ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Documentary of an Addiction —

Like most people, I started out just “fooling around” on documentaries. I thought I could handle it, keep it under control. When it came to seeing them in the theaters, it was by mistake or unintentionally, like the time I found myself watching The Thin Blue Line or Roger and Me. I enjoyed myself, but didn’t really see why they were better or worse than any of the other hundreds of films I was watching during my teenage years and film school.

Now it’s out of control. You can find me at the local independent theatres (the Brattle and the Coolidge) seeing such films as Capturing the Friedmans, Dogtown and Z-Boys, and Step into Liquid. I’ve tracked down and bought the DVDs of Grey Gardens, Endless Summer and Genghis Blues. But the thing is, all these films are generally “big” and have pretty nice budgets or have achieved success. For a true junkie, it’s like picking up over-the-counter stuff. Enjoyable, but not a rush. It’s too simple.

Tougher, then, are the documentaries that I’ve been hunting down, ones where they’re made by just a few people, with little or no “big sell” dreams, just trying to tell a story. I mean, if you didn’t hunt, how else would you know about documentaries about The Pixelvision Camera (The Art of Pixelvision), Laser Tag and Photon (Lightsport), and, of course, First Person Shooters (Gamers: A Documentary).

I love nothing more than tracking down these little obscure projects with their non-wide marketing, tiny budgets and intense, fanatical commitment to getting the story out. And when I see a film that’s trying its best to take on the same sort of difficuly, hard-to-grasp and hard-to-film subject like I am, then they really get my attention. Like Avatars Offline, which is a documentary dealing with Everquest and Ultima Online and the related situations and people to that. And when I originally heard about the Demo DVD Project, well, it was just a matter of waiting, and when it came out, I pounced.

Sometimes, you hear about a documentary and then, like some sort of animal, it skitters away, never to be found. A good example is Bang the Machine, a documentary made in 2002 about competitors in Street Fighter 2.
There have been articles and writeups on it, even a little bit of TV coverage. It is possible, with some effort, to download the trailer. And if you were lucky enough to be at the right festivals you might have seen it. But what if you want to see it, like I did? Sorry, the officially listed site has been down for a year (believe me, I’ve checked) and good luck finding much about the makers, who billed themselves “JabStrongFierce Productions”. Oh, look! Another link!

I found out about The Joystick Generation and I’ve been waiting outside his door for over a year now as well, breathing on my hands and shifting back and forth on my feet like the little addict I am. Just one more hit, just one more…

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