Behind the scenes with ‘Indie Game: The Movie’

It’s fitting that co-directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky planned to host a screening of their independent film Indie Game: The Movie at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. It was here that the duo was sold on creating a movie looking inside the development of independent games.

Pajot and Swirsky first considered Indie Game after filming a documentary on Canadian game designer Alec Holowka and his action title Aquaria.

“It was sort of eye opening for us,” says Pajot. “We didn’t really know about indie games at the time, like we didn’t realize there were one or two groups of teams making games on their own and really reaching various people online through their work. And his work was extremely personal.”

After Aquaria, Pajot and Swirsky attended GDC and discovered other indie developers with the same personal journeys toward game development. That’s when they decided to pursue a film following the work on three indie titles.

“All these developers (were) just really pouring their hearts out and talking about the process of making their games and how the games really were reflections of themselves, says Pajot. “That really struck us.”

Swirsky adds Indie Game also fulfilled another important need: the lack of documentaries that delve into the creative process behind making a video game.

“Video games are huge,” says Swirsky. “They’re bigger than music, bigger than movies in some ways, and there (are) tons of documentaries of music and movies. We know how those things are made. But when you look around and try to find out how a video game is made in documentary form, there’s not much. It just seemed like these are compelling stories that need to be told and no one seems to be telling them.”

Pajot and Swirsky started filming in 2010, and captured 300 hours of footage featuring 20 developers. But it was the work behind indie titles Fez, Super Meat Boy and 2008 hit Braid that proved most compelling.

“They were making games that were complete reflections and extensions of themselves,” says Swirsky of the designers featured in the film. “They were expressing themselves through these games.”

Pajot says the duo hopes to release the film in a few months. Meanwhile, they will screen the movie at GDC on Monday and sit in on a panel with the four featured designers. Along with a screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival, the directors will also embark on a limited screening tour. Below are dates and the list of cities. The movie’s official website has details on how to get tickets:

March 15 – Asheville, N.C., The Fine Arts Theatre

March 16 – Raleigh/Cary, N.C., The Galaxy

March 20 – Atlanta, The Plaza Theatre

March 23 – Seattle, SIFF Cinema at the Uptown

March 28 – Portland, Ore., Hollywood Theatre

March 29 – Palo Alto, Calif., The Aquarius Theatre

Apr. 17 – Chicago, Music Box Theatre

Apr. 19 – Cambridge, Mass., The Brattle Theatre

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