Interview with Die Noobs! Producer Erik Cieslewicz
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., Will Anderson had the chance to sit down with Producer/Director of the web series Confab Erik Cieslewicz and chat about a new upcoming documentary, Die Noobs! Die Noobs! follows two regular joes as they embark on a journey to become uber and explore the world of competitive gaming.
Will: So, I know that you’re releasing a webseries right now – why don’t we talk about that for a bit?
Erik: So it’s a webseries called Confab. It’s kind of like taking that golden era of sitcoms, like Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, and reinventing it for the web. So the idea is like, especially with Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and stuff like that, everyone’s kind of hanging out in the same place online now; there’s not really much of that niche community – or not much of a focus on it. Of course, the idea was to make a show that everyone would like, instead of making one that was just about gamers, for example, or just about weight-lifters or something like that. Make something that has a broad mass appeal for a big audience. So, that was sort of our goal. We’re releasing the episodes right now –first four episodes are out, episode 4 just came out this week. So far the response has been overwhelming. The process has been really, really fun, just watching everybody get into it. We’ve had people tell us their favourite lines, and we’ll make advertising campaigns based on those and stuff like that. It’s kind of cool to do the social TV thing where the audience is active participants rather than just passive recipients of the whole thing. So, www.watchconfab.com.
Will: So, now you’re shifting gears, and going into documentary mode.
Will: And this is kind of a gamer-centric kind of thing. So why don’t you go ahead and tell me about it?
Erik: Sure, definitely. So, Confab has a couple of episodes that are about video games, because it’s such a big part of my life. There’s a character who’s entirely into roleplaying – that’s like all he does, all the time. There’s an episode about everyone waiting in line for the launch of a video game. So, this is like hardcore going after my passion for playing videogames, but in a way, I’m a little on the outside, looking at professional game-playing, rather than the casual stuff that I tend to do. So, we’re following basically these two guys that are casual gamers – they don’t really play competitions or anything like that – and we’re going to mold them into professional video game players. And along the way, we’re going to talk to people in the industry, we’re going to meet players, we’re going to meet designers, we’re going to meet celebrities that play video games. And they’re all going to sort of help train these guys, while talking about the scene. What we want to do is sort of make the E-sports sort of scene, which is huge (millions of people watch E-Sports) – but outside of that scene, not a lot of people know much about it. You know, I mean, you and I knew about it, because you and I play a lot of videogames – we’re kinda there. But when I talk to my colleagues about stuff like this or like that, nothing. They didn’t even know that people got paid to play videogames – that it is a professional scene. So we’re really excited at the prospects of taking this awesome scene out of the basement and into everyone’s living room.
Will: So what do you game in your free time?
Erik: I should probably tell you the name of the movie real quick.
Will: Probably be a good idea (laughs).
Erik: So the name of film is “Die Noobs”, and it follows Zach and Jason, our two casual gamers who end up going from casual to hardcore. And I can tell you that there are quite a few celebrities who we’re in talks with right now, but I’m not allowed to say anything until it’s concrete. But we do for sure have the Tight End for the Green Bay Packers, Tom Crabtree, who’s going to be one of the guest trainers – huge gamer.
So what I play. I love Bioware – huge Bioware fanboy—uh even love lot of the new stuff that a lot of people don’t seem to like… I love Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, but those were amazing. I still play Star Wars: The Old Republic regularly – still a subscriber even a year (or whatever) later. I like playing console more than I like playing PC, but I did play The Walking Dead on PC anyway – that was awesome (laughs). And I own 3DS for portable purposes (laughs). I like the single-player, close-ended, aesthetically-pleasing type of stuff. I don’t play a lot of multiplayer stuff. So that’s why this world is very interesting to me. The more I learn about it, the more I’m really impressed with how passionate these guys are about these games […] – it especially reminds me of UFC. I’m not a huge UFC fan, but a lot of my friends are, and just the way they talk about UFC is very similar to the way people talk about the Star Craft things, and getting down with the schedule, who’s going to be facing who and looking back at how the line-up compares to last year’s tournament and that sort of stuff. Very, very interesting. ‘Cause I like sports a lot. I follow the NFL, I follow world cup soccer, I follow major league soccer. And this is basically the same thing. And it’s very easy for me to plug in and apply that passion that I have for regular sports into E-sports. And so, part of the fun part of this project so far has been finding a way to visually capture the excitement that I have learning about this stuff and transferring that to the audience, so they can get excited about E-sports and watching that type of stuff.
Will: What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve run into going from that kind of single-player-centric mode to go into this multiplayer… and the social aspects of it?
Erik: One of the biggest things to me is how much sportsmanship is there. ‘Cause when I think of competitive stuff, I think of trash-talking, I think of guys that just flat out don’t like each other. As a Green Bay Packer fan, I’m used to the Packers hating the Bears, and the Bears hating the Packers type of thing. And instead what you have – especially in E-sports – is a lot of guys have a lot of respect for each other – they like each other. It feels a lot like skateboarding, or snowboarding, or other extreme sports like that that I follow in the Olympics. I definitely was not expecting that. I was expecting much more cut-throat competitive.
Will: So, what went into the candidate selection, if you will, of finding your two gentlemen to build up from scratch?
Erik: (laughs) They actually came to me (laughs). I know one of them from school is what it boiled down to. I was just getting done with Confab, I was actually looking for a documentary project is what I wanted to do, cause I got my start in television news – that’s where I got my Emmy nomination, my Edward R. Murrow Award and all that. And I really wanted to get back into doing that some more. I had a lot of fun doing the really cool investigate series, and feature-y stories, less ambulance chasing. And I was like, “What should I do? What should I do?” And then out of nowhere, my friend Zach from highschool was like: “Dude, I want to make a pro-gaming documentary! We’re going to take me and some other guy and we’re going to mold us into pro-players and we’re going to take over the world and win some tournaments and kick some ass! And you should totally do this with us! As soon as he mentioned pro-gaming – that is an awesome idea! I started researching it more, looking at the landscape of what’s been made. And there have been a couple of videos here and there on the web, of guys who sort of capture it, the people, and stuff like that. Especially “King of Kong” and “Chasing Ghosts” captures that archaic stuff, but E-sports is relatively unexplored in documentaries so far. So I’m really excited to sort of explore uncharted territory with this. Once I found out that was the case, that we would be doing something that was not yet done, that there was no blueprint for, no right way to do it or anything like that, it go me more excited because I like a challenge like that.
Will: So about how long are you expecting this project to last before you can go into post-production?
Erik: Shooting will be kind of spread out a bit as they continue to train. So I’ll be doing a lot of post-production work during production, and it’ll sort of go concurrently. We’re hoping to have principle photography wrapped up by the end of this year or maybe early next year and hopefully start getting into festivals and maybe have a theatrical release by sometime Spring to Summer of next year 2014. We expect a pretty fast turnaround, because we’ve got a lot of talents, and we’ve got a lot of passion – especially from the producers. Some of the best producers I’ve worked on this project – really amazing, helping me out with resources and stuff like that.
Will: Well, thanks a lot!
Stay tuned for more news on Die Noobs! here at Gamer Living or get signed up at the Die Noobs! website. In the meantime, feel free to take a look at these exclusive production pics by photographer Adam Baumann.
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