My motivation for producing this film came from the diversity of the cast/crew and seeing my fellow women filmmakers of color be a part of a project that had so much to say. I joined the team after the first draft was ready and I loved the vision Searit had while telling the stories of so many people whose stories hadn’t been told in the past. The focus was not only around women, but both brown and black women who were in a supportive romantic relationship in a world where haters furiously hate behind their brightly lit screens and keyboards. It’s important that our voices and stories, from all walks of life, are heard and this was a great way to start.
After speaking to several women who play games and who make games, it was very clear that there was so much depth in the topic of female gamers that one short film doesn’t do it justice. But for us, it really boiled down to one question - what is a female gamer? Our film certainly doesn’t answer the question, but I hope it opens a dialogue for one while successfully capturing the raw and relatable emotions of how it feels to never be good enough. Kudos to the team for pushing us through the finish line with such talent and dedication.
I first wrote GAMERS for my sketch comedy class in San Francisco. It was originally about these white guys playing video games in the children’s section of a library. Growing up, I would always go to the public library near my home to play educational video games – it was my first introduction to gaming! While writing the sketch, I suddenly realized that I unconsciously wrote it without any women or POCs because I’ve been so used to seeing gaming content with just white male gamers. On my second revision, I purposely swapped the gender and race of my characters to feel and look more like myself. I also started to research about the types of games women play. This research led me down a rabbit hole of articles about how women are treated unfairly in the gaming community and would hide/not reveal their gender to avoid harassment. As I was learning new information about being women who game, I realized that this story needed to be a short film.
When we began casting to fill the roles of Taylor and Jamie, we had a hard time finding women of color in the Bay Area to audition. We dedicated two weekends for casting and at our first audition, only a couple of dozen people showed. We then extended our search even further by looking for talent at local film festivals, filmmaking workshops, spreading word-of-mouth through friends and coworkers, and even recruiting on social media.
Before auditions, we had a very clear idea that “Jamie” would be Asian-American and “Taylor” would be African-American, but after seeing Andrea and Destiny’s auditions, they completely reversed our expectations. When Destiny walked in, she surprised us by auditioning for “Jamie”. After seeing her version and Andrea’s dynamic version of “Taylor” we were sold on switching it so that “Taylor” would be Asian. They showed us different sides of the characters we created.
Our dream was to receive a sponsorship from a gaming computer company that would help sell the idea that “Jamie” is a serious gamer. We decided to give Cooler Master a cold call and Searit pitched the film over the phone. As nerve-wrecking cold calling could be, Mychal Cohn and the Cooler Master team really loved the idea and were immediately supportive of our desire to bring diversity into filmmaking and the gaming industry. Mychal personally felt a deep connection with our characters and shared that his mother was a major Call of Duty fan and has gone through discrimination as a female gamer. He wanted to support our story for his mom and we thought that was really sweet!
Games evolve with changing technologies but there is a lack of representation with what is considered a “serious game” and what a “serious gamer” looks like. One of our main goals was to show the diversity in those games and the people who play them, which is why we created Feline Trouble and Unlimited Ammo.
The idea of Feline Trouble came when Searit went to play arcade games with her friends in San Francisco’s Japantown. Most of the Japanese games revolved around being a character doing simple tasks, such as folding laundry, punching a pot, or throwing out the trash. Although simple tasks by nature, they were very entertaining. We were looking for 2D Japanese style games and our pitch to GFX artist, Josh Holtsclaw was: a Japanese company making a game for anime/cat lovers in America. Josh added a cat with a cone because during pre-production, our DP’s cat went through surgery and was having a hard time with it’s cone.
We wanted Unlimited Ammo to represent a generic American first person shooter game. We knew we wanted “Jamie’s” game to be heavily Westernized while also being competitive and male-dominated in the gaming world. We didn’t have the resources or budget to actually make this game so our Production Designer, Kevin Lin, filmed footage in an abandoned building in Hayward, California. Josh then superimpose filters and GFXs on top of the footage to achieve the look.