Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 2

Monday, January 18, 2016.

61TKy-DRWgL._AA300_We get together at 6 pm to shoot video for the Imagine Cup semi-finals.  None of the takes go very well because we don’t have a script, and a game/simulation that can potentially save lives deserves a properly written script.  I stay up until 3:30 am listening to an Audible audiobook called How to Make Video That Doesn’t Suck and write a script, while inviting Eric to do the same.  (Great book!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

I convince the team that we need to reshoot the video, which uses some social capital, but at least we end up with one that says what it needs to say and represents our project properly to Microsoft.  Do we have a shot at advancing to the Finals?

Eric submits the video along with other materials to the Imagine Cup, and it is again time to focus on the game.

In the afternoon, I attend our first Experimental Gameplay elective class!  Last week Jose was in Chile, so this is our first time meeting.  We will each make seven experimental games, mostly digital, over the next sixteen weeks.  We go over how we want to experience the class, and a lot of people are concerned about the workload, especially those who are not Engineers, but if we didn’t want the challenge we would not have signed up, right?  My personal goal is to develop seven seeds for future commercial games, and have innovative experiments I can show clients and investors.  Of course, it is one thing to come up with an innovative idea and another to code it.  Maybe I should be on the concerned list…

Thursday, January 20, 2016.

Today we put together a presentation about our goals for Projects III, both as Team B.E.S.T., as Art, Engineering, and Production teams within Team B.E.S.T., and individually.  I present to Brian and Mark.

We put together a separate set of more detailed goals that Eric and I will use to help support everyone in maximizing their last semester experience.

My primary goal is to ensure the continuity of B.E.S.T. as a commercial project, so we can actually start to save the lives we’ve talked about. class, I spend 12 hours (from 2 pm to 2 am) driving around fellow filmmakers in a limo at Sundance.  I’ve done this before with 649-TAXI, but decide this is a good year to network, so I will spend about 70 hours a week for the next 12 days shuttling Directors, Producers, and stars around places ranging from Park City’s Main Street to The Montage.

Incidentally, my most memorable guests while driving for 649-TAXI in a previous year were Nintendo’s PR agents, who were handing out Nintendo consoles and handhelds to stars.

ladder-1Friday, January 21, 2016.

One of the first I get to drive around is Oscar winning Producer Fisher Stevens, whose 2016 film The Sky Ladder (finished three days before Sundance!) is about an artist whose primary medium is gunpowder!  The artist, Cai Gui-Qiang (who I also drove around) built a 500 meter ladder into the sky and set it on fire.  Cai is also famous for designing the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics!  Producer Fisher Stevens is very environmentally conscious, and refused my offer of bottled water, preferring to use reusable containers.  We got to talk for a bit about distribution and production.

_74151933_82So far the biggest buzz of the festival is about a film called The Eagle Huntress, about a Mongolian girl who hunts with Eagles.  I talk with people setting up a Mongolian Ger, a cousin of the Yurt, and later see the subjects of the film in front of Park City TV while dropping off Cai for a press conference.

What I would most like to see at this year’s Sundance is the New Frontiers Virtual Reality exhibits, including one by Ridley Scott based on The Martian.  Walden also sounds interesting.

Could B.E.S.T. also eventually be Sundance worthy?  What would it take?

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 9.27.14 PMOverall, Sundance seems quieter this year, maybe because 8,000 New Yorkers’ flights were cancelled due to a storm today.

Quieter, other than the fleet of UberCopters that some of my fellow Park City-zens are venting about.  I say let them come!

Saturday, January 22, 2015.

MV5BNDIwNDcyMjY5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzExMTM4NTE@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Saturday I drive around Kevin MacDonald, a Scottish film director famous for Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland, among others.  He says he prefers independent films because he wants to make movies about things and people he is interested in.  Making commercial films typically means making movies about something someone else wants made, possibly based on a formula rather than passion.

While I don’t enjoy every Sundance film, and often prefer commercial films to indie films, I do appreciate that they focus on artists who have a “voice” and something unusual to say.

Kevin alternates between fiction and documentary films, but plans to take the next few months off to spend time with his kids.

Are there ways I can sharpen my “voice” in making games?