Taking a peek into the trials of indie video game production has led to some fascinating documentaries, such as Indie Game: The Movie (2012) and Branching Paths (2016). But those films, and others like them, never had to navigate the much more secretive world of AAA gaming, complete with non-disclosure agreements, ballooning budgets and the external pressures of public relations reps and corporate executives.
Enter Playing Hard, the first feature documentary from Jean-Simon Chartier, a look into the four-year development process of For Honor, a 2017 release for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows. The game, which sees players assuming the roles of knights, vikings and samurais in order to wage battle online, won the People’s Choice Award for Best Fighting Game in IGN’s Best of 2017 Awards.
“Playing Hard is four years in the creation of For Honor. (We witness) as the production team grows from 40 to 500 people,” Chartier said. “We witness the pressure creating and launching a major video game. It’s more about the personal quest of characters within this whole process.”
Chartier and his team gained access to the studio largely due to proximity. Chartier’s company, MC2 Communication Media, is located three blocks away from Ubisoft Montreal, which meant Chartier often saw programmers from the studio around the neighbourhood. In less than a decade, Chartier watched as the staff at Ubisoft grew from a few hundred people to more than 3000.
“Video games became the biggest industry. So I thought I would go and knock on Ubisoft’s door and try to find a story,” he said. “My pitch was, I’m not a gamer, but I see you guys around and I want to know about who you are. I was looking for a story with passion, with conflict, with joy, and it took me a few meetings before I fully convinced them.”
As development progressed, the team behind For Honor grew from 40 to 500. The documentary follows creative director Jason VandenBerghe, producer Stéphane Cardin and brand manager Luc Duchaine.
In VandenBerghe, Cardin and Duchaine, Chartier said he found the compelling characters he had initially set out looking for. VandenBerghe, who had the concept for the game in his head for 12 years, was a creative dreamer whose idea is chronicled from inception to realization – with all the bumps along the way that come in working with 400 other individuals.
“When you add in those ingredients, you know you’re going to be able to find a story. You’ll never know what the story will be because you can’t expect all the drama that’s going to be coming out in the four year process,” he said. “After a few months in the beginning of my shooting, I knew there would be something happening so I had to carry on, no matter what.”
Part of that drama emerged from the stress that accompanied a ticking clock and constant milestones for deliverables. During the process, the game evolved from VandenBerghe’s original idea – a natural process that evolves from working with such a large team, but still one that saw the creative director losing a bit of his essence on the project.
Chartier said he hoped the film would reach a broad audience, and not just those interested in video gaming.
“I hope people will relate to a character-driven story made out of passion and joy and conflict – we all have to go through those emotions,” he said. “And I hope it will create a discussion within the gaming industry about the pressure and the kind of environment they work in, and I think that is true for Hollywood as well, and a lot of other creative industries. If this creates a discussion within the industry and also touches a broad audience, then I would be very happy.”
Check out the trailer below.
Playing Hard plays at Hot Docs in Toronto from May 2 to 4. For more information, visit playinghardthemovie.com
Schitt’s Creek to conclude after next season
The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end at the conclusion of its sixth season, series co-creator and star Dan Levy announced March 21.
“We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning,” Levy said in a statement. “It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow.”
Schitt’s Creek premiered on CBC in 2015, becoming one of the network’s most successful half-hour comedies ever. The show follows the fish-out-of-water Rose family, forced to assimilate into a small town after they lose their family fortune.
Though the show’s first season received mixed reviews, it grew in regard with both fans and critics over subsequent iterations. Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season, which premiered on January 8, 2019, scored a 100 per cent “Fresh” ranking on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
The show is also among select company among Canadian sitcoms, drawing strong viewership in the United States and elsewhere thanks to distribution on Netflix and the American Pop network. Critics have reacted favourably to recent episodes, with TV Guide’s Megan Vick writing that each season of Schitt’s Creek has “gotten better and better.”
Read Levy’s full statement below.
To Our Dear Fans… pic.twitter.com/FIXjD3gbzA
— dan levy (@danjlevy) March 21, 2019
New episodes of Schitt’s Creek air Tuesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC.
Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”
To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.
Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.
Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).
Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed
Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed
All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.
Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.
Don’t fuck with my family. 💕
— Emily Andras (@emtothea) February 21, 2019
Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.
In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.
“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”
Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.