The lights are on
The gaming-themed movie Noobz is out in world to a mixed reception (our own Dan Ryckert did not particularly enjoy it). Director Blake Freeman was nice enough to chat with us before our review released and was more than willing to discuss all aspects of the move. This interview covers specific plot details including the ending, so watch out for spoilers if you haven't seen the film yet.
It seems like one of the reasons that you wanted to chat was because some gamers are assuming the worst about Noobz. Why do you think that is?
Oh no, no, no. For one, every time a game movie comes out, before it even has a chance to get out, it is beat to hell. We decided to not go with either of the studios that made a bid on the script because they were going to turn this movie into something that had nothing to do with competitive gaming. Everything that they offered up was something that tried to appeal to everyone in their mind. So what we want to do is keep the game and the movie realistic to what competitive gaming would be.
When the movie finished we set up with our distribution. Once that happens we’re out of the game. There was a second trailer that came out that was also independent of the studio. Another company did it and it had the narration guy talking about “You might be a gamer.” It’s the one that most people are like, “Aw s---, this really looks bad.” I would’ve never had that as a trailer because that’s f---ing the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
Basically it was a riff on Jeff Foxworthy?
It’s insane man, I was like, “Holy s--- we’re gonna get killed.” I don’t think you can insult the intelligence of gamers or anybody that spends a lot of time on the net. Movies like Airplane, those were great classic movies but that comedy doesn’t work anymore. Kevin Smith, an idol of mine, I thought he was awesome, but I don’t think when you tell a joke and then give the punch line immediately in movies, I’m not sure that that’s where we are anymore. I think basically guys in perilous situations and how they handle it in a realistic form should make it funny. It really shouldn’t be joke and punch line, joke and punch line. And I didn’t really want to do that with this movie.
So all getting back to it, all gaming movies that come out just get killed before they come out. I mean, Grandma’s Boy was called one of the worst movies they had possibly seen by one critic and then it became a cult classic. But I didn’t think that we could’ve taken competitive gaming and made it slap-sticky like Grandma’s Boy. I just don’t think that would’ve worked.
How did you guys initially approach Epic and Microsoft about including Gears of War 3 as the centerpiece?
Well the script kind of stayed true to what competitive gaming was so right off the bat Pepsi, CBS, Microsoft, PlayStation, all of them were excited about becoming part of the film. Now we didn’t get any money from any advertisers. And that’s unfortunate. I read all the time where people are like “I can’t believe they got so much advertisement, this movie was made for millions of dollars.” This movie was made for $340,000 independently. We made a great film for that budget, and being able to pull off what we did.
What we asked for from these advertisers was we just needed help getting word of mouth for the movie out there. And we also asked for big sets and things like that. Instead of asking for money we asked them for assistance in making this film happen, and that was really one of the coolest things that happened is that this movie was made at a budget in the Clerks world. When people know it they really appreciate it a little bit more.
We pulled off something that I felt was amazing to have, you know, this huge tournament atmosphere. It was really in a big building; the set all together was probably over a million and a half dollars and Vizio and all these people stepped in, but we didn’t get any money from them. They just gave us the use of all of this.
We had to choose a third-person [game]. I was a huge fan of the SOCOM franchise through one and two before I felt like they f---ed it up. So I was like, “Alright, let’s do SOCOM.” And honestly, the players that played – I guess the number of players fell off tremendously after Call of Duty and everything else. And so we really went with Gears just because as a third-person game, it was one of the biggest out there.
And so, that’s why we chose that game. I hate to see comments that say, “Oh my God, why would they use Gears?” We could use any game and everybody’s gonna have a problem with it that doesn’t play that game. It’s tough to make the movie anyway to where it stays true, but it’s very tough to make it where everybody is going to be happy. That just isn’t going to happen.
Did you expect when you were writing the movie that the audience would be so polarized?
Oh yeah, we knew right off the bat. The real stats of all this are: the gamers that are hardcore are a small percentage of gamers. Casual gamers, they don’t really care what game’s in the movie. They just want to see a good movie, a funny movie. And if it leads to competitive gaming, they can get an idea of what it is. Maybe it will get them hyped up and they’ll want to know more about it. That’s going to be your main audience. You want everybody to be happy.
We had an 850-person screening here when E3 happened in June, and the pro gamers showed up – we had a ton of pro gamers there – and before going in they were like, “Ah man, I don’t know. You have Gears of War in it. I just don’t know if I’m going to like it.”
They all came out and they were like, “Hey, that was funny man. I liked it.” They assumed that everybody was going to be made to look like nerds in the film, and they were like, ‘Thank you for not doing that.”
I’ve actually read a couple of places where guys are like, “Oh, they’re going to make us look like douchebags, and all we do is play, and girls don’t want to be with us.” If any gamer that played hardcore like I did doesn’t know of a guy whose relationship has been on the rocks because we can hear the woman screaming at him through the headset, they’re full of ***.
We actually have a friend who was served divorce papers, and it said at the top of it, “Because he plays too much SOCOM.” He was being divorced because of that game. That’s some intense stuff. And that’s kind of what we wanted to really get across was, guys that play a lot, yes, they catch *** from everybody.
It seems like there may have been a fair amount of improvisation?
There’s one thing that I have to do. My movies have to stay realistic. Even in the humor I want it just to be like how guys would talk. We do it one [time] scripted, and then we’ll do the scene two more times, and just let everybody go off in any direction they want. And we use a lot of them just going off and doing their own thing.
One thing I was wondering, the movie is called Noobz, but it seems to be about guys that are total pros, and there really aren’t too many “noobs” in a technical sense in the movie.
The thought of that was, Matt Shively’s character, Oliver, he’s like a noob. Jason Mewes thinks he’s awesome. He’s kind of a noob. The character that I play is the guy that everybody knows online who’s always just angry at everything and yells, and you can’t understand how the guy actually functions in life because he’s such a d---head. I’ve known several of those online, and so, that character is one that’s really good, a top 10 kind of player, and so he carries them, and the guys are just good enough to complement him.
And so our thought on that was, “Those guys were the noobs.” A lot of people would just assume that we win the tournament, I’m sure. We go, and we win this big championship. Let’s just make us lose. The guys aren’t that good.
You get the silver lining with the guy coming in and saying, “Oh yeah, we’d like to sponsor you guys,” but it seems like right after that it gets shut down again. You’re pulling for ‘em, and then not only do they kind of let the other team win, but then they’ve come all this way but they haven’t got anything. They haven’t really made a journey as far as characters.
We didn’t want it to be like every other movie where the guys do it and you leave going, “Ah, they made it. They’re going to be fine.” It’s just we felt, realistically, and just in artistic difference from everything else, that the guys are going to be back playing games again. Our hope was, and will be, that we would love to be able to make one where it goes international and we continue doing it.
We thought we were going to get some backlash when the guy ends up not being real. We thought it would be kind of funny to make him be a fraud in the film. We knew we were going to catch some flak on that, and at this point it’s a little late to change it, but it is what it is.
You mentioned your character as being kind of a jerk. It seems like he’s the main character, or Jason Mewes. You guys kind of go back and forth. It’s kind of atypical to have this jerky guy as your main protagonist.
Only in a gamer community could you pull that off. If you play games a lot, you know that this guy is the epitome of most people you see when you’re playing online. He’s kind of an a--hole. So we just thought that just keeping with the realism there’s going to be one of those. There’s going to be one of those guys who’s just obsessed with gaming, and that’s Andy, which is Jason Mewes.
We didn’t want a lot of backstory going on with other people. We didn’t want to muddy it up. We’re following these guys’ quests on trying to win this one championship. If it doesn’t work, then obviously you know these dudes are going to try it again because they got so close.
It seems like your character might learn a lesson after he talks to the little girl in the gas station, but he just immediately goes back to being an a--hole for the rest of the movie.
That was our character when we wrote it out. He’s trying to get better. He starts to slow down a little bit. But those kinds of guys in real life are terrible at relationships, and terrible at being a people person.
Speaking of not being able to score a relationship, it seems like a good chunk of the movie is devoted to Jason Mewes’ and Zelda Williams’ characters sparking things up, culminating with his sacrificing the tournament at the end. Then they don’t end up together. There’s nothing in the epilogue…
I know. We felt like they don’t know each other well enough yet. I felt like if I had them going, “Ah, I love you” and kissing each other like that, it just – it was too early.
Could we have done that piece better? Yes. I think we would have shown them in probably one or two more scenes, but in order to get in enough of the gaming scenes on the time constraints, we chose the gaming scenes instead. But yeah, you’re right. That part of the story should have been carried out a little bit longer, and basically we were running out of time.
Kind of just practical concerns, basically?
Yeah, so we went with the easy way out and just said he was popping the other guy’s mom.
Listen, we knew we weren’t making an Oscar-worthy movie. We’re making a comedy about gamers. When you look at the other movies about gaming, there are some really bad ones out there. There has been some really, really s----y movies and they were made for millions of dollars.
I don’t like when studios make decisions. These dudes, their only gaming experience would be wearing a Rush shirt and playing a f---ing pinball machine in 1975. They don’t understand it. That’s why we made this movie independently. And that was one of our things. Did we have constraints making an independent movie? Oh yes, we didn’t get all the money that everybody else got, but we got enough from the product sponsor partners in the film to make it look legitimate as a real tournament and that’s what we stayed with.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I have two movies coming out this year. One is called Gawd Bless America. I debunk aliens, psychics, and the paranormal. It’s a documentary-comedy, it’s basically really full of pranks to disprove all of these things. The other movie is called Mucho Dinero and it comes out August 2013. That one is another scripted comedy like Noobz and it has Eddie Griffin, Danny Trejo, and myself in it.
Did you write and direct that one as well?
Yes, I did. All three of them. I got started in the business on a TruTv show that will probably never hit the air. It’s called Rogue Society, and we pulled pranks on people who deserved it like a used car salesman that was screwing people over. We staged a bank robbery and made the guy pee his pants. That was how I got started.
We would go after con artists and it was so hardcore. It’s the funniest s--- you’ve ever seen, there was no doubt about that, but legally we were running into problems because by holding him in the car at one point, that’s called kidnapping. There are all kinds of things that we would’ve ran into. That show’s probably not gonna go.
Head to the official Noobz webpage on Facebook to find various streaming and DVD options for watching the movie.