‘Noobz’: An Interview With Director Blake Freeman And A Review

Noobz, a comedy about gamers actually written and directed by a gamer, hits DVD today. We spoke with director/producer/writer star Blake Freeman about his movie, gaming, and what he’s playing, and we also have a review of the film for your delectation.

Freeman was in the middle of a lengthy series of interviews when we sat down with him; promoting an indie movie can be a wearing business. But he was still laughing, and got into gaming a bit:

Gamma Squad: What drove you to write a movie about competitive gaming?

Blake Freeman: I grew up playing just about every gaming system that ever came out. I even played Channel F, I just loved gaming, grew up with it. When I started making films, I thought I’d be a dream come true to make a film about something I loved. I wanted to make the first realistic look at gaming and gamers.

GS: One of the more memorable sequences is the moment with the small child in the gas station, that we don’t want to ruin here. How did that come together?

BF: Normally, yes, there are problems working with kids. But that little girl is unbelieveable, she’s one of the most talented kids I’ve ever met. I wrote that part of the story, I felt like it would be this eye-opening moment for that character. The character is a prick, and the gaming world has a lot of them. When you play online and you hear these people talking, who just hate everything, I thought this part of the movie where a little girl can see right through him was a great moment for him.

GS: What were some of the challenges of bringing gaming to the big screen?

BF: You have to pick a game that actually look good on film. Picking the game had do more with how it looked visually. It’s definitely challenging on a gaming movie, because you have hardcore gamers, who make up a small percentage of gamers. Casual gamers are by far the largest, so you can’t get too technical or you lose them.

GS: It’s nice to see the movie uses actual games and licenses from companies. How did you secure that for the movie?

BF: The one thing that frustrates me in movies is when you see somebody playing a game, and the controller isn’t on, and there’s a shooter on the screen and Pac-Man noises on the soundtrack. So we got the support and help of some of the major gaming companies. We got some really cool things to have in the film, because they read the script and saw that it wasn’t too goofy and didn’t portray gamers as over-the-top nerds. They didn’t give us money, but they did give us access, and it made the movie more realistic.

GS: What are you playing right now?

BF: Right now I’m playing a hell of a lot of FIFA ’13. I’m looking for the next clan-based game. Call of Duty is good, but I’m not a fan of FPS games, I prefer third-person shooter. I’m hoping that there’s something that will take the place of SOCOM.

So how about the movie itself?

Any comedy set around a subculture has a balancing act to strike in that it has to appeal to that subculture, while also appealing to a larger audience. Sometimes that’s easy: The League is only very technically about fantasy football, for example. Other times, not so much, and a movie can fall into the gap. Which is where, unfortunately, we find Noobz.

Without going into spoilers, whenever Noobz deals directly with gamers interacting with each other, it tends to work and be quite funny, and when it decides to be a raunchy comedy, it doesn’t quite click. The movie seems at a loss as to what anybody aside from a gamer would find amusing, so it tends to fall back on strippers and far, far too many gay jokes.

The cast is solid, with Jason Mewes and Zelda Williams in particular standing out. It helps that the script gives them something to do, and that Mewes is an old hand at playing losers like his character, but too often comedies are sunk by people being unfunny, and that’s not the case here.

Ultimately, Noobz deserves at least a little credit for making an effort, and gamers have been treated far worse at the movies. But instead of trying to be American Pie, it really should have gone full nerd.