By Marshall Garvey
Earlier this year, Last Token Gaming was approached on Twitter by the filmmakers of a documentary entitled World 1-1 to officially review it. Given the film’s focus on the early days of Atari and the video game medium as we know it, we were excited to give it a watch. To say the least, we absolutely loved the movie, with lead editor Marshall Garvey praising its exhaustive historical detail and eye for catching the heartfelt stories of Atari developers. Over a recent Skype conversation (that is, after Marshall made it home just in time after two A’s-Dodgers games in Oakland), Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez, the creative duo behind arguably the best video game history documentary to date, discussed the challenges of making a Kickstarter documentary, the inspiration for creating it, their favorite interviews with Atari developers, personal favorite arcade games, and what lies ahead for their planned series of gaming history documentaries. Official links for the film, including its sales page on Steam, are included below after the transcript.
Marshall: Hello everyone, and welcome to another Last Token Gaming interview! I’m lead editor Marshall Garvey, and after interviewing indie developers and a voice actor so far this year, today we’re joined by filmmakers! We’re joined by Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez. They’re the minds behind World 1-1, a Kickstarter-funded documentary about the early days of Atari and the birth of the video game industry in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s an absolutely outstanding film, and I highly recommend you all go buy it on Steam and support it. Guys, thanks for joining us today!
Jeanette: Thanks for having us!
Marshall: Alright, so first question. Tell us a bit about your backgrounds as filmmakers and documentarians.
Daryl: Well, I want to say about four years ago, I started going to film school. Then I stopped, and I got my first camera and I just started working. Just doing weddings, stuff like that. And two years after that, or around that time, I had the idea for this movie. And then two years later, when I had learned how to use a camera and all that stuff, and edit video, we started to take it seriously…and actually start doing it.
Jeanette: I didn’t really have any background in filmmaking. I’ve loved film since an early age, but I never actually had the technical aspects down. So this was definitely a learning process for me though, and I picked up a lot while doing it.
Daryl: I mean, I picked up a lot too. I mean…[it was my] first time doing a two hour movie, I’ve done long stuff before, but for me it was a huge learning experience.
Marshall: What inspired you to take up this project?
Daryl: It was back in 2011. I was reading a book called Replay: The History of Video Games, by Tristan Donovan, and I just fell in love with the book. And then I thought, “I want to see this in movie form.” So that’s when I had the idea, and it just stayed dormant in my mind for like two years. And then I went to Pax Prime 2013 in August, or whenever it was, and I had the plan of doing it. I talked to people, and it didn’t go well. But on the plane ride home, I was like, “Alright, I’m going to do this.” And she also inspired me. [Gestures towards Jeanette] I talked to her when I got home, and she inspired me. She was like, “Let’s do this.”
Marshall: The film of course is comprised of interviews with a lot of the original developers and business people behind Atari. Tell us about the process of seeking them out for interviews. Were there some ones who were especially hard to find or come in contact with, or how’d you get it all together? You got quite a few of them on film!
Jeanette: We actually networked with them. We found them mostly online using LinkedIn and stuff like that, and we were able to get [Atari founder] Nolan Bushnell onboard first. And then once he was onboard, it was kind of easier to persuade the others to consider the project. Then we had Al Alcorn kind of jump in, and little by little, we started getting in contact with more of them. But they were spread out, for example, one is in North Carolina, and a majority of them are on the west coast, and then Dona [Bailey] is in Arkansas. So they are kind of spread out, so it was interesting to see where they are now.
Daryl: Al came later though, actually.
Jeanette: Oh he did?
Daryl: Yeah, remember? Owen Rubin.
Jeanette: Oh yeah, Owen Rubin! You’re right, actually. Yeah, Owen Rubin, the creator of Major Havoc, actually got us in touch with Al.
Marshall: Interesting….I really love the extent to which you got a lot of figures there. It was great that you got Nolan, but also all the developers too. I loved all their stories.
That actually leads into my next question: One of the things that makes the film excel is the heartfelt recollections by Atari developers. Is there one story that was especially poignant for you to listen to as you filmed it? For me, I was touched most by Dona Bailey’s story about Centipede, and how she wanted it to appeal to all genders. When I went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk this summer, I played that game a lot as a result of watching the movie. Which story was kind of like the most poignant to hear in person while filming?
Jeanette: For me, it was Dona also. Being a woman, and hearing her perspective, you know, working at Atari in a male-centered environment was very interesting. To get her perspective on what it was like and how it was at the time…there were a lot of other stories that were very interesting.
Daryl: It seems like some people who watch the movie and they say like, “I didn’t know any of that!” Or like, the ones I’m referring to are the ones who say, like, “I did know some of that, but I didn’t really know it like that.” And they say, “I really like those people. I really like their stories.” So a lot of people say that, and….I wanna say probably, for me, if I had to choose one…I’m a big fan of the Garry Kitchen story. He did Donkey Kong, in the movie he talks about Donkey Kong.
Marshall: Yeah, that was great. I loved all the stories. I liked the one developer talking about the…sorry, I can’t conjure the name of the game, but the skiing one. I loved the scene where he was talking about how he had to recreate specific poses to make the avatar look lifelike. I love stuff like that. I love those. And I think that’s part of what makes the movie so great too, is…I think we’re so used to focusing on games [for] just playing and consuming them, that a lot of the time we don’t think about the huge amount of effort that goes into making a game. I still think that’s largely an untold story, so I think you guys set a really good standard for how to do that. I know I shared on Twitter with you the documentary that’s coming soon about Midway in the 90’s, which I think is gonna kind of follow you guys, like more behind the scenes stuff. Look forward to more of that.
So, on that note: World 1-1 is the first of a planned series of documentaries about video game history, and indeed, it ends with a “cliffhanger” that sets up the focus of the next film. Any plans on when you’re going to produce and release a second documentary? We eagerly await it!
Jeanette: Yeah, that’s the most asked question. And we really do! We wanna keep going with it. However, that would entail some cooperation from Nintendo, which we would love. And also, we’ve been focusing on this film, and trying to get it out there, trying to get support from it. You know, as independent filmmakers…so that’s been our focus right now, but we would love to continue working, because that was our plan: To sort of create a series where we did this with major companies.
Daryl: Yeah, I mean the reality is we could do it, but if we don’t have the people who were there, it’s not worth doing. And getting the people who were there, we haven’t even really looked that much into it.
Jeanette: Right. I mean, we know individuals from the sort of PC aspect, like John Romero, and individuals like that. But Nintendo, we really have no “in.”
Marshall: Yeah, that’s a roadblock I hadn’t considered. Especially considering what a huge company Nintendo is at this point, it probably would be difficult to gain access to that. And exactly, for now I know you guys have…the movie just came out this year, so you’ve definitely got plenty of time left to promote it.
And actually, if I may dovetail off that a bit, how’s promoting the film been going? I’ve been keeping up with you on Facebook, seeing it’s had screenings overseas and at tons of gaming festivals. How’s the experience been of seeing your completed film come to life?
Jeanette: Oh, it’s great! It’s been great. We love sharing it with different people. We recently went to Supercon near Miami, and we had a good turnout and got positive feedback. It’s always good to hear people who lived during that time, and have played the games, and sort of their reaction and…they’re grateful that we went after this and that we found these people and recorded their stories and were able to put it on video for them to share with their kids, or to sit around with their friends and watch. So that means a lot.
Marshall: Oh, awesome. Oh, you were going to say something Daryl?
Daryl: I was just gonna add, if there’s any viewers or listeners that are into filmmaking: the whole process has been a dream come true, but it’s kind of like a thorny rose, to make a metaphor or analogy. There’s a lot of things you’ve got to deal with, a lot of things that move very slowly, and if you’re not prepared for that, it’s not gonna be easy.
Marshall: Oh yeah, filmmaking is definitely a trying process that requires a lot of sacrifice, definitely. That’s actually a perfect lead-in to, I jumped around a little bit with the question script here…you funded World 1-1 as a Kickstarter project. Tell us about the challenges of making such a detailed historical documentary through independent means. What were some of the most difficult parts of putting altogether, as well as some of the most gratifying moments?
Jeanette: Tough parts: It was just us two basically as a crew, so transporting all that equipment across the United States at different locations was pretty tough. I mean, that’s not really the biggest challenge I think we had. Also the bureau [for] the archival footage, getting all of the historical data, the photographs…there’s actually a lot of leases that have to be signed for a lot of these things. So, considering all that….was important, and a challenge also. I think it’s been, for me personally, the biggest challenge was the fact that we’re such a small team. I mean we work very well together, but in terms of marketing, in terms of other things, if we had had, let’s say, more support or of a bigger crew, I think it would have moved faster, and it would have maybe reduced some of the stress on either of us. Sort of alleviate some of the challenges to be able to tag team a little more, you know?
Marshall: Absolutely. Although that’s all the more impressive that not only was a documentary of this quality done as a Kickstarter project, but that you two really just did it together.
Although I would like to know: Were there some other people who really helped bring the project together, particularly with research and interviews? In addition to developers, you also interviewed people like Colin Moriarty from IGN and the famous video game aficionado P. Scott Patterson. Any of them or any other people lend a research or interviewing hand?
Jeanette: In terms of research? No. We did the research ourselves, I guess, putting the history together. And you know, making sure that it was accurate.
Daryl: For example, there was someone from, I think it was Retro Domination, maybe I have two different things mixed up, where they saw…did they see a test?
Jeanette: They saw a screener.
Daryl: They saw a screener or something, and then they were like, “Oh, it was great, but this one game, the title was wrong.” So we had to go back and change it. I think we had already screened the movie and everything!
Jeanette: Yeah, we had screened the movie in San Francisco, and then that person picked it up.
Daryl: But aside from that, as far as research, we pretty much did everything.
Marshall: Wow, that’s amazing!
Jeanette: And the music was thanks to our friends in France, NGHT and Wait and See. Which we happened to come across actually, because we had originally set up people that we knew, and then they bailed on us kind of like last minute, didn’t quite work out. So then we had to figure out the music situation in like two months.
Daryl: Two weeks. We found our replacement in two weeks!
Jeanette: Oh yeah! We found our replacement in two weeks, but we had about two months before the release of the movie In San Francisco, it was kind of like a theater premiere with the cast. And so we had to figure it out, and they composed a few songs for us, they used some of their stuff they already had, and then we somehow had to make the music work. That was challenging.
Marshall: I’ll say, I thought the music was excellent, it was just like every note was perfect. And that’s all the more impressive knowing it came at the last minute more or less.
So, for a totally fun question for both of you: Is there a classic arcade game that’s your personal favorite?
Daryl: Are we talking games that take place in the timeline of the movie? Or can it be after?
Marshall: It can be any time period! Especially if you’re going to make more films, just pick anything you want.
Daryl: So in arcade, not home console?
Marshall: Arcade! Going to the arcade, what’s your favorite game to play there?
Daryl: I gotta think about this one. I do have some, I just want to think of a good answer here…..
Jeanette: I like Robotron and Phoenix…Centipede’s really fun!
Marshall: Oh Centipede is so much fun!
Jeanette: I’m not very good at it, but I like it.
Marshall: I felt I got pretty good at it playing it over and over. It’s really brilliant! It’s simple, but it’s brilliant. Love Centipede…I’d probably say Contra, although I really suck at it. I know it’s both console and arcade, but…
Daryl: I’m gonna go with Asteroids. I like the vector stuff a lot. I feel like there’s one that I’m missing, but I can’t…
Jeanette: Major Havoc is awesome. It’s so impressive!
Daryl: Yeah, but it’s kind of rare. I’ve never seen it at an arcade.
Jeanette: We actually saw it for the first time at Owen Rubin’s house!
Marshall: Oh, nice. Can’t go wrong with one of the foundational classics like Asteroids.
One more question about the movie: Obviously, we talked a bit about the people you interviewed, and some of the stories that they shared. Are there any interesting historical facts or interviews that ended up on the cutting room floor? Or, [with] everything you got, were you able to put it in the finished film?
Jeanette: Yeah, no way! We have a lot actually that didn’t make it in.
Daryl: There’s almost 40 hours of footage.
Marshall: Wow! 40 hours? You culled that…and the movie itself is really, one of the things I love about it is how exhaustive it is. You pack a lot of details in there, right down to the littlest bit of when this happened, what year it was, what the technology was behind it. So that’s impressive that you put together something that detailed from 40 hours of footage. Wow!
Jeanette: Yeah, it was tough. (Gestures towards Daryl) He did most of that. I mean I helped a bit, but he really…in terms of the editing, the nitty gritty stuff, he spent a lot of hours just…
Daryl: I quit my job
Jeanette: Yeah, he quit his job to do it!
Jeanette: Yeah. Just watch the movie! (Laughs)
Marshall: Oh god yeah!
Daryl: I’m trying to remember a specific thing that was cut out that I wish was in. It’s been awhile…I know for example there’s a part where they’re talking about making the Pong console, and they’re talking about how they went to Chicago to the Sears Tower. And they were talking about sitting down at the dinner table, and people were giving them horror stories and telling them, basically scaring them like, “Oh, they’re gonna put you on the back cover” or something like that. Like, “Oh, you know what happened to the last people who were on the back cover!” I can’t remember the full story.
Jeanette: Yeah, he went into detail about the dinner and what happened and what was said, the intimidation behind it and everything they went through. But we’re hoping to be able to put all those stories in once the disc version is released. We’d like to put a lot of that content, because we do have a lot of interesting stories.
Marshall: Oh, that’s excellent. That’s a great idea, yeah, just like every DVD does, you have the deleted scenes. I even said in my review at Last Token Gaming that you have so much information in there you could veritably make your own book out of it too! But definitely, if you make a DVD or Blu-Ray and include the deleted scenes, let me know! I’d like to dig into what else you filmed there.
Well, thank you guys so much for joining me, and thanks for doing this interview for Last Token Gaming! We love your movie, we’ve been advocating for it a lot and will continue to do so.
Jeanette: And we’re also, our film is on Steam, but it’s also on our website too. That’s actually the best way to support us, is purchasing it through the site.
Marshall: Oh absolutely, and whenever we do an interview, we always include links after the official video and transcript, so at the bottom there will be links to all your movie’s pages. We got all that covered!
Alright! Thanks everyone for joining us for another Last Token Gaming Interview. I’m lead editor Marshall Garvey, joined by Daryl Rodriguez and Jeanette Garcia, the filmmakers of World 1-1. Again, if you haven’t watched this movie, please buy it, please watch it, please support it. It’s absolutely outstanding, and is definitely a perfect template for video game history documentaries from here on out. Thanks again for joining us guys, and have a great night!
Daryl: Thank you.
Jeanette: You too!
World 1-1 Official Trailer: