle), who may be one of the biggest contributors to enabling me in making Rebel vs Thug this century simply because of his support of the machinima community before it was barely a community, and to come back and do it again, twice as hard is mindblowingly amazing. I hope everyone makes it back next year with a few extra days to mingle!!

#3. Hear ye, hear ye! When Paul Marino asked me to do a presentation for the Machinima tech panel I was totally stoked. I love all the things machinima represents and the future it beholds and I really do feel I get an amazing insight of some of it through the upcoming technologies that I work on at BioWare. So being able to share some of that, with BioWare's full support was very cool. It was a little challenging with having so much still under wraps on the project that I couldn't show too much, but atleast through the presentation I was able to share a little of the passion I feel about machinima and what we're doing with it.

#2. Its Machinema! On the flight out I managed to catch up on Bloodspell from EP7 through to 11 (EP12 out now! Downloading as I write!). And ofcourse this was a great buildup to meeting the man, the legend himself Mr. Hancock. Meeting Hugh after knowing him virtually via the interweb for 6 years was amazingly casual. We went into conversation as if we were just catching up since the last night at the pub. :) Bloodspell's not winning best technical achievement was my greatest disappointment at the awards. Like Relic? Come on. If they checked off the submission box for this category well fuck, their building a game! And they didn't even show up for their awards. Ok, I kid. I kid. Sorta. The tough thing is, which I discussed with Paul Marino and Frank Dellario after the awards was how Technical Achievement is hard to judge via viewing alone. There's no way of knowing Strange Company hacked the Neverwinter Nights EXE with a hex editor to modify the FOV settings. Now thats Technical Achievement! Frank and Paul mentioned a few great ideas that may address recognizing technical achievement in the future that sounded great. Anyways, Hugh summed it up best when I broached the subject and he asked me how many awards Buffy won.. Yes, Buffy, arguably one of the best produced series ever, never to get proper recognition, at all, but had great success because of its fan base which is what really mattered. I took comfort that Hugh fully embraced this.

#1. And the Winner is. So possibly the biggest highlight for me was being a presenter at the Award Ceremony. I was so unbelievably honoured to participate and announce some of the winners. Just standing up on stage, announcing the category, opening the envelope and having this few seconds of being the first to know who just won was a real blast. This highlight was catapulted even higher when opening the envelope to one of the categories I presented, Best Off the Self machinima, and seeing Nathan Mollers name there for 'Just a Game'. Having just picked him up to come out to BioWare and then have him win a Mackie was so tres cool. I was just as honoured that Nathan thanked me in his acceptance speech. After the ceremony we joked how now when he starts at BioWare, any camera shot I try to get him to change he'll just tell me to speak to Mackie and point to the glass award beside his desk. LOL!

So that's it. Mackies 2006 is a wrap. Put it in the can! I'm putting my festival schedule in with the rest of my machinima collection and looking at a bright future. I think Richard Grove has summed up the event amazing well with his short video. If anything the festival revitalizes the machinima drive in all of us to achieve better films, reach higher quality productions and make stronger community connections. And it was so great being part of it. Thanks Paul!


  • At 10:04 AM, Blogger Mu Nansen said…

    I feel ya. I'd love to do a post about the festival, but first I have to figure out how to keep it from becoming a novel. Too much stuff to say.

  • At 11:40 AM, Blogger Booklad said…

    Excellent post, Ken. It was like being there all over again. You are so right about the festival really being about people. I felt exactly the same way. If you went to one event that meant you were missing something else. I remember standing in the lobby trying to decide what to do and my head was just going back and forth like in a cartoon.

    It's hard to choose what to say out of all the things one can say about this wonderful event. Perhaps a podcast might work; something like what Phil is doing. Anyway, I like your "highlights" version very much. I'll probably borrow the form a bit for my post this week.

    I was so very impressed with so many people, but Hugh was really a gentleman about the awards. And how about those crazy Frenchmen? Ah...can't wait to get back to the longer documentary.

    And thanks for the video link. Very kind of you.


  • At 5:10 PM, Blogger Suhnder said…

    Festival was a very amazing experience for me. I also sorta wished that I skipped some of the presentations, not because they were bad but because I just wanted to hang out with everyone.

    Next year we should try to set aside a week or so to just hang out outside of the festival schedule. "Machinima week" or something.

    Machinima is a very particular thing, and being completely surrounded by other machinimators left and right was surreal. It wasn't like hanging out with film lovers or game lovers, it was just a very unique experience that weekend. Felt right at home.

    I've heard that even last year's festival was not nearly as big - makes me wonder how amazing next year is gonna be!

    Was a real pleasure meeting you in person, Ken. Wished we had more time to squeeze some more UE3 secrets out of you. ;) Lookin forward to the full post!

  • At 11:35 AM, Blogger todnyc said…

    Man, I could write a top 20. And it would simply list the people I met.

    Good point on Relic, there was something not fun about that award.


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