UNCG Dept of Media Studies News

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

One-on-one with UNCG MFA alumna Christi Farina

by Inëz Chambers

Gamer geeks. Most people have interacted with, seen, or at least heard of them. Their notoriety in society was earned by long hours spent lurking in front of tabletop game stores, wearing their thumbs out on GameBoys, and donning peculiar costumes or t-shirts with obscure anime references. They’re the people the jocks gave swirlies to in grade school, the kind of people your parents tell you to avoid in the mall or on the street because they’re ‘weird’, ‘freaky’, or worse yet, ‘lacking in ambition’. More often than not, however, the less-than-pretty picture people have painted of this fringe culture movement is not accurate to the portrayal of gamers in society. I would know; I am one.


So when I heard that an alumnus from Greensboro’s MFA program had just won the Downbeach Film Festival with a documentary focusing on the gaming community and our convention-going, role-playing lifestyle, I was curious but wary. After all, it doesn’t seem to take much to make gamers look bad in the eyes of judging viewers. Upon interviewing Professor Christi Farina, however, I quickly realized that her take on the gaming community in her award-winning documentary, Gamers, was far less harsh than expected:


Inëz Chambers (IC): Congratulations on winning the Downbeach Film Festival!


Professor Christi Farina (CF): Thank you very much!


IC: What kind of exposure had you had to the gaming and cosplaying world prior to this work on your documentary? How did you feel about the culture as a whole and did your opinions change after this documentary?


CF: That’s very interesting because when I began the film, I arrogantly thought I would make a film about Dungeons and Dragons. It wasn’t until I began working on it that I discovered this multi-layered, dynamic Otherworld. I am fascinated by all of it and as best I can remain involved in events such as (most lately) the Steampunk movement. 


IC: What did you intend to be the purpose or message of Gamers as a doc?


CF: When I began making Gamers, I had been struggling with another film about the prom. I saw an article in a local newspaper on October 2, 2006 about a gaming store and it was love at first sight.   I dropped the other film and embarked on this adventure. 


As a kid, I was always a nerd and as I got older, I dated a lot of tabletop players. The pageantry, the hint of the erotic, the imagination… all of these things attracted me to this topic. What I wanted to do was to make a film about this culture from a sympathetic point of view. As I began watching films like Darkkon and Monster Camp, I became acutely aware of my own drive to refrain from presenting “the freaks in the zoo” to the audience. I wanted this to be a story about a world, an enormous world, of people who live a secret gaming life for fear of public ridicule. I don’t entirely understand why gaming is considered so fringe and laughable, but as far as I can ascertain it has something to do with “growing up” and a lack of imagination in the minds of those who do.


IC: I see that you have a lot of characters in your documentary and that you have casting videos on your YouTube channel. How did you find your characters? What appeals to you in a documentary character?


CF: I began small, with one student whose brother owned a gaming shop in North Jersey. His brother let me come interview people and from there, I just kept meeting people and going on interviews. Eventually, about seven characters emerged from the chaos and they became the voice of the film. Then, I went guerilla-style out into the World: gaming conventions, LARPs, Pennsic – I just went with my camera and, socially inept myself, walked up to socially inept strangers and interviewed them.  For the most part everyone was very accessible and friendly, and the out-in-the-field interviews provide nice color to the commentary of the entire film and round the picture out very nicely. One of the best remarks I hear regarding the film is when a gamer tells me I really managed to give an accurate, sensitive, and fair portrayal of the World. It’s particularly gratifying to me because gamers are notoriously rule-based and hypercritical. Pulling off an accurate portrayal means a lot.


Several times during the shoots I got kicked out of conventions or stores. Not pleasant, but certainly worth it in the long run.


IC: As someone who has now successfully entered and won a film festival, what would you suggest to MFA and undergrad film students at UNCG? What do you wish you had known prior to pursuing documentary filmmaking?


CF: What comes to mind is that there is a mythology out there that a degree in film, especially an MFA, is a worthless investment. Do not buy that line! Studying film formally opens doors to many of us who would have no entrée otherwise. But more importantly, studying in the liberal arts tradition teaches us how to think. You can’t make art if you don’t have anything valuable to say.  


Best advice: Always have a goal. Without a direction, you will flounder, and an artist can’t afford to stagnate.


Christi Farina, who graduated from Greensboro’s MFA program in 1998, is currently an associate professor at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Her passions lie both in experimental filmmaking and documentary and she is currently in pre-production on her next experimental film about consciousness. To learn more about Farina’s award-winning documentary, Gamers, visit www.gamersthemovie.biz.



Written by uncgmst

November 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Posted in News & Events

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