Now in its fourth year, it is safe to say Cinema East is officially a part of the Austin summer Sunday tradition. The outdoor screening series that brings you cutting edge independent films you can’t see in theaters is back at the French Legation lawn this year and BYOB as always.
This week’s movie is SXSW audience award winner Zero Charisma. The film is filled with action, adventure and monsters — well, the role-playing game the movie’s lead Scott Weidmeyer creates is filled with action, adventure and monsters.
Zero Charisma looks at what happens to the nerds when being a nerd is now “cool,” following Scott’s struggle as his life changes so much that even his weekly RPG isn’t safe. You don’t have to know gaming to enjoy the film shot here in Austin. Ahead of the screening, CultureMap talked to directors Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews about the film and their nerd history.
CultureMap: The movie is based around a made-up RPG game Scott has created. I’m assuming you have some kind of gaming history.
Andrew Matthews: I've been playing RPGs since middle school, mostly D&D. I always preferred to be the Dungeon Master, so I can identify with the main character Scott's need to be in control all the time.
CM: Have you had any hardcore gamers call you out on any details in the movie?
AM: Surprisingly not! We tried to make it as realistic as possible, but you have to fudge for dramatic and legal reasons, and I think most gamers understand that, as long as the vibe feels authentic. Now that I think about it, there was one tiny error in the teaser trailer that was pointed out by someone on YouTube. The actor was supposed to roll a d20 but in one take he happened to grab the d8 by accident, and of course, that was the take with the best performances, so we went with it. Maybe the whole illusion came apart for that one person, but we have no regrets.
CM: What’s the nerdiest thing you have ever done?
Katie Graham: Andrew and I camped out overnight in front of a movie theater to watch Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. Yeah, proud moment. In hindsight, it almost seems like some kind of brilliant sick and twisted joke George Lucas played on the world knowing the amount of Jar Jar Binks he had in the film.
CM: Sam Eidson is perfect as the uber-nerd Scott Weidmeyer in the film. How did you guys find him?
KG: We saw Sam in a lot local stuff in town and we thought if anyone in Austin could play Scott Weidemeyer it would have to be him. But we wondered if he could pull it off. We contacted him in 2011 via Internet stalking and asked him if he wanted to be in a teaser trailer to raise funds for the film. He agreed and we shot with him for four days. We liked him so much we cast him for the actual film. Sam is so perfect in the role. He is the film, but he's absolutely nothing like Scott in real life.
CM: I was so very excited to see Donut Taco Palace 3 make an appearance in the movie. I've driven past it a million times but have never gone inside. Now I feel inspired. Any recommendations on what to get?
KG: Actually, to be a total know-it-all nerd and correct you, it was Donut Taco Palace 2 in the film, however, Donut Taco Palace 1 and 3 do exist in Austin and are insanely popular. We thought we might be able to shut them down for a day to film there but they said "no way." They are just that popular. I recommend their donuts shaped like a hand doing the rock 'n' roll hand gesture. Yes, they have a donut shaped in that fashion. Weird, but really good.
Cinema East starts at 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 7. The movie begins at sundown (roughly 9 p.m.). Catch local gem Clay Liford's new short film S/ASH before the film.