China’s Dalian Wanda has signed on to coproduce director Hervé Martin-Delpierre’s feature documentary about eSports, Game Fever.
Under the deal, the media conglomerate will distribute the film in Asia and theatrically in the United States. Paris-based Zed, which is coproducing the 90-minute film alongside Canada’s Intuitive Pictures, is handling the rest of the world including U.S. TV, VOD and DVD rights.
Shot in 4K on a budget of €1.25 million, the film follows a group of elite players – Moon, Gogoing, Cha Jihoon, Sky and sOs – who are stars in the world of competitive multi-player video game tournaments, such as League of Legends, Warcraft 3 and Starcraft II.
Canal+ will air the film on television in France while Superchannel and Radio Canada have acquired the Canadian TV rights.
“Dalian Wanda came on board because they were thinking of producing a film about eSports to reach the huge community of fans in Asia,” explains Zed president and the doc’s producer Manuel Catteau. “They thought it would be better to team up with us, rather than producing their own film.”
The move marks the first time Dalian Wanda has backed a theatrical feature-length documentary.
Martin-Delpierre came up with the idea for Game Fever after meeting South Korean pro gamer Jang “Moon” Jae-Ho.
“The story of Moon is very universal – it’s about a young man trying to find a way in life between the virtual world and the real world. It’s about young guys trying to be men,” he tells realscreen during a break in editing for the doc. “A lot of people know nothing about video games or eSports. They know nothing about the Chinese spirit or the Korean spirit. It’s a complex story.”
While a professional soccer player can compete for up to 10 or 15 years, the career span of a typical pro gamer is roughly five years. Given that timeline, Martin-Delpierre was able to capture a broad swath of the gamers’ professional lives during the three-year shoot.
Initially, Catteau put up money so the director could develop a story line and then pitch the project to networks. Meanwhile, Martin-Delpierre was simultaneously working on Daft Punk Unchained with BBC Worldwide and Canal+ and would periodically travel during breaks to South Korea and China to find characters.
During that production, Diego Buñuel took over as the French pay-TV network’s head of documentaries. Wanting to produce more feature docs that had a shot on the international festival circuit, Buñuel decided to get on board Game Fever.
“In France it’s rare to find a network executive you can talk [with] about the film and not just the programming – ‘will it be on primetime?’”, the Struttgart-based filmmaker says.
Game Fever will begin rolling out in the fall. Its music is being created by Joseph Trapanese, who worked with Daft Punk on the score for Tron: Legacy and on the soundtrack for Daft Punk Unchained.
Whereas Daft Punk Unchained looked at the careers of the French dance duo through talking-head interviews and archival footage, Game Fever aims to delve deeper into the psyche of its subjects through a more creative approach.
“The phenomenon of eSports is like theater,” says Martin-Delpierre. “I wanted to approach these characters in an intimate way. It’s not possible to be a world champion like Moon unless you are very intelligent and very sensitive with a clear vision about the world and who you are. A lot of people think video games are something stupid but if we can capture that intelligence and sensitivity, we can change the way we talk about video games.”