Imagine if you unlocked a videogame character and they became real? This is the underlying premise of Game Companion, a short film which sees nerdy basement-dwelling gamer Bob master his favourite game and have a real life anime girl, Kimiko, literally drop into his life as a reward. It makes for great viewing, as it takes what is by now a common trope in a lot of anime and games (bubbly dream girl in the hands of romantically inexperienced nerd) and subverts it in a very cool and kickass way. Director Brian Morelan says, “In anime, there are usually some geeky guys who out of random circumstances find themselves around beautiful girls who will suddenly pay attention to them. The guys usually do not know how to cope with this, and it is generally not how they imagined.” He has used these themes to play around with ideas of relationships, romantic entitlement and autonomy, as dream girl Kimiko becomes aware of what is happening and becomes reality, not fantasy.
What is particularly nice about this film is that everything has consequences. Bob and his friend Cecil initially act unfairly to Kimiko – Bob wants to impress her, and Cecil wants a companion of his own. There’s a bit of a creeper attitude coming from Bob at times – nicely intentioned, but something any cosplayer (especially those who cosplay sexy female characters) can relate to at times, and he also intentionally misleads Kimiko, who believes he really is a warrior who vanquishes evil on a regular basis. However, a series of revelations and some interesting game mechanics lead to a very different conclusion than Bob had expected. We won’t reveal anything – you’ll have to watch it yourself to see how it pans out!
And you can do so quite soon, because Game Companion has its UK premiere at J-Con in the East Midlands this September! The film has made it to over 80 festivals and conventions on the other side of the pond, but this will be the first in the UK, so come and check it out. It’s a positive start, as it would be nice to see more films incorporating cosplay, gaming and geek culture at film festivals over here.
Now, a bit about the technical side of the film. The game that Bob plays is heavily influenced by fighting games like Street Fighter, and the in-game fight scenes were filmed using real actors with special effects to lend it a more cel-shaded look and filming techniques such as reducing the frame rate by half, which is particularly effective and really makes you feel like you’re watching a game being played.
Cosplay was also a bit influence for this film, which isn’t surprising given the characters and the videogame theme. We get to see some great outfits and crazy wigs, and it looks like not only was the costume department allowed to go all out on this, but the actors are evidently really enjoying themselves. It’s not often that short films showcase things getting this much larger than life, and it’s nice to revel in watching something from such a colourful world that, as geeks, we are all part of and proud of. Morelan cites Ah! my Goddess! as a particular influence for makeup styles, and there’s a lot more influences that you can probably spot when you watch it.
The film was made in Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, and features actors and crew from the area. Morelan states “I had wanted to do this sort of anime inspired film for a long time, as we had been making character inspired films for a while, but I really wanted to do something with great costumes and effects.” Well, it’s certainly paid off well, and from original concept to completing the final cut, the whole project took seven months.
Finally, we asked Brian Morelan what advice he would give to budding filmmakers. Here is his response.
“If I were going to suggest to others what to do if they were wanting to make a film there are two main things. If it is your first time making a film, it will probably suck, but do not worry about it, before any of us get good at things we have to be bad first. For the first few times it may be easier to help on someone else’s film and from everything you do you learn.
The second thing I would say is start with a really huge idea. Come up with something grand, way over the top that you would like to see, just imagine it. Then once you have your best possible idea, scale it back just a bit to something which can work with your budget and equipment. Filming lets you imagine worlds which do not exist, and to directly share it with a viewer.”
So that’s Game Companion, guys, so look out for it, and keep your eyes peeled as there will be more from Morelan in 2015!