Treasure Trapped is a documentary movie about the European Live Action Role Play scene. The film production company Cosmic Joke are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to put the finishing touches to their feature. We caught up with the director, Alex Taylor, to ask him what inspired him to start such a project.
Starburst: So what is Treasure Trapped about?
Alex Taylor: Treasure Trapped is what happens when a bunch of filmmakers hear about LARP and head out to learn more. Half of it is a documentary about LARP and the other half is a road movie following a bunch of friends going from knowing nothing of a hobby to becoming fully involved in this completely alien world. So you get to see our real time exploration of this whole other counter culture and learn about it through our wide eyes. For those unfamiliar with LARP it stands for Live Action Role Play. I always describe LARP as like Dungeons and Dragons but you get up from the table, put down the dice and head to the woods with some weapons.
A popular view of the hobby is 'cross country pantomime' but I'll stop there, go see the film. We've been in touch with the LARP community for a few years now, filming, researching and building relationships. We're nearly at the end of our adventure. We're hoping to get to Denmark to film the finale of the film at a school that teaches through LARP. All we need is a tiny bit more funding so we’re running a campaign until January 5th on Kickstarter to try and crowd fund the film.
When I was first told that people engaged in LARP my mind was genuinely blown. I just couldn't believe people did it to be honest, I was so unfamiliar with the concept I just had to know more. I pretty much immediately ran out to try and meet some players and just discuss every facet of the hobby with them. It fascinated me and I knew it would fascinate others too. Everyone I speak to about the film, who hasn’t heard about LARP before, reacts in exactly the same way - they can’t believe it and have a million questions to ask me. Anyone we speak to who is in the hobby usually wants to see a documentary about the past time made correctly. So from most angles we seem to be on to a winner, exploring a community that people want to learn about.
Given how advanced video games are, do we really need things like LARP?
I'm not sure we 'need' LARP, but then I'm not sure we 'need' video games. I think there's a definite place in the world for LARP. There are loads of classic arguments like how much better it is to get off your arse at the weekend and go engage in a genuine activity in the big wide world. I think even avid video gamers who sit playing FIFA for 4 hours a night still want to go for a kickabout at the weekend. It's the same with LARP - it's another facet of an interest. There are many reasons people play computer games and many reasons people LARP. One thing you always get with LARP though, and struggle to see with video games, is engaging face to face with real people and a genuine sense of community. It's the community aspect that's really touched us beyond what we expected to find in Treasure Trapped. We've tried to apply similar ideals to making this film - getting out and engaging with people, helping each other out. We stepped out from behind our emails and went and met people, not just players though, people to do with filming and marketing and it's helped us infinitely. We formed a great relationship with
Wicked Campers who gave us our colourful and 'noble steed' which we drive to all the different LARP systems in. We just went down there and spoke to them about what we were doing and made a connection. Now we're trying to bring everyone together in our Kickstarter campaign and we're planning a pretty special premiere for everyone who we've met on the way.
How different is LARP from other forms of media?
I think LARP is far more relatable than anyone really thinks. The general opinion seems to be that it's this alien hobby that only extremely odd people would engage in. In reality it's so similar to video gaming, table top gaming, acting, general make believe, people would be surprised. Whenever I've been filming at a big weekend festival LARP it's just like being at a music festival. I mean you've got more dragons than your average music festival but it's still the same. Loads of friends hanging out, camping, sharing their passion (and more than a beer or two), it's great. We've worked up a little comparison between LARP and other forms of media for the film, we're gonna give people a sneak peak at some of it if before Christmas.
How important is immersion?
Personally, I think immersion has to be really important. We tried to respect the immersion of players whenever we could, not just shoving a camera in everyone's face when they're playing. For me I think the better the setting of a LARP, the exclusion of external factors, all other players pulling their weight, it all increases immersion and makes for a better experience. Then again we've spoken with people who can go in and out of the experience no problem or people who largely ‘play’ themselves at events and enjoy it in a more casual way. Similarly I know
people who can become fully immersed in table top gaming which I would find impossible, so each to their own I guess? I still think immersion is a key factor and very important.
What future projects do you have planned?
Well we've just wrapped on a big music video for a band called The Ghost Tours, that'll be out before you know it. It's the first of three that tell a continuing story, sort of a crime caper in three parts. So we're hoping to tie that together as a bit of a short. Then depending on the success of Treasure Trapped we're starting to look into a feature film. There’s been mention of maybe a horror or good indie drama. We’re slowly looking at scripts and talking over dreaded issues like financing so we'll see. If you're reading this and think you're sat on a great script now is the time to get it over to me.
What would your dream project be?
I've got a few stories I really want to tell so I think my dream project would be being given the chance (and budget) to make the film I want to make without huge amounts of compromise. The ability to meet with the actors I want to work with would be great too. I've always had a bizarre fascination with Tom Cruise and it'd be a dream to direct him in some career changing performance. A bit like Travolta in Pulp Fiction, only on a much bigger scale!
What made you become a filmmaker?
An overactive imagination and love of telling stories. Just like authors love writing to entertain and move people, to share their ideas and reflect on their experiences, I long to do the same visually. I used to run around as a child and my imagination would head off in all sorts of wonderful directions with all these far-fetched things happening, it was only later I realised I wasn't so much imagining myself as a cowboy but imagining the next great Western. I was thinking how cool certain things would look if they happened, not what it would be like. I just see things as films!
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book for company, what would that book be?
It's a bit of a flowery answer but I've got an old battered copy of the complete work of Keats that I've taken just about everywhere. I don't think there's ever a time I haven't been able to turn to one of his poems for some form of inspiration or peace of mind.
What fictional worlds inspire you? Which authors are your influences?
For me a fictional world is at its most effective when it’s relatable to our own reality. I love identifiable worlds with a few key differences from our own. An author who excels at this is Stephen King, I can't get enough of his work. Another thing I love about King is the way he merges his fictional universe with the world of the reader, he’s constantly reminding you you’re reading a story and yet making you forget there's a book in your hands all at the same time.
David Lynch, probably my biggest filmmaking influence, does the same thing. His realities are warped versions of our own and he too openly announces his worlds as fiction that really works for me. Huge Tolkien-like alternate worlds aren’t really my thing, although that being said you can't look at George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and not be inspired by the scope and detail of the world he's created.
What else inspires you (Music, TV, People)?
I draw inspiration from just about everything around me. In the early stages of creative development I try to draw as little from other film sources as possible so turn to lots of music, books, graphic novels (I’m a big fan of graphic novels) and the world around us. Music is probably my biggest influence; I just find myself thinking very visually when listening to music in my car or in the office and ideas form very naturally. I find inspiration creeps in from the everyday world and people watching. I can be inspired by watching someone rushing past me to catch a bus, you start imagining their story, why are they late, where are they going, and you're off.
Simpsons or Futurama?
Has to be The Simpsons doesn't it? I love Futurama but The Simpsons is the one.
Dora the Explorer or Tomb Raider?
Tomb Raider. I'm pretty sure Lara Croft was responsible for me entering puberty, Croft or Jet from Gladiators.
Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?
Game of Thrones. I'm completely smitten with all things GOT at the moment.
Truth or Beauty?
Beauty. Filmmaking is crafting beautiful images and telling a lot of lies. Not that I've lied in this interview of course.
Tom Baker or Matt Smith?
Secret option C - Christopher Ecclestone! I'm not the biggest fan of the Doctor but I'll go with Matt Smith, the current series is great for the BBC and British production.
TableTop Games or Video Games?
Video games every time for me, when I finally get to my Christmas break I plan to spend it surgically attached to the Xbox.