A couple of weeks ago, gamers/film-makers Corridor Digital posted a Modern Warfare 2 fan film on YouTube that basically blew the entire internet's mind. "Frozen Crossing" has racked up over a million views by capturing the essence of Modern Warfare 2 (and video games in general) in a way that bigger budget Hollywood movies rarely do. So we talked to a couple of the creators of the short, director Niko Pueringer and sound designer Freddy Wong, and got the story on how it was created and what drives fan film-makers.
G4: We were totally blown away by your movie. How much time did it take to shoot?
Niko: It took about 4 months from beginning to end.
G4: So why take all the time to make a fan film?
Niko: In 2008 we shot a feature film in Canada, and for most of 2009 we did post-production on that film. After sitting in front of our computers for nine or ten months, we wanted to get back into the swing of things and shoot a short action film. So we were throwing around ideas, talking about what we wanted to do, and at that time, Modern Warfare 2 had come out and we were playing that a bunch, and our style is very similar and very influenced by the game, so we said, “Let’s make a fan film.” With the idea that the movie would be two or three times more popular than a basic action movie that we would do, and we could also incorporate a lot of the styles and influences that we have by referencing the game, so that’s how the idea of making a fan film came about.
G4: Wow! You guys shot a feature, huh?
Niko: Yeah, it’s called Dark Island, and it’s not out in the US yet. Parts are on YouTube, though.
G4: And you're planning Part 2 to "Frozen Crossing?"
Niko: We finished shooting part two back in January. It’s sitting in an unfinished state right now. We have to finish editing, doing special effects and sound.
Freddy: This is sort of a spare-time project, because we have to eat.
G4: Speaking of eating...what do you do for day jobs?
Niko: For Sam and I, we run a visual effects company. With our friend Brandon and occasionally Freddy.
Freddy: I do movie stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of YouTube stuff, trying to get projects off the ground. We’re all kind of…little bits of the film industry here and there, but nothing to a full-time extent.
G4: You guys are blurring the line between fan film and professional. Like, can you even really be called "fans?"
Niko: If I showed you a picture of our workspace, you’d be like, “Who the hell are these guys?” We have a space in downtown L.A. and it’s like, every computer has an Xbox hooked up to it; we have cables everywhere. It looks like a dude’s living room. We see some comments on YouTube like, “Oh, these guys are actually pros!” and we’re like, “Anybody can make a website!" If you saw what we have to work with and what this looks like…it’s the kind of thing that, for other projects people are like, “Can we come to your place?” and we’re like, “Sh*t, we have to clean up!”
We’re all using basic stuff that people have access to. It’s all home computers and stuff. Technology has gotten to the point…we shot with cameras that are only worth a couple thousand dollars and are available to anyone. And we edited with machines that are decent, but nothing special. Just decent computers. The tools are available to everyone. It’s just how you use them.
G4 What did you shoot on?
Niko: Canon 7D and the HVX 200, which is like a grand-daddy camera now. We shot over the course of three days in Minnesota. Outside. It was like negative 20 degrees. Really cold. Sam [Gorski] was on the 7D and I was on the HVX, and we were running around telling people "Go here! Do this!" We’d talk for a second about the coverage we would get, and we’d record with the two cameras and get what we needed.
Freddy: We’ve been doing little video games and Star Wars films, or just messing around on cameras since we were in high school. We look around at all the cameras and technology and are like, “Man, if we had this in high school, do you realize how much easier it would have been for us?”
Sam and Nico, way back in the day, made a Metal Gear Solid fan film... that’s them back in the 9th grade. I’d seen all of their stuff before I met them! When I met them, I was like, that was you guys? This was before YouTube, when it was like “Aw, 50 megabyte download! Guess I’ll go walk the dog, and come back and watch a little 320 X 240 movie."
Niko: Sam and I shot a lot of action stuff, going back to high school. A big part of it is we’ve been trying to learn and discipline ourselves into how to shoot something that looks good and flows well with no tripods, no cranes, no dollies, no steadicams...just your own two hands, a camera, and some sunshine.
This short film is a culmination of all the years of running around with fake guns, trying to make it look good.
G4: When will we see part 2 of "Frozen Crossing?"
Niko: We’re shooting to have it done in a little more than a month…
Freddy: Don’t say that! We might actually get work and have to work on work, so we’re trying to keep it quiet as to when, exactly. The difference is, we came into this thinking we’re going to do part 2, and we’re going to have part 2 shot and done and ready to go, so at the very least it’s been shot, and we don’t have to run out to get actors or footage. So it’s in the can and it's just post-production, and that’s dependent on when rent is due.
Niko: Definitely, for sure I think, within 2 months, or that’s what I’m internally hoping. I want to do it sooner, and I’m sure we can do it sooner…
Freddy: We have to eat!