What follows is a transcript of the sixth episode of the Piece Dependency Podcast. You can find the podcast on Twitter @piecedependency, on YouTube, and on Instagram @piecedependencypodcast. You can find Frank on Twitter @SirMaser, and on Twitch @SirMaser. The documentary we discuss is Best of Five: The Classic Tetris Champions.
Frank [00:00:24] Welcome to the Piece Dependency Podcast. I’m your host, Frank, also known as SirMaser. In 2021, a new classic Tetris documentary will be released called Best of Five: The Classic Tetris Champions. Reason enough to talk to director Chris Higgins about the upcoming documentary. We also talked about his role in the Classic Tetris World Championships. This is our conversation.
Frank [00:00:53] Chris, welcome to the Piece Dependency Podcast and thank you for doing this.
Chris [00:00:58] Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Frank [00:01:00] First question is always the same question to everyone who is new on the podcast. And that is, how did you get into NES Tetris?
Chris [00:01:06] I’ve been looking forward to this question. Um. I think I was interested to introduces to NES Tetris by Adam Cornelius, who’s the director of Ecstasy of Order and one of the founders of the Classic Tetris World Championship. He’s an old friend. We went to college together and we both also moved to Portland, Oregon, which is very, very far away from where we went to college together. But I remember going over to his house. It must have been 15 years ago, something like that. And he was playing and he was playing NES Tetris at his house, in 2005 or 2006 or something like that. And he was already at that time interested in doing stuff with it and said—well, he handed me the controller was like, hey, you want to try this. And I tried it for about two seconds and said, nope, too hard. Too hard. But yeah, that’s actually the majority of my involvement in Tetris has come from being somebody who’s like a referee or a filmmaker or a writer. I’ve written articles about it. But I’m really not a player. People ask me my personal best and I’m like, I don’t have one. Yet?
Frank [00:02:19] How many times have you played the game?
Chris [00:02:21] I was thinking about this recently. I think if you had to add up every single time I have picked up NES Tetris and played a game, it is definitely under 100. It’s probably under 50 maybe.
Frank [00:02:36] Yeah.
Chris [00:02:36] It’s very low. I mean, and so the thing is, I don’t know if that’s—there probably are a lot of people who are in the category with me who I have watched and been, you know, right next to so much Tetris. But I have played so little Tetris that, you know, I’m a good example of even if you know what you’re doing intellectually, it doesn’t mean you’re good at the game. You need actual experience with using your fingers to make it happen.
Frank [00:03:07] Are you just not interested in playing the game?
Chris [00:03:10] Yeah. I mean it’s—I think about it like I think about certain sports, right? There are people who can be a fan of, say, you know, soccer or something, but they don’t—and they might play around with it a little bit—but they don’t necessarily go out and, you know, actually play. Or like if you’re interested in watching tennis, right? You don’t necessarily go and buy a tennis racket and get tennis balls and go find a court and get good at it. Right?
Frank [00:03:38] I know.
Chris [00:03:39] Yeah. So that’s been my experience.
Frank [00:03:42] I have the same feeling with hockey. I watch hockey almost all the time. But I’ve never—I used to be a long distance speed skater. So we have a hockey rink in the middle of our oval. And when I was doing training, the hockey players were always playing, but I was always interested in watching it, but never actually playing it. So then a couple of years back, I thought to watch the NHL, I started following following the Dutch hockey scene. But I’m not interested in playing it. I just love to see it. Is that the same what you have with Tetris?
Chris [00:04:14] Very much so. And part of why I wouldn’t want to play hockey is because I feel like I’d be hurt and be injured. And so that’s sort of the same thing with Tetris. It’s like when you spend—when you’ve spent your entire Tetris life around the literal best players in the world, like five feet away from them—that’s been my role—then you just know that if you say, well, I’m going to start from zero, you know, then the outcome is a little bit more disappointing than if you just started from zero by yourself with no prior expectations. I will say I might take up the game as kind of a stunt as part of this Kickstarter we’re going to talk about, because I think it would be interesting to take someone who really has not attempted to play the game at all. I mean, you know, I think I came across it certainly. I probably played it on a Nintendo or a Gameboy. I never had a cartridge. I never owned a Gameboy. I you know, so I never owned this game, except it was on everything. I mean, I probably played it on a cell phone, you know, but I never had a phase in my life where I was, you know, actually playing it. But I think it might be funny and/or instructive to say, OK, well, what happens when you take somebody who should know intellectually what they’re doing and just try it?
Frank [00:05:31] It sounds like a GameScout video. It sounds like a video he would make a topic about.
Chris [00:05:36] Yeah. And he’s been like, by the way, he’s really been been doing an amazing job lately. So I’ve been communicating with him a little bit about how these videos come together. And I think that’s exactly what I think. I think there’s a lot of side quests when you go into making a Tetris film where you think, well, here’s a little side topic that doesn’t fit into the main thing. But it would make a great YouTube video look great, a great, you know, SongScout or GameScout video and why not like, let’s let’s just go ahead and take some of those things and not try to push them into the middle of your documentary about a tournament and just make up anyway.
Frank [00:06:11] Yeah. Just one video on the Internet, what you want to see and doesn’t really fit the Classic Tetris channel, to be honest, topic that he makes on, but for for his channel and what he’s done since I believe 2018, it suits his channel.
Chris [00:06:26] Yeah. And I think there’s there’s a curiosity, like a genuine intellectual curiosity, about how do people play. Why do they play. And then a generosity of, like, explaining things to people. And I think that that explanation, the ability to be clear and straightforward when explaining something is really valuable. And it’s a real skill and talent that he has. So I—you know, if there’s anything I can offer to new NES Tetris players, I’ll be glad to do it. Although I think the main thing I’ll offer is just that it’s a lot harder than it looks. And I know that not just for myself, but because I’ve been at all of these tournaments starting in 20—I think 2011 was my first one and 2012 was the first one where I worked. And we had an issue where people would walk by and they would just say, well, I could do better than that. And you’d say, well, there’s Nintendo. Grab a controller, give it a shot, and you would start them on even 9, much less 18. And they would just go, Oh, oh, oh oh!
Frank [00:07:26] I fell into the same trap the first day I picked up PAL Tetris. I thought level 9, OK, that’s a good level to start on. I topped out with like 30,000 points. People who have been to CTWC in Portland might have seen you and known you, but a lot of people in the community may never have heard of you. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you have already done within the Classic Tetris scene?
Chris [00:07:52] Yeah, so my name is Chris Higgins and I have been a referee or a judge or a camera operator at CTWC starting in 2012. I also worked on Ecstasy of Order, so I was a writer on that film. I wrote parts of the narration and taglines and stuff like that. I’m a longtime friend of Adam Cornelius who directed that film. So I’ve been just sort of—because I live in a relatively small town and he’s here, whenever someone has needed help with things, it’s like natural for him to call his friend and have me come over and do it. So if you go back and look at the video of any CTWC, like anything that’s actually in the Portland era, I’m probably in it. Like I’m in all the ESPN specials. I’m usually running a camera up by the front. And so recently, like in the last I’d say two or three years, my role has been to run most of the camera stuff. And by that I mean operate literally like just be the person with hands on cameras. And we usually have anywhere from I mean, we used to have four, but now I think we had something like nine or ten cameras last year. So it’s a department, really. And so you’re getting instructions over a headset to go and, you know, you know, get this thing or, you know, go refocus on someone because the camera’s just, you know, decided to autofocus somewhere else. And running back and forth. So I’ve helped to make the the tournaments happen and helped transition them into kind of the modern era of being recorded and filmed, you know, relatively well. And I also, because of being part of Ecstasy of Order, Adam and I would sit around and talk about doing a sequel. Right? And so a few months before the 2014 tournament, he said—he just he just called me up and said, well, maybe six months before, it was a good ways before that one—he called me up and said, why don’t you just make a sequel to the movie? Because this will be the fifth year. I made a movie about the first year. And so much has changed, but we never made a movie about it. And I said, OK, and that’s, you know, and then that was that was six years ago. Right. So time passes.
Frank [00:10:09] Oh, we will definitely be talking about that documentary in a bit. But during CTWC, while you handle the cameras, what kind of production goes behind filming CTWC?
Chris [00:10:19] It’s a very special challenge and I’m glad you asked. For one thing, it’s important to understand that the the era of kind of the modern era of TreyVision, like the sort of HD games, started in probably 2016, maybe 2015, and a visual language got developed and that language evolved. We have either a two-up display or a four-up display. Now prior to this what we had, I’m not kidding, was they would just run one of the analog outputs out of an NES, into a security camera switcher thing. And so if you imagine that your job is to say like you’re a guard and you have four, eight, or sixteen cameras to monitor, it just puts, it tiles them together in an analog way so you can watch them on a television set. This is a device that’s from like the 70s. Maybe. Very, very, very low quality. But it had a way to do a two-up mode and it had a way to do a four-up mode or sixteen-up mode. And you can see that in Ecstasy of Order. That’s what’s being projected. And that’s what they projected in like, you know, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth. That’s what all we had, including in 2014 when I shot the film. But it was very clear that this is not, uh, this isn’t really great, right? so in 2014, we added webcams, which were, you know, 2014 era webcams and OBS existed. And so we were able to put together a thing where you could see the little faces of people and stuff. But it was really rough. It was really, really rough. In the modern era, essentially after Trey came on, Trey essentially leveled the whole thing up. And I’m not sure who specifically it was, but I remember being there when this discussion happened, the idea of having players, putting the cameras, they crisscross. So imagine you have two players seated in front of a television. They’re looking straight at their own television. We wanted to create a visual effect where it looked like they were looking at their stack and their stack was going to be in the middle of the screen. So to do that, you had to put a camera off in front of the other person’s TV and then tilt it over. You would like, you know, rotate it. And so you would crisscross, you would be pointing the right one at the left player and vice versa. And typically we have four of these cameras up front because you have four TVs up front. Then we’d also have—that’s kind of the basic, that’s the baseline thing you would need, and so you need at least, you know, one person to operate those cameras because people move around. And then we started adding cameras like the hand cams. So in the final matches, we put one of the cameras way up high, tilt it down and get the hands on the controllers. And I think we’ll see more of that in the future. We also last year we had, when Alexey came, we just sort of rented some more cameras. And by the way, these are kind of semi-pro camcorders. They’re not like—I mean, if you went to buy them at the store, they’ll be a thousand dollars, or something like that. But the problem is we have to rent like six or eight or ten of them. So we needed something that’s like very simple and straightforward so I could go through and configure every single one of them to be the same. So in 2019, a good example is everything was running at 60 frames per second, six zero. It’s a very dark room, despite trying to add light to it. And we had four across the front for the players. We had one off to the left which was kind of where Arda and kind of the the interviews would happen. And that’s where Alexey was. And that position over to the left would allow you also to turn that camera and look at the broader stage. And then back in the audience, which was—that was a huge room in 2019—in the audience, we had the commentary table kind of in the middle of the crowd and one of those camcorders was straight—you know, pointing straight at those commentators. And there was no person to run that camera and there was usually no way to get through the audience to get to it. And so I was just like hoping that it was working, you know? So I’d go in there and we’d wire everything up and get power to everything and make sure of the memory card was as big as humanly possible and just hit record and go. But in the past couple of years, it’s at a point now where we all have headsets, wireless, you know, intercom systems, and we have at least one camera operator who is remote, with a wireless video link. And last year that was James Rexroad. And so you would say basically anybody who was on the mic would say, hey, James, turn around, like turn to your left. Look in the you know, look between these two rows of people, there’s going to be a little girl and she wants to count down the Tetris. And he would turn around and you would watch his video. And I remember doing this saying, like, trust me, this one’s going to be worth it, you know? And then someone gets down there and you get the shot, right. And then all that stuff is getting recorded individually. Plus the the actual broadcast stream that’s going out is being recorded in two or three or four ways. I forget how many we ended up doing. At the end of the day, there was just so much data that, you know, after Saturday night, I would go home and dump, I want to say 15 memory cards?
Frank [00:15:58] Oof.
Chris [00:15:58] Yeah, the total data size across just two days was almost five terabytes of video. It was an incredible amount of video. And there’s audio recorders all over the place. And it’s a huge operation. And a lot of it really is Trey Harrison, you know, having set up his—he literally is like a wizard behind the curtain because he’s back there behind a curtain. And the most fun is when he comes out to play and you just kind of cross your fingers and hope everything stays working right?
Frank [00:16:29] There’s panic when Trey is playing a game at the CTWC.
Chris [00:16:33] Anything could happen. One thing that was kind of fun last year, in 2019, was we were in the first rounds I think on Sunday and Matt Schoolmaster’s game, someone noticed he had no blue pieces or something like that. It wasn’t like no blue or no red. And we’re watching it. The game is definitely happening. But you look at it and you’re like, huh, how is that, how is that possible? And just panic set in because like the event is occurring, you can’t stop anything. It took us probably fifteen minutes to fix this. But what it was in the end was an RCA cable, just a, you know, little video, little thin video cable that was 25 or 30 feet long had gone bad. It had gone bad between when it was installed on Wednesday and that Sunday morning. It worked on Saturday and it just suddenly—it had dropped into black and white mode somehow—like it wasn’t passing color data. And so the thing on Trey’s end would recognize that, and it could figure out, you know, two different shades. I could figure out white and something else. Yeah. But it couldn’t figure out the third color. So anyway, we were we were very concerned, and it took a while to figure out exactly what that was. But it’s it’s telling that for the most part, we haven’t had massive tech failures, you know, live in major events. It’s only a matter of time. But these things are very fragile.
Frank [00:17:59] Don’t jinx it.
Chris [00:18:01] Right! I think I just jinxed it. But I mean, like, one of the biggest things in setting it up would be like we had to go and set up all of our cameras and then tape everything to the floor, like all the cabling, because all of it is a trip hazard. And if anybody, like, pulls a thing out of, you know, if you pull the power out of a camera, all of a sudden you’ve got big, big problems ,or power out of an NES, or whatever. So there’s a big team. The camera team is usually, you know, five or six people. And it’s a it’s a labor of love. Like for the most part, people don’t get paid. Or if they do, it’s you know, it’s a token sum, but it is very exciting and very, very visceral to be two feet away from Joseph running the hand cam. Right? And just being like, I am watching this happen in front of me, I can smell the green tea, you know what I’m saying? I used to reach out. This is the thing I used to do with the hand cam. Greentea would put his his tea down and it would block the hand cam. So I would just reach out and move the tea over and over again and he would reach over for his tea and it just moved. Right. I felt really bad, but I was like, well it’s what you gotta do, right.
Frank [00:19:09] It’s funny. It’s the second Greentea ancedote that we had on the podcast because Marc was telling a story about he was, Greentea was playing guideline Tetris in the middle of the queue of qualifying for classic Tetris.
Chris [00:19:23] Right. Right. Yeah. Greentea. One of the I mean I think also I’ve seen more, you know, in the last couple of weekends. I love watching a player who is expressive. Right? Who’s having—I mean, honestly like if they’re having a good time or bad time, that’s less of my concern. But I just love seeing emotion. And Greentea is like an open book. Like this is what I’m feeling. I am going for it. It’s great. I love to watch it. It’s a bummer we couldn’t see him this year, but I am confident we’ll see him in future years.
Frank [00:19:54] Yeah. He had good reasons not to—
Chris [00:19:57] He had good reasons. Yeah. Yeah. Surprise, surprise!
Frank [00:20:00] Yeah. What’s it like to be head referee for a world championship?
Chris [00:20:05] Very confusing. And I’ll tell you, the first year I did it was I mean I was not head referee in 2012, but I was head referee in 2013 and then kind of onward for a while. And part of why it’s confusing is because you have to—well, the first thing I asked was, well, what am I refereeing if I don’t know this game all that well? And I initially I didn’t. Now I do. What am I looking for? Right? And so it boils down to, for the most part, you’re dealing with gently explaining to people what the rules are. Because you have a mix, you’ve always had a mix from day one in CTWC where people come in and they’ll qualify and they don’t know what the rules are. They don’t know you have to start on level 9 and higher, for example, in a qualifier. And so I would have to go over and find somebody who’d been playing from level 0 and they were on 8 and I hadn’t seen it. And I’d walk over and have to say, I’m sorry, you need to stop your game and start over again. And so the process of being a referee, really a lot of it is sort of just telling people what to do in a gentle and confident way. Making sure that you maximize the turnover of those stations. So saying that, like, you know, my wife and I actually were we did it together for a couple of years where, you know, she and I would be—she’d be at one end of the line and I’d be at the other end of the line so we could immediately identify when a game ended. And I would just kind of be like getting that person out of that chair so she could send that next person over there. And I would hold up a hand and point and hold up a hand and point, just to get that moving, to keep it moving as fast as we possibly could. Because, you know, it’s important to maximize, you know, the attempts you get. The thing that we really worry about is technical malfunctions. And those do happen where like someone—even just unplugging your controller and walking away, sometimes that’s enough movement to pause someone else’s game or, you know, cause their NES to malfunction.
Frank [00:22:06] Really?
Chris [00:22:07] Yeah, I’ve seen it several times. And it’s been kind of controversial at times because people have been having very good games. And, you know, there was an incident and I’m not going to say who it was or whatever, but the point was someone was having a pretty good game, like 700s, 800s, something like that. And somebody else had a bad game and was mad. And so they kind of slammed the table and the other NES glitched out and froze.
Frank [00:22:32] Oh, no.
Chris [00:22:32] Yeah. And so what do you do? As the referee, you have to make a call in that exact moment that is fair and that is, you know, something. Like you are the person in charge. So like in those kinds of cases, I would say—I’d essentially say I need you to not hit the table if you’re angry. It’s OK to be angry. Just don’t make somebody else’s game suffer for it. I would also do things that are just functional, like if I saw a machine that was having glitches, I would retire that NES. I would just say I would rather have no one play this than have more than one person suffer, you know, a lost game on it. And so I would turn those off and then just raise the flag for someone else that we need to go get another NES or another TV or whatever. There was a thing in 2017 where like a TV had a sleep mode and it kept popping up a timer on top of the display after being on for like an hour or something, and we could not find any interface to turn it off. And that ruined a game as well. And so we began—we’ve developed these really elaborate procedures to say when a referee or—when someone has seen a Nintendo or a TV act badly, we need to physically mark that so that everyone else knows this is what happened. Don’t use this again. So they don’t take that TV and put it on the stage and have that happen during, you know, championship play.
Frank [00:23:56] That would be terrible.
Chris [00:23:57] Honestly, that’s a real problem because, you know, we are working with old, unreliable equipment. And we’ve we’ve been fortunate. And part of that is we do maintenance. You know, we do take apart these machines and clean them. And there is a burn-in period. So when I would go in and do it, I would set things up and burn in every machine for hours, like make sure they were running. They could withstand, you know, jiggling movement, shaking, slamming. And it’s important to do that because if you don’t, then all of a sudden you’re going to lose a match at some point.
Frank [00:24:31] This year, you were a judge for the CTWC qualifying. What’s it like to fulfill that role this year?
Chris [00:24:38] It was fascinating. It was so fascinating. And this year, so what I did was I judged qualifiers, but I didn’t judge the main event because I just wanted to watch the main event because it’s my—it’s like the World Series for me. Like I wanted just to say I’m sitting back and just enjoying this. So in qualifiers, I think I did the most people. I did something like 34 independent qualifiers and they started on every half hour. And so what would happen is I would—the time would come—well prior to the time I would get on Discord and send a message to the person saying, Here’s who I am and I’m going to walk you through some steps. And some of them you know about and some of them you might not know about. And then, you know, hopefully they would reply and we, you know, get on the get on a, you know, a voice call and I would walk them through various steps. So show me your, you know, controller, show me all these things. And force them through a process of verifying that their equipment was real and was actually plugged in and stuff like that. And it was—I mean, for one thing, we did have a ton of equipment failures in qualifiers. I saw probably five or six times when an NES just froze, for seemingly no reason. I saw times when they froze for obvious reasons because somebody threw a controller or whatever. Not saying, not gonna to say who. But, you know, it’s clear when that happens. And again, but the thing that I liked about it—and you’d have to make a decision, right. So, OK, if that happened, does the game count? Do you get extra time? You know, all these sorts of things. But the main thing, the thing that I loved about it was that it was similar to the idea of doing it in person. I felt like I had a one on one connection with these people and I was rooting for all of them. I’m like, you’re my player. Like, I’m going to watch you on mute. You know, I’m going to watch your little game playing for two hours. And I’m going to go back and review the best games you had. And I get to see you like your house or whatever, you know? And often they’d have to call me back because something went wrong or whatever, and they had to reverify. But you kind of develop a little bit of a working relationship with people where you’re like, OK, here we go. Well, your controller came off? OK, fine. Let’s plug it back in, turn the camera around, do this thing. I loved having those moments with players.
Frank [00:26:56] What was your most memorable moments during the qualifying.
Chris [00:26:59] Huh. My most memorable moment. [clears throat] Honestly. So, you know, the context of the world that we’re in today, right. I’m living in the U.S. I’m on the West Coast and we’re under a pretty serious lockdown. So, I have not had a haircut since February. I don’t leave the house very often. So I have I’ve developed a world where I’m in the house and my wife and I have a treadmill in our garage where the car usually is. But we have other reasons to put things in the garage these days. So in the morning I go out and I get on that treadmill. And early on, I think it was Monday or Tuesday before—the way we had it set up, we had different [judges] in different time zones who had said, OK, from UTC, you know, this time to that time I’m going to take people every half hour. And so I said, well, I’m just like broadly available for this huge period. And Vince, I think very rightly said, let’s trim that down. So, you know, Chris, you’re going to be available like, you know, I think it’s 1pm to 4pm, your local—my local time. And I said, well, OK, I don’t know. But turns out, yeah, if you do if you do eight people a day, you get very tired very fast. But in the mornings I’d get up and get on the treadmill and I had a like an iPad in front of me and I’d just fire up Twitch and see who was qualifying. And the most notable thing was when I fired up, I think it was Anna D.
Frank [00:28:26] Anna, yes.
Chris [00:28:26] Yeah, and I’m just watching this and I have the chat open and I’m just watching this thing happen. And it’s very much like, you know, game scouts video where I had that realization, like everybody had that realization, which was like, oh OK, so you’re somebody building on the left. I’ve seen that happen, you know, build for a left well, I had seen that in other qualifiers already. But the realization of like, oh, this player is terrific. Like, this person is like top tier, you know—she’s got a shot. And so realizing when she’s getting these pieces over there like this is somebody who, you know, next year—I was just so excited to see a brand new player. And by the way, the audio on that was so bad. And I was listening to it on my headphones like doing my morning workout. And I’m like, I can’t hear what you’re saying. It sounds like it’s like a fan in her computer, it sounds like an aircraft or something.
Frank [00:29:21] Profile picture on her Twitch page is now an airplane because of that stream.
Chris [00:29:25] Yeah. Yeah. But it was just such a delight. It’s a delight to see new players or to see players where you’ve never seen their faces before. You’ve seen them play in CTMs and stuff. But to actually get a glimpse of them as humans. So that was one. You know, watching, I guess it was HydrantDude, you know, watching that qualifier, that was something. I was actually the qualifier judge for both Dog and PixelAndy, both of which were amazing qualifiers. But there’s this moment where PixelAndy is playing and for some reason Dog just walks in the door.
Frank [00:30:00] Yeah.
Chris [00:30:00] I didn’t know they were brothers.
Frank [00:30:03] Almost nobody knew.
Chris [00:30:05] Nobody knew. And I didn’t have like special information or anything. It was just like, OK, here’s this person’s like Twitch handle and you know, like when they said they signed up. So I’m sitting there and I’m just like, wait, what? Did you see that? What, what? So that was a delight. And the fact—here’s the overall thing. The fact that qualifiers were by themselves like a really fun week of, like, awesome Tetris? I did not anticipate that. I thought qualifiers was going to be boring and like, you know, like who’s going to want to watch this? But when that week was over, it felt like we had just watched like a tournament. It was super fun.
Frank [00:30:43] I loved it, really. Every day later in the week, they showcased on ClassicTetris, all the qualifiers at the same time. The love from the community, and it was so fun to—like we said, you could practically watch Tetris 24 hours a day because if you were sleeping and someone else in a different time zone were qualifying, you could watch that VOD back. It was a lovely week.
Chris [00:31:09] Well, and I guess I also have to say, watching Joseph. I mean. It was…I commented later that it was like the moon landing, right? I think people will say, where were you when Joseph got all those max-outs in two hours?
Frank [00:31:25] I was asleep.
Chris [00:31:26] Well, I was lucky enough to be watching it. And my wife tuned in as well. She was actually in quarantine, like self-imposed. She had, you know, had to go traveling and was coming back. But we were both watching it in two locations and we just kept texting each other just being like, did you see that? What’s happening? You know, ahhh! Because because both of us had been at the tournament physically and had, like, met Joseph and, you know, worked with him on qualifying before, there’s like a little bit of an extra connection there. It doesn’t matter. Like you’re watching the greatest, like you’re watching the greatest of all time and you’re just watching that person, it’s another day at the office. He walks in and just lays everything out and, you know, then just walks off and, you know, takes a bio break and comes back and then does some more. Like, you know, no big deal.
Frank [00:32:13] It’s natural, yeah. Hey, we’re coming off of two weekends of double elimination qualifying tournaments, this all for a spot at the top eight main event. What did you think about these eight qualifying brackets?
Chris [00:32:30] I thought the best of five format was brutal. But I thought that it was brutal in a way that made it fair and also made it so that, like, I had the experience every day of, you know, starting the Tetris in the morning. And for me, it was sort of midday. And so I’d start one channel and we had to we had to set up a way to watch two channels of Twitch at once. But, you know, we figured it out. And for about the first three or four hours, I’m like, OK, I’m really paying attention to this. I’m really into this. But then there came this level of exhaustion. And normally in an in-person CTWC, all of this stuff is happening at such an accelerated rate, like there’s the people on stage, but there’s also people kind of off on side stations and they’re just trying to get matches done with. You know, so the early ones, one’s going to be like seed 1 versus seed 64. We’ll, like, get that done and over with and just move those people out. This was different because everybody got best of five potentially twice or three times or four times or five times. So watching Nenu and watching for example Jonas. Jonas played a lot of games. It was a lot of fun for me to watch that. But also there was a level of exhaustion as a viewer where I was sort of like, I’m kind of ready to be done with this Tetris at this point? It kind of was too much Tetris for me to handle. But on the other hand, like, I’d rather have that that not enough. So I did download all the VODs as well because I’m like, there’s stuff I missed on Channel Two and I was watching Channel One and vice versa. So it was a it was a beautiful thing to see and the ability for people to go through that comeback, that second chance bracket and make their way back up. That’s amazing. And that it actually occurred is like fascinating. So like to watch people battle and play, you know, twenty plus games at such a high level is amazing to me, and I think it really speaks to the level of play. The level of play here obviously is the highest by far that we’ve ever seen. And every year we keep thinking like, well, the level of play we’re seeing cannot be exceeded. What will it be next year? Like where can we go from here?
Frank [00:34:38] Because of the world we’re living right now, it had to be online, but that’s also the part why the level of play is so high. Because normally people who can’t make it for various reasons to Portland are now—can now play for the world championship. And people who crack it during the CTM Masters events or during Classic Tetris League, they can play right now. And I think that is one of the reasons why the level of play is so high this year.
Chris [00:35:09] Yeah, and this is a thing that—I think Americans are extremely bad at understanding that there is a rest of the world. And so we tend to name things world championships that are functionally U.S. championships, right?
Frank [00:35:23] Baseball.
Chris [00:35:23] So, yeah, exactly. The World Series. I mean, obviously no one else plays baseball anywhere else, so whatever. You know, so this is a classic American cultural problem. This year we had the opportunity to actually see a world championship. Right. And I think that there are elements of that that we have to learn from, regardless of what happens next year, if we have if we do have an in-person thing at all or not, because that’s the thing. We always knew it was a real problem, a huge expense. And this is part of what my film, by the way, ends up being about. Like it’s an incredible expense, even if you live in the States to fly to Portland, Oregon, and get a hotel for, you know, potentially four days or something and then fly home and buy all your meals and all this stuff. So it’s something that was a huge limiter. And so when you take the financial limiter of the at least one thousand dollars, if not a lot more, just to go and everyone loses except one person, you know what I mean? Like, that’s a terrible burden. The idea that you could actually say, OK, listen, you need a minimal set of hardware. And yeah, it’s you know, that’s it’s not like that’s a free thing. You still have to have hardware and you have to have a computer that’s capable of doing this and an Internet connection and a camera. It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s not like thousands of dollars worth of stuff. It opens things up in a way that I think is fair and important and gives us—shows us—OK, if the question is who’s really the best in the world, I’m so glad to actually see more than, you know, one to three countries represented. Now, we do end up with a lot of Americans in this final bracket. But still along the way, we actually saw substantive gameplay from players who were not in that sort of U.S. centric scene. And I am so excited by that because I think it really does legitimize the concept of a world championship, right?
Frank [00:37:27] Yeah. Yes. I do agree. We had a couple of international brackets. We had two all-American brackets and one bracket with one person from Antarctica. Is it true that that Quaid was representing Mars last year?
Chris [00:37:45] I don’t know if I’m allowed to comment on, you know, interplanetary controversies. I can say that Quaid is actually in—I didn’t interview him, but he has mentioned a lot—and there are some moments that come up in in 2014 because Quaid got to max-out in qualifying. I think he got the first one that year. I think there had been one the year prior. So we grabbed him and had an interview with him and his attitude if I remember right. I mean this is paraphrasing but essentially Vince, you know, gets on the mic and says, OK, Quaid, you just got you’ve got to max-out in qualifying is a very unusual event, what do you have to say? And Quaid is like… I mean, he just sort of like… He does not care. He does not want to be— the what he’s the— the attitude he’s giving off is, I don’t care. So he’s saying I don’t care. I guess I’m good at Tetris. I guess I’ll go do another max-out now. I don’t know. Go Buco. And he just walks away, he just literally turns around and walks away. He does not care. And I would ask people like why do you think Quaid doesn’t care about Tetris? And everybody’s like, Quaid really cares about Tetris. You don’t get that good at Tetris you know, if you don’t really care. Quaid is playing a character. And I was like, oh, I’m so dumb. I just I never I didn’t grow up with, like, professional wrestling or whatever. So he’s basically, Quaid is our pro wrestler. And so I love seeing Quaid bring that kind of energy and that kind of unpredictability and the sort of Hauser/Kauser complexity that comes up and sort of these inside jokes, like the whole thing of yelling Buco, I think that was Quaid and his brother where they just picked a guy to just say his name?
Frank [00:39:36] Yeah.
Chris [00:39:36] And now that’s a thing. Anyway, I. About the Mars thing in the Antarctica thing. I don’t know.
Frank [00:39:47] No comment further.
Chris [00:39:47] No comment. I mean, maybe I do know and I’m just not saying.
Frank [00:39:51] We’ll return to the conversation with Chris in a minute. But first, if you’d like the Piece Dependency Podcast, help us grow. Please share the podcast with every Classic Tetris fan. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @piecedependency. You can like our Facebook page Piece Dependency Podcast. Subscribe to our YouTube channel where we have all the podcasts uploaded as full length. Also, you can listen to the Piece Dependency podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app. Join the Kingsman Tetris Friendlies Discord server. Besides the fact that a place to discuss everything PDP, you can also participate in some lovely friendlies or put your Elo on the line in the various Elo battle. Last but not least, if you have a suggestion for who we need to have on the next Piece Dependency Podcast, let us know through our socials, Discord channel, or send us an email: email@example.com. Now, let’s go back to the conversation with Chris, we’ll talk about the upcoming documentary, The Best of Five: The Tetris Champions.
Frank [00:40:56] Hey Chris, the main reason you are here is that on Friday, October 30th, you announced that you are working on a new Classic Tetris documentary. It’s called The Best of Five: The Classic Tetris Champions. Before we go in depth, can you tell us what this documentary is about?
Chris [00:41:13] Yeah. So on the—well, let’s back up. There’s a very important documentary that chronicles the beginning of the Classic Tetris World Championship. That documentary is called Ecstasy of Order, the Tetris Masters, I believe. And that film, you know, and I worked on that a little bit. And that film is about the beginning. Right? It’s about Robin Mihara and trying to figure out how we’re going to make this thing work. And it makes a lot of sense as a film. It’s a competition film. It also talks about Tetris. It also has emotional resonance. We talk about Thor and his story and what’s going on with him. And I think it’s a great film. Now, the thing was, I don’t think this is a spoiler to tell anybody. Well, let’s put it this way. For the first four years of CTWC, the same person wins. So by four years in, the community, which was, we thought, extremely large. Now, today, the community is a hundred times larger. But yeah, we thought, listen, can, can this guy be beaten? Right? Like we had this serious problem, which was, look, we all get together. People are paying all this money. They’re coming to this place. And it sure looks like we have an unbeatable player because he just comes in and just destroys. And that’s not a problem in the sense that I mean, clearly, he’s the greatest player. But at the same time, it’s not that much fun if you’re going to spend money and come and try to compete and then you’re just going to get destroyed. So when we came in for this, the fifth year, first of all, I wanted to check in on how—I want to make a film that just documented what is this tournament? Why does it matter and what’s going on here? But the biggest question, the big operative question every player was was struggling with was how can I beat the four-time champ or can I? Is it physically possible? So you had people who were trying to. Actually, maybe I’m going way too into this early.
Frank [00:43:10] That’s all right.
Chris [00:43:11] The point was, I just wanted to I wanted to pick a year and document what was happening and so go leading into it. So months in advance, I began following players, interviewing, as they were getting ready, as they were training and asking them, what do you think is going to happen? What are you worried about? Because there’s a lot of players in Portland where I live, I was able to go and just talk to them endlessly. And then when, you know, the tournament actually comes, I documented everything about that. So how do they actually set up the, you know, the NESs? How do we test them? Where are they? Like what does that all work? And then how does tournament day work? How what happens on the tournament evenings? What are those parties like? We actually had the party at my house that year and I think the next couple of years. Those parties are—the after-parties—are pretty fun, right? I wanted to show that stuff and also to explore the question of why do we have a scene so dominated by one player and can that person be defeated? And again, I don’t want to—like it’s difficult to tackle spoilers with something that happened six years ago.
Frank [00:44:16] Yeah.
Chris [00:44:16] I got really lucky. Right? Like, I picked a really good year to ask that question. And I followed the right people because I happened to follow in depth like the people who ended up in, you know, positions one, two and three. And then I followed a bunch of other people who were lower down in the ranking. So we ended up with this very detailed look at the state of the tournament five years in. And I think that’s a really interesting thing to look at now that we’re eleven years in. It’s a very similar kind of thing. So as you have these sort of unbeatable players, people veer toward what that player is doing. So when Jonas was doing very well, people started trying to be Jonas-y. Right. And frankly, a lot of people really were trying to be like Harry. They were trying to adopt the things that Harry and to some extent Jonas were doing. And then when when Joseph came along, obviously people tried to be like Joseph. And those things change the fundamental tournament and the fundamental sort of meta of the game. So by by doing this film, I’m looking at the first time that that meta actually changed. And then that’s instructive for later, the fact that it’s changed again. And I think there will be, by the way, future movies. I don’t think I’ll direct them. But there has been some some thinking about, you know, there’s definitely been a second turn in how this all works. So we may see that in the future.
Frank [00:45:47] You said that you came up with the idea with Adam Cornelius. how do you come up with an idea like this? And what’s the reason you wanted to do it five years after the original documentary?
Chris [00:45:59] Yeah, I mean, I had actually worked earlier. I think it was that year, or the year before. Adam and I had tried to make a film, a documentary film together, about cryptocurrency. So like Bitcoin. Except w were focusing on the things that aren’t Bitcoin. The other—like there’s all these other coins. And the reason we did that was because Bitcoin had a kind of culture around it that could be a little bit.
Frank [00:46:22] A bit dark.
Chris [00:46:24] A bit dark, like there was a little bit of oddness there. But things like Dogecoin or Litecoin or whatever were more interesting and fun. So anyway, the point is he and I tried to make a film and we tried to crowdfund it for $75,000 I think is what we asked for and we got about ten thousand. We didn’t get it because it didn’t succeed. But we wanted to make this film and we were doing it in the conventional style, which is you say, OK, let’s make a documentary. We know how much it costs because we’ve worked on multiple features before. So let’s just ask for every dollar we know we would need to do it the best we can, right? Now, what we discovered was there is not enough market for the movie we’re trying to make, this the crypto-coin thing. And so we had to just drop that project and not do it. And so I found myself saying, well, look, you know, I want to make a movie. I still want to make a documentary about something. And so that’s sort of this plan B thing was, well, what about Classic Tetris? Right? Because it actually has changed so much since the first movie. It doesn’t even resemble the you know, the tournaments look different. They’re in different places. And now there’s five years of history. The beautiful thing about a tournament is that there’s always a climax. There’s a moment when people are going to be battling, they’re going to be playing against one another. And those moments are like, that’s what you want in a film. Like you want the film to not just be people talking about Tetris. And just like looking at Tetris. You want there to be stakes. You want it to matter. Like we want to care about this player and how is it going to turn out for this player. So the beauty of that format is it had a built in like climax to it. I knew that something would happen at the tournament, whatever it was.
Frank [00:48:12] There has to be a final.
Chris [00:48:12] Yeah, there has to be a final and there has to be a winner.
Frank [00:48:15] Yeah.
Chris [00:48:15] And worst case scenario…that’s the wrong way to put it. But like for me, the best case scenario would be there was some kind of upset and then every other case was still acceptable, right? Because you wanted to see each individual person’s desires. You wanted them to say in their own words, why am I doing this? Why do I care? You want the audience to feel that with them. And you want—I wanted everyone to win, but I knew, of course, only one person can win. So everyone’s heart will be broken. Every single player is going to be heartbroken—.
Frank [00:48:51] Except the winner.
Chris [00:48:52] Right. Because there’s only the one winner. And so I wanted to be—you know, I wanted to show that because it actually is such an emotional thing. And when you do documentary film, it’s a difficult balance because sometimes you come in and ask someone to relive a moment that was very painful for them or that meant that, like, they didn’t get the outcome they wanted. But afterward, you’re saying please reflect on that for me. And I had to do that with—I went to L.A. the following summer and I sat down with Jonas and I sat down with Harry and I handed them an iPad that had the games on them and while we were taping an interview with them said watch this and tell me what’s happening. And they did. Uh, and it was not fun, I don’t think, for for Jonas certainly to watch that. But Jonas is a very nice person. And so Jonas sat there, he watched it, and he kind of shook his head and he was like, oh, you know, like he would make a mistake in the game and look at his own game. And years later, I think it was maybe 2017. Maybe 2018, he told Arda Ocal in an interview that that moment was actually the moment that made him decide not to retire because he realized—he hadn’t watched the games. Because, why would you? Because it was the game where, like, you know, something went bad for you. But in watching the game, he suddenly was like, oh, wait. I actually I think I know how I can play better here. And what’s fascinating is also when you go to Harry and you show him those games again, he also has the same reaction. He’s like, wait, I see something here that I can change. And when I say, OK, what is it? He’s like, I’m not going to tell you. [laughter] So there’s a difference there because, you know, with Jonas, you say, what is it? And he’ll just start diving into like, well, OK, if I do this thing over here. But Harry, Harry is just kind of like—he looks at it and he’s like, hmm, I see something I’m doing wrong. I think I know how to fix that. I’m going to fix that. And I’m not going to tell you what it is, which is delightful.
Frank [00:50:53] How do you start on making a documentary? Who do you want to be working with? Are they, are those people that you know or worked with before, or are those people that are completely new to you? Who do like to have on your team?
Chris [00:51:07] Yeah. So on this documentary, I had no funding. So and this is still I mean, now I’m running a Kickstarter six years later, but all the money that got spent on it came out of my bank account. And I’m not a wealthy man. So this was stuff where I had to make really careful decisions about who I would hire and how much I could afford to pay them. Right? Because I, you know, I was spending money in the hopes that someday down the line I’d be able to sell the movie and people would then pay for it, right?
Frank [00:51:36] Yeah.
Chris [00:51:36] So what I did initially was I didn’t hire anybody. I went in by myself. So there’s a lot of interviews in the early days where I would go in and I would bring the lights and the sound and the camera, and I would also run all of those simultaneously and do the interview.
Frank [00:51:53] Yeah.
Chris [00:51:53] I had done that before a little bit. But usually on my team, like, I had done a lot of work with Adam where it was like a two to three person team and I would usually be the sound person. So when Adam and I would go on shoots in like New York City, for example, it was a common setup for him to be on camera. Part of that is because he’s very tall. So if we’re walking around having a tall person with the camera is just helpful, they can move it around a lot.
Frank [00:52:18] Yeah.
Chris [00:52:18] I’m just like a normal height person, but I have a lot of training in sound recording. So I was a sound recordist back in the 90s because I’m old and I would just carry around two, they’re called shotgun microphones, they’re these long skinny mics, and I would hold them and just get audio and I’d be wearing big isolating headphones and have the sound recorder around my neck so I could, you know, look down and make sure I was working all right. And so I had a lot of experience doing that. And then Adam and I would do these setups where we would both—we kind of moved on and we would do interview setups where each of us would would operate one camera. I would operate the sound and then one or the other of us would be the interviewer. So I’d gotten used to that. But I was I was used to that with Adam. Like that was the person I knew the best. I worked on other projects as well, but that was a setup that I was really comfortable with. Now, Adam during the tournament is busy. He doesn’t have any extra—like he’s not available to come and do that stuff. So the short answer is, I did most of it myself. So a lot of the early work is just literally me in a room by myself. And I’m proud that that worked. Later, like, for example during the actual tournament, I hired Louis Holland and Louis is our Director of Photography. He’s a guy who has worked with Adam and Vince on other projects. He was the Director of Photography on The Palindromists, which is a movie that Vince directed and Adam produced. And I actually shot a little tiny bit of footage for that. That’s a movie that’s out in festivals right now. But it’s it’s now it’s like the third film that has essentially a very similar set of people. So, it’s like Ecstasy of Order and Best of Five and The Palindromists all have some mixture of the same camera people, directors, producers, and editors. Like they’re just it’s kind of like it’s mixed and matched. But it’s just the people who I knew. And so I hired him for a very low wage and rented this unbelievably expensive camera equipment that he—whatever he preferred. I was like, whatever it is, you know how to use best, I’ll go get it. And he was the kind of person who didn’t require a lot of direction. And I had seen it before because I’d seen his work in other projects. And so I just knew, like, OK. And he was very familiar with Ecstasy of Order. And I said, you know, you know what Tetris looks like, do your best. And I hired other other people as well, some of whom did require more direction. Later, the following summer when I had to go and do stuff in L.A., by the way, we also interviewed John Tran, known as Blink, who founded HardDrop when we were there because he was there. We just decided like, let’s go ahead and spend an afternoon learning what his stuff was. When I was there, I hired my friend Carl King, who is now the composer for this new film. And the idea there is Carl King, like me, is like—he came to it from sound initially. Then he got into being a photographer and a filmmaker and he does lighting and he just knows how to do a lot of everything. And so that’s a typical thing for a small documentary crew. And also, he’s an old friend of mine. So I wanted somebody who I just knew and I knew I could say without having to be very gentle, say like, you know, please make this thing happen. And he would just handle it, you know. And he also knew in the same way that if he was having a problem, he could just, you know, raise his hand and say, hey, we’re stopping now. We’re doing this. So I would try to have the smallest possible team. And you look today at documentaries, a lot of times you’ll have like five or six people in a room with multiple cameras that are operated by people. And they’re like, the cameras are moving. And there’s like a whole person for lighting, a whole other person for sound and a whole other person who’s dealing with, like, you know, overall production stuff. And the interviewer. To me, like, that’s neat, I guess. But to me, there’s an intimacy to being a single person, you know, alone, just having a conversation like, yeah, there’s a light on and yeah, there’s a camera. But at some point the fewer people and the less stuff, the easier it is to get an honest answer out of somebody and not to have them feel the pressure of, you know, oh, I’m being in—I’m in a movie.
Frank [00:56:37] It does make it feel more organic, like it’s a real conversation. And we don’t know that the cameras are here.
Chris [00:56:46] Yeah. And we obviously haven’t released any footage. Right? So the thing is like the trailer that you see on Kickstarter, it doesn’t—there’s no sound, it’s just like the tournament days. What you’re not seeing it’s literally hundreds of hours of me sitting in like Terry Purcell’s basement. We’re going to Terry Purcell’s, like, school. He’s a school teacher. Or, you know, all these different setups. We’re going to have an interview or like, you know, interviewing, you know, Jonas at his house. Like we interviewed him in a different room than where he streams. But, like, that’s his house. Right. And like, you know. Well, anyway, the point being, there’s a lot of material where people talk about their feelings. They talk about their game, they talk about what it all means to them. And I think that’ll be coming up soon. I’ll probably try to put together, like, by the way, here’s a list of people we interviewed and kind of like a screenshot at least of what those all looked like, because there’s a lot of that.
Frank [00:57:40] I was thinking about that. How did you contact the players? Because obviously they knew you for being a head referee in 2013, but did they know you were working on Ecstasy of Order? And what was the reaction when you asked them to be on the new documentary?
Chris [00:57:57] Well, I knew some of them because the thing I probably should’ve mentioned earlier. I wrote an article in 2013, I think, which was titled Playing to Lose, and it was a magazine feature about the CTWC and that article at the time, that article was like ESPN. Like a lot of people read that article and found out about this tournament and came into the scene. And so that was interesting. And because of that, I had contacted Bo Steil and Ben Mullen and interviewed them at great length. And also I’d you know, I’d met them in person at the tournament and I’d, you know, refereed and all that stuff. But because of that, that was one thing I had done. And the fact that I’d been you know, I’d done Ecstasy of Order with Adam, it was very easy for me just to sort of say…like, this is a small world, everybody knew everybody. And so if I just called them up and said, you know, like I know Adam, I know Robin, I know Vince, we’re all friends with the same people. Are you interested in sitting down to talk with me? Everyone said OK. I mean, it was actually incredibly easy to get agreement because I think it was clear that it was such a small group of people who were interested in this hobby to begin with that the idea of being on camera with someone was really unusual. Like we didn’t have we we weren’t on ESPN back then. Like we were just barely streaming on the Internet at all. So I think they were they were keen to be on to talk about it. And by the way, like the number one thing I would say sitting down with a player was, you know, I’m making a film here, but my concept of making a documentary is: I’m here to represent who you are and what you want. I’m not going to turn you into a bad person and I’m not going to mess up your life, you know? And there’s a lot of films that have cast people as villains, especially in, you know, in an attempt to make there be more drama than there really was, and that has really hurt people as people. And I don’t subscribe to that. I’m going to tell the truth, but I’m not going to be a jerk about it. And so I would just be very upfront about that. Sometimes people would say—they would be put off by that because they weren’t expecting that there could be a possibly bad outcome to being in a film. But then they’d say, well, why do you say that? And I’d say, well, in King of Kong, the documentary, I mean, it’s a great documentary. I enjoyed watching it. But the edit was extremely manipulative. It actually did intentionally manipulate the behavior of one of the players to seem that that person was more of a villain than they were. It just straight up lied. It said, you know, this person never showed up to this meeting. Well, he did, actually. And that had turned off people to being in documentaries in general because they saw that, you know, someone couldn’t be trusted to to be accurate. Why would they share the truth? Like, why would they bother to sit down? So I, I tried to say, like listen I’m an honest person. You can see the other work I’ve done and I care about you as a person. And I hope that that’s—I hope that comes across because it’s important to me to be a good person. And it’s important in documentary not to just use people as pawns to make a fun story. So I think that’s why they talk to me, like because I was extremely upfront about that.
Frank [01:01:18] Yeah. How did you prepare for the interviews?
Chris [01:01:21] Honestly, a lot of the credit here goes to Adam. Adam Cornelius. We had worked together and I had seen him do his thing. At the time, I had spent the last couple of years working as a writer, writing features. So a feature for, you know, is a profile. You go and you talk to the same person fifteen times and then you assemble a story about, you know, how did their life work. And it’s a little bit different in a documentary. Because in a documentary you’re going to interview Person One and then you’re going to interview Person Two. And those people might end up in a head to head competition later. And so I had asked Adam about this and he gave me kind of the 101 of this. And so for anyone who’s listening, who wants to make their own competition film, what you do is you make a series of questions that you make sure you ask. So, for instance, you say, OK, I’m sitting down with Terry. Terry, tell me about Jonas. Tell me about Harry. Tell me about, you know, like I would ask simple questions, like, you know, when did you start playing Tetris and what does the game mean to you? I had these sort of stock questions, but the most important thing was to make sure I had asked them about specific other people so that when inevitably I had the other person in front of the camera, I could then say, all right, all right Bo. Here’s what Ben said about you. Well, how do you respond? Right? And it’s not, you know, again, it’s not like these are—nobody was mean, but I would ask questions the night before, actually. We did a set of interviews on Friday night where I would say, like, who are you worried about running up into in the bracket? Like who do you not want to play? Or who do you want to play? Meaning, who do you think you can beat? And those answers are great. I’d also say like who do you want to have win the whole thing overall? Like what do you, who do you think deserves it? And a lot of those answers are very revealing and very honest. So you would ask these kind of canned questions, but the other part of it was you had to pay a ton of attention as an interviewer. And this is true of any interview. But you have to pay attention and kind of go off on the tangent with the person. So if they suddenly start going into, like, well, when I was a child, you know, Tetris was my escape. And I you know, there’s a world in which you would hear that answer and say, OK, and then you would ask, you know, question two. In my case, I’m like, tell me more, then they would say, well—
Frank [01:03:48] You would improvise.
Chris [01:03:48] Yeah. I would just keep trying to get farther and deeper and deeper down that that thing. And eventually you get an answer that’s like, well, you know, as a kid, we moved around a lot. And the one constant I had was my NES and the game I was best at is Tetris and that was the way I could escape into a thing where I felt safe and I felt like I was on my own and I had control over something. And you’re like, aha. Now here we have an emotional reason for why you’re doing something, not that you just want to win or you want to brag or whatever, but you this is a functional thing that’s you’re carrying with you from childhood. That’s why you kind of started here. It’s maybe not why you’re here today. But I loved it to be able to get down to—to spend so much time with someone talking to them that you would get to those those things. And also, by the way, the ability to sit down with someone more than one time, you would inevitably—you’d do an interview and then you’d like, you know, walk away and you’d watch the tape later. And then you’d say, man, I wish I’d asked about this other thing. You’d say, OK. Go back and interview him again. Ask him about the other thing. Or ask him the same question five times and see if the answer ever changes. Right? Just see where you go with that. And I had the luxury of having people who were local to me. I didn’t have to travel to get them and I could just say I’m coming over and they’re like, OK, you know, I brought some beer, you know?
Frank [01:05:08] That’s when you interview the people. Did you write a script afterwards or don’t you write a script at all after until all the footage has shot, or do you work on a basic script?
Chris [01:05:22] So I, I resisted this a lot. There’s an idea in documentary called “writing the movie” where you write what you think the film will be before you shoot the film. And the concept there is that if you’ve already written out what you think is going to happen, then you’re just sort of like making sure you have the footage to make all those parts work. I actually refused to do that until after I’d interviewed probably 20 people. Because I felt like when I would go in and do a magazine profile about somebody, I wanted them to tell me using their own words, what had happened. And then I was going to say, OK, well, based on that, this is what the truth is, because I felt—I still felt like there was something where I didn’t want to—I didn’t want to be pushing them into my narrative of what I—you know, like I wanted my narrative to come from the truth that I discovered. Which is a very hard way to do it. Like, it’s easier to come in and say the story is about this. So everything you say, I’m going to just steer you back towards this. I didn’t write that script and I still have not written like the majority of that. So Gilbert, the Assistant Director and I, we’re breaking these episodes. We’re planning on five. We might go to my go to six if we got enough money. But we’re trying to make sure that we have all these little story arcs. And so we have essentially like thousands of little note cards that are these little, you know, mini things like these little mini parts of the discussion. And the way I would construct those, I would go back through all the interviews after they happened and clip out the parts that I thought were good and then just write down all of the things that were in that little clip. Like, here’s where the person talks about level 19 maxes. Here’s where they talk about, you know, Jonas. And here’s where they talk about whether everyone is actually emulating Jonas’s game or Harry’s game, and why are those games different and so on. And so from those, I wanted to then derive the story from that. So in that sense, we’re doing something that’s a little bit harder. But we are bringing in for example, we have a narrator, so we can have that kind of—like if we need to fill in the gaps we have, we have a way to fill in gaps later. But I really believe strongly in going in and just being open to what unexpected things are happening. Now having said that, I wasn’t completely unprepared. I would come in with a list of questions. But I was always willing to throw the questions out. Or once I got through my kind of stock stuff, then say, all right, you know, let’s get to something more interesting or what is it that you wanted to tell me about this stuff? And that often would like send us into a whole different direction. So I’m glad I did that. It is a contributor to why this has taken so long to even really begin editing, because we had to, you know, do preparation where we went through and reviewed hundreds of hours of talking and tried to pull out all the themes that were in there because we didn’t force it in to begin with. We didn’t start out by saying this is a movie about this person beating that person. That’s all we care about. We started out by saying this is a movie about Tetris and people who play a difficult game for very little recognition, very little money and very little fame on their own, often like in their basements. A lot of these people are from the working class, like they don’t need to be buying, like a lot of equipment to do this. What does that mean? What does it functionally mean? So that’s what we did.
Frank [01:08:53] Is that’s the reason why did documentary is still not out? Instead of—it could have been out in late 2015, early 2016, but it will be coming out next year.
Chris [01:09:06] It’s a reason. I mean, honestly, there’s two big reasons that—there’s two big things that came up. Thing one was. In 2015, I had a trailer and I showed the trailer and some other sample footage at the CTWC, and I think I remember saying, like, if the movie is not done next year, you should all be mad at me. Well, I mean, people can be mad at me. But I thought it was just a matter of like—I thought it was it was just a matter of sitting down and spending more time staring at this footage and putting it together. The bigger problem came in when—this is true, like two things happened. Thing one, I realized I had so much footage that I would have to simplify this thing so radically to fit into the box that I had envisioned, which was a 90 minute long like feature documentary, which is what I’d always just assumed it was, because that’s what Ecstasy of Order is. And that’s what The Palindromists is. And that’s what I thought we were making, like there wasn’t—let’s let’s be very clear, there were not like a lot of successful documentary series in 2014, much less the years prior. So today it’s like, oh, Tiger King comes out or like, oh, The Vow or whatever. Like all these things are—it’s common to have a long multipart documentary series on streaming. Well we didn’t really have streaming, you know, so I hadn’t conceived that that was a possibility. So I was struggling so hard to say, how can I tell a meaningful story in 90 minutes or maybe two hours, like at the most. That was really hard. And I was struggling with it and I was editing and I was just finding myself frustrated and bothered that I wasn’t able to fit more in. That was thing one. Thing two was Trey Harrison came along, joined the team and invented TreyVision, which then allowed him to make HD gameplay. And then the thing that happened right after that was “Boom Tetris for Jeff,” where all of a sudden we had a huge audience on YouTube who all expected every game to be HD. They expected that two-up rendering with the two players on either side. We didn’t—that didn’t exist. That was years away from existing when I shot the film. So what I had in terms of, like video of the games was I had an RCA output going through a USB like recorder that recorded a Flash video file at 320 pixels by 240 pixels of each TV. That’s what I had.
Frank [01:11:31] Yeah.
Chris [01:11:31] And I had talked to Trey right after he invented TreyVision and said, well gee, can I run this footage through your system? And he gave it a shot and it didn’t work. He was like, I didn’t design it to do this. So it doesn’t work. So, sorry. Right? And the problem was the more popular YouTube got and the more people expected like, this is what Classic Tetris looks like, the more that just putting up to fuzzy standard def things next to each other wasn’t going to cut it, you know. So in my movie, it was going to look terrible because Trey came in and modernized the game by leaps and bounds in the course of essentially one year. And then everything from that on was what got popular. So I guess this sort of second level problem, which was, OK, I don’t have high definition games, I don’t have TreyVision. And I now we have a huge viewer base from YouTube who assume that that’s what everything looks like. So if I come out today after that with a movie where everything’s in standard definition games, it’s going to look stupid, like it’s just not—it’s doesn’t look like the right sport, you know.
Frank [01:12:42] Yeah.
Chris [01:12:42] So I really struggled with that too. And I you know, I’d go back occasionally to Trey and say, is there anything we can do? And his answer was, you know, honestly, like, it’s a lot of work. I don’t really see a way to get there from here. Well, the thing was, this is the silver lining of the pandemic lockdown. In March, there was this moment where my state locked down and California locked down right at the same time. And I just called him. I texted him, I think, and said, can I call you? He said, sure? I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. And I said, look, I’ve got this problem. You understand the problem. And I’m hoping and just sort of crossing my fingers that maybe you have extra time to give this one last try. Like, is that possible? How much would it cost? And he just sort of thought about it for a while and he said, you know, essentially his work was on hold for like—the day I called him, he said, you know, my current project, you know, that they’re not sure how we’re going to proceed, so I kind of have just been put on on pause for like a day. But it could be as long as maybe four days. I just don’t know, because the virus and there’s all this stuff. So I just don’t know. But I do have a little spare time, and I guess I can look at this one last time. So I was like, well, that’s all I can ask. That’s more than generous. Take a look. And within four or five hours, the first set of matches came back to me in TreyVision. And they had problems. So like he said, look, I ran, I upscaled your video. I ran it through this thing. And the recognizer has problems. And by the way, you see similar problems in what we’ve been watching on the 2020 thing, on MaxOut Club, like there’s the blocks will sparkle, they’ll change colors. Things will move at the wrong rate, like the blocks will disappear randomly because that’s what’s in the source footage. Like the video is not good enough to render everything perfectly. But he’s like, here is a TreyVision copy of this match. Do you want me to do the next match? And I had to just like jump. I was like, oh, oh. Oh, it’s possible. Oh, no, it’s possible. Oh, yes, it’s possible. So I just grabbed all the matches that we needed and like, you know, I had to cut the Flash video files that were hours long and say, like, it’s from this point to that point. And he had to recalibrate TreyVision every single match because every single TV was different and every file was different, and they were all bad in different ways. And he would send me back a file and say, look, I saw errors here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, that you’ll have to figure out how to fix manually. But! It exists, right? And I was like, wow, OK.
Frank [01:15:26] How long did it take from the first game to the last game to have all games into TreyVision?
Chris [01:15:34] I want to say five and a half days, calendar days. It was extremely fast. And he told me midway through it, look. I’m getting rumbles that my day job might be coming back right away, so I want you to make sure that you’re giving these to me in the order that you might need them, because I will probably have to stop before we’re done.
Frank [01:15:52] Yeah.
Chris [01:15:52] So I didn’t translate every game I had. I translated every match that I could possibly imagine using, like in a narrative sense, which is still like hours and hours and hours of matches right? It’s all of the top eight and it’s a lot of the stuff leading into those top eight brackets. But I put it in order. I was like, okay, obviously the final match is the most important match. And then the things that radiate out from there are the most important things. And then the top eight are the most important things. And then if you have time, these other things. Like they got kind of fun. Like there’s a match where Trey was the 32nd seed and Jonas was the 1st seed, I believe? Anyway, Trey had intentionally gotten himself seeded so he would get he would get to face his friend Jonas in the first round and get destroyed. But when he when he did the TreyVision, he rowby this thing back and he just wrote in all caps like I WAS ROBBED, because now that there was a long bar drought counter, which we never had, right? No one had ever looked at those games! He just got droughted, like he just got terrible RNG. And Jonas was just like having a normal set of games. And so it looked like, well, anyway, the point is like, yes, Jonas is a better Tetris player, let’s not kid ourselves. But it was just really nice that it worked. It worked. The fact that you have statistics live that, you know, this person is actually getting a terrible RNG sequence, makes it so that you can actually say something different about the game. You know the game actually didn’t go that well. And it wasn’t purely because, like, he was just not good at Tetris. He’s great at Tetris. He’s terrific at it. But he had terrible luck and he was playing against Jonas in the first round. So, you know, what’s going to happen is going to happen. But we managed to get games like that, matches like that, as like the last couple of things. But the file that I would get, I had to go through each of those files frame by frame. And when I say frame by frame, I mean I press forward and I you know—
Frank [01:17:57] Oooh.
Chris [01:17:58] Frame by frame. We’re talking hours and hours and hours of footage and watch just with my eyes to see if something in the stack changed colors.
Frank [01:18:07] Yeah.
Chris [01:18:07] And if it did, I had to go back and paint in, like, find a square and put the correct square where it was for one frame and then it would come back again. I mean it was. You know, don’t cry for me, right, but like wow, it was a lot of cleaning. And so I spent months cleaning these files up. And by the way, the other thing is the film is shot at 24 frames per second, which is different than the game that runs at 60 frames or kind of 30 frames, depending on how you think about it. So Trey had rewritten, as part of this, he had written Trey Vision to output the games at my film frame rate, but still try to have it look normal. So I was editing these games at this very strange time base. So anyways, it’s a whole thing. It’s technical, but the point was all of a sudden two things cleared at the same time. One of them was a realization because my Assistant Director Gilbert called me and said, You do realize that it is 2020 and you can do documentary series now, right? And I was like, um, I had not realized that. And then I, I was like, wait a minute. This actually solves a lot of my problems except for the TreyVision thing. So he was like, why don’t you call Trey? So I called Trey and then Trey fixed it. And you know, and that’s, that’s the story. Like that’s why all of a sudden I was like, oh, OK. So what I need is I need to hire a professional editor and I have to hire a person to do the score. And I can do the majority of the other work myself, but I need a little bit of money to get that to happen. So that’s where the Kickstarter came from. And I ran it, you know, right around the time of the tournament, because I felt like that’s when people would be paying attention to Classic Tetris and we funded in thirteen hours? And now we’re almost a two hundred percent of what we asked for. We could still use more. Because what it means is more episodes, more languages, more, you know, like basically more stuff. But what it does mean is this is going to happen. It is 100 percent happening. You will have to pay for it. And by the way, this is going to be the best deal you’re going to get. So if you you want to get the movie, you’re going to want to go to The TetrisChampion.com, which takes you to Kickstarter and like back it now because, yeah, like next year you’ll be able to buy the series as well. But it’s going to cost more. And also there’s going to be there’s some like special rewards that I don’t think we’ll ever see again. So. Yeah.
Frank [01:20:44] I was going to talk about the Kickstarter at the end of the show, but we can do it right now. How surprised were you that you were funded within, what was it, 12, 13 hours?
Chris [01:20:55] Yeah, it was it was like 12 and a half hours. I completely surprised. Completely surprised. That morning. It was a Friday morning, I pressed the button. OK, so let’s back up. It was October, I guess, 30th. So the next day is Halloween, which is the first day of CTWC 2020 online. And then a few days later, is the U.S. election. One of the most like big, all-consuming news events anyone can possibly imagine.
Frank [01:21:24] Yeah.
Chris [01:21:24] So I needed to start this thing before the election happened and roughly when the tournament happened, because the tournament, like, you know, they were like, I’m sponsoring the tournament. So people will be able to, you know, hear about the Kickstarter so they can come and click on it and put their put their money on it.
Frank [01:21:42] Yeah.
Chris [01:21:42] I was having a conversation the night before. No, two nights before. With Gilbert. The Assistant Director who, by the way, made this happen by realizing it could be a series, and we we were going to ask for five thousand dollars. Total. And he said, look, if we make this one change to the budget, do you think we could change it to four thousand dollars? And I was like, yeah? and I was like, I’m just not sure we’re going to able to get five thousand dollars, right, or four thousand dollars. I’m not sure we can get four thousand dollars in the middle of a pandemic. In the middle of this, like everybody I know, has given all of their money to trying to stay alive and to support, like, you know, their families. And so it felt very weird to me to be asking for money like at all, but also in the middle of a global pandemic. Come on. You know, it’s just not—didn’t seem like a real smart idea. And so I was really, really convinced that we were going to spend 40 days chipping away like ten dollars at a time to get to maybe the four thousand dollars.
Frank [01:22:44] Yeah.
Chris [01:22:44] So when 12 hours later, like that night, it was like ding! And I thought…. My goal, I was like, maybe we can get a thousand dollars in a day. Like if we get a thousand dollars in a day, I will be surprised. That’s like my marker. So I did not know how to react. [laughter] I still don’t know how to react because part of it is like, “Wow,” right, is one thing. And also there’s a there’s a thing I’ve seen a lot of—and I’m not saying other people need to do this—but I have been stunned how many people have just been like, you know, here, here’s 20 bucks or 15 bucks or whatever for the series and an extra 50 dollars for nothing. I don’t even want the poster. I don’t want the DVD. Just, just here’s money. Here’s some money.
Frank [01:23:33] Yeah.
Chris [01:23:33] I—because I want this thing to exist in the world and I, I agree with you that this is a story that, that should be told. And I’m like…. Like it’s an emotional thing for me. The other thing I [sighs], I don’t think this is clear to people, but I’ll go ahead and say it. I have been unemployed since March. I’m on government unemployment. I make I believe it’s a hundred and seventy two dollars per week—.
Frank [01:24:02] Ooh.
Chris [01:24:02] —from unemployment. I have been working as much as I humanly can from home. I was a portrait photographer. I was—I had shifted my career right before the pandemic to be a photographer. I was I was doing in-person photo shoots and my last shoot was on February 29th of this year.
Frank [01:24:20] Yeah.
Chris [01:24:20] And then all of a sudden that became completely impossible. And so I was out of I was out of that job. And I it took me a very big shift to be like, OK, how can I do some kind of work, you know, remotely? What it means that this Kickstarter will succeed? What it means is I get off of unemployment.
Frank [01:24:44] Yeah.
Chris [01:24:45] It also means that we get to have a documentary series. But that is an enormous thing for me and for my family and it is so—that’s part of why it’s hard for me to even understand how to—you know, like when you’re making less than 200 bucks a week and you’re asking for four thousand dollars to make a movie about Tetris. I mean, I like Tetris. And I think Tetris is important and emotionally meaningful, but it’s not as emotionally meaningful as putting food on the table. Like, it just it just felt so strange to me. So I have been, uh, working to process the thing that I need to say, which is just: “Thank you” to the people. Like thank you, like thank you for validating that you actually want this. And at this point, what I want is I just want a larger number of people to give small amounts of money. Like, I don’t you know, if you have money and you want to throw lots of money at it, that’s great. And we do have a good use for it. But at this point, I just want a lot of people to be able to enjoy the thing when it comes out. I want to be able to do live streams when, you know, we release an episode and we have like basically a Zoom party where I get on, you know, Gilbert gets on there. We get some of the champs on there and we just show, we show the thing, and we pause it and just talk about it like, oh, here’s this one shot. Check this out. What’s the story behind that? So that’s that’s, that’s, that’s what’s happening.
Frank [01:26:11] How did you get Joseph Saelee to be one of the perks that people can can purchase in fact, when they back your Kickstarter?
Chris [01:26:21] Well, it was about a 10 month effort and a lot of bribes. He has a lot of layers of management. That’s actually not true. So what happened was we were trying to think of, like, OK, what we’ll be a good high-dollar reward. Right? Because it’s a movie. Obviously, the basic reward is you get the movie. Like you get a digital stream or download or whatever, and then if you want more, it’s like, oh, a poster or a Blu-ray or whatever. But then it was like, well, we we know Harry and Jonas. And so what if we had this like 500 dollar US reward where you get all that other stuff you get, like the, you know, the get the movie and everything, but you also get an hour of their time to do whatever. I mean, whatever is legal, you know, legal stuff. And like it can’t be in person unless they agree to it, I guess, because COVID and so forth. But, you know, if you want an experience, it is I don’t think you could contact these people at any time ever and just get an hour of their time one on one for you, you know. And so I floated the idea by Jonas and he said, that sounds cool. I floated the idea by Harry. And he said, that sounds cool. I told them both, I’m only going to do it if you both agree to it because I’m not going to—you know what I I mean? Like, it feels weird. I think it was Harry who said, well, what about Joseph? And I was like, oh yeah, crap. Like I thought about it, but I hadn’t gotten it done. So we launched with Harry and Jonas. Right. So lesson with the champ. You pay 500 bucks and you get to spend some time with the champ. And then Gilbert, who has been in touch with this, is the Assistant Director who has been in touch with Joseph. And I said, so what about Joseph? And he said, well, you know, I’ll just get in touch and see what happens. And so I guess it was it was probably Thursday of last week. So right before the final bracket stuff, he just, you know, sent a—I think it was a Discord message or something—to Joseph and he was like, hey, remember that thing with the lesson with the champ? We like talked about it at some point before? Are you into it? And Joseph said, yeah, sure. And by the way, it’s also important to be clear the way we’re doing it, half the money goes to the champ. So they’re not just like giving me money to do work, because I really believe like if you’re going to do work, you should be paid for the work.
Frank [01:28:43] Yeah.
Chris [01:28:43] So if anybody buys these things, you know, like after Kickstarter takes their little their little cut of the money, the champ gets paid in a nice way. So it’s a very limited reward. They’re not a lot of these, but it is a thing people can buy. And I’m excited to see what people will do with them because I think, like some people might want to…you might want to do it as a stream, you know, or might want to just talk. I don’t know. Butall three of these people are who they seem, they are all nice, they are generous, and they, if you ask them things that are reasonable, they’ll say yes. I think as long as you have the credibility of saying, like, look, you know, I’m not—I’m not just like a random person, you know, on the Internet. I’m somebody who’s met all of them, you know? And I’ve been standing there with the camera in front of them for years now. So I think it’s easier for me to say, hey, hey, buddy, how about this? And they’re just like, OK, cool. It’s just not even an issue. And I’m grateful to them for that generosity. And I’m also grateful to people who, you know, might choose to back at that level, because at that level when somebody throws 500 bucks into this project, it’s going to mean essentially at some point we’ll get, I hope to get, you know, to the home page of Kickstarter or something. Like the more money, the more attention. And what I what I really want is more people who just want to watch the movie, you know.
Frank [01:30:11] Yeah.
Chris [01:30:11] But there’s some cool stuff up there. Also, if you would like to be a producer, if you want to be a literal movie producer with a[n] IMDB page and you will have you will share an IMDB credit with me who has an IMDB page and has made Hollywood movies. You can buy that. And you’re not buying the credit. You’re buying joining the team. You get you get on the emails, you get the rough cuts. Like that’s a thing that’s there, too. It costs a lot of money, partly because I just don’t want any random person walking in and joining my team. But, you know, if that’s something that someone has said, listen, I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to make a movie. Come on in.
Frank [01:30:50] What did you do that? Why did you what did you offer up a, I believe it’s an Executive Producer, quote unquote, job. Why did you put that on?
Chris [01:31:00] Well, the first reason was the Executive Producer one, it’s a 4,000 dollar item. And I thought it was a possibility that one person—because, again, I was convinced we weren’t going to raise, I was really worried about getting four thousand dollars. So I thought it was funny in a way to have a button someone could press that just one click and like they fund the whole movie. Because that’s what an Executive Producer is—basically usually a money person. They can also have some creative, you know, relationship. But typically the role of EP is like, I got you the money. So the joke there was you could fund our entire movie, our entire remaining budget for this thing with one click and then that the the AP is like I think is less than that. Associate Producer. Yeah. The point there was I…I think there’s a goal of inclusivity. Right? I want to have more voices in the conversation, but I don’t want to have so many voices in the conversation in terms of editing these episodes and how we put them together and all that sort of stuff. I am open to that. Now, like I’m open to that in the way that like I have chosen my team very carefully. Right. Like I know who’s on it. And this is a way where I’m opening the door and saying, well, anybody who has four thousand dollars can come in and join that team. I do think that there is there’s a thing in Kickstarter where actually you can you actually can refund or kind of like refuse a pledge. So I guess it’s hypothetically possible that if someone who just absolutely wasn’t going to be a good fit came along and tried to offer that money, I’d say no. At the moment, it doesn’t seem likely that that’s going to be a problem. But what I felt like was there are some people in this community who have done extreme things with money, for example, like there was the year of, you know, having to buy an extra flight to get Jani to the qualifiers in time. And that cost a lot of money, right?
Frank [01:32:54] Yeah.
Chris [01:32:54] But the willingness to do that, just because for for love of Jani, for love of the game, for love of the representation of someone who is not an American getting to actually be there, that that’s important. And if people out there have that kind of money and they want to be in the picture, come on in. Like, you know, like I’m interested in that. And I think that there are people in the community who probably do have that kind of money. Now, granted, I’m not sure this is the—this is a very a weird time to be asking people for money. I buy completely feel that. But if they want to put it down, I’ll make it work and…I’ll also put it this way, like I think that there are some people for whom, like it’s not often that you have any option of getting into the movie industry, you know? So if you’re somebody who’s like, look, I would spend a couple thousand dollars just to, like, get my first credit and be able to talk to the Director and, you know, like have some access and understand, like, how does a documentary movie kind of get made? Like that’s something that would cost me a lot of time and energy to help somebody with. But for yeah, for a couple of thousand dollars, I would do that. And that would be a legitimate way for someone to get exposure to something that they just can’t. You can’t just call someone up, you know, usually and say, can I be involved in your movie project? Unless, you know, like. I don’t know, like it’s never been my experience anyway, so I think this is an unusual opportunity and I don’t feel worried about it. In fact, I would be very keen to see what that relationship would look like.
Frank [01:34:33] Yeah. I was honestly surprised that you you can’t ask me to be on the show to talk about this. And I looked at the Kickstarter page and you have a perk for yourself that you are I don’t know, it’s a five hundred dollar perk that you will give four hours of your time to someone talk about anything, basically. So I said to my wife, he’s contacting me, I’m making a community podcast. I haven’t done much episodes. And he’s contacting me that he wants to be on the show. And if I saw what the normal person has to pay for you to get four hours of your time. And I got like two hours right now. It’s very cool to see that.
Chris [01:35:16] Thank you. I mean, at the same time, like, I’m just a person. I’m an unemployed person. Right? But yeah. No, that’s that makes a lot of sense. But I, I have listened to every episode of this podcast, except I haven’t finished the Kingsman episode. I got past about the first third of it and I was like, OK, I’m going to pause this now because I was in the middle of like listening to election coverage. But here’s the thing. Like, I am a big fan of Classic Tetris, right? So when there is anything that happens in Classic Tetris Land, like when CTM kind of started up and really became a big thing and when like—that was one thing I follow as a fan. And so the other thing about it is, you know, Gilbert and I talk a lot about the idea of of representation. Right. So there being actual people who are not Americans who are playing this game, because that’s probably I mean, for all I know, the majority of people are not Americans who are playing this game.
Frank [01:36:15] Yeah.
Chris [01:36:15] I’m interested and very intrigued by CTEC and the other tournaments out there. Oh, by the way, we have footage that’s going to be in this movie that’s from CTEC.
Frank [01:36:27] Is it the first CTEC?
Chris [01:36:29] Yeah, the first one. Because what happened was Terry and I think Adam and Vince kind of went on a vacation and brought their cameras. And so I don’t want to I don’t want to spoil it or whatever. We have great footage from that. And so it’ll be like, you know, at the end of someone’s arc. Right. Like so for example, Terry went to that and he he did well in a particular competition. But in the credits, you know, at the end it’ll be like, you know, and then, you know, Terry went on to become whatever. Right. But like Terry went on to become the champion of, you know, message redacted. But like, you know, he went on to do this thing. I guess my point is I’m like a legitimate fan of this thing. I’m a huge fan of this, which is why I’ve been doing it. I did it for totally free, you know what I mean? Like when when I first joined the CTWC crew in 2012, that was a volunteer job, man. So like, yeah, like I do stuff like I, you know, I make movies and I like, you know, write books and stuff, but I’m still [laughter] like a nerd and a fan. And so when it’s—when it comes to wanting to be on this podcast, I’m like, well this is the podcast about Classic Tetris. Right? And it’s got like Marc on it explaining how many hertz he’s hypertapping at and like how that gets measured, because I am interested in that. I’m like genuinely like, OK, so how does it happen, like are you using, like, you know, which kind of the shooting watch or whatever. Like how does that all work? This is a community that includes people at all kinds of different levels, right? Like people who are—one of our biggest fans, I think in the U.S., one of the most influential fans of our tournament is John Green. John Green wrote Looking for Alaska. He wrote The Fault in Our Stars. He’s a young adult novelist. John Green and I used to work together. I used to write scripts for him for Mental Floss magazine. I met him in college. So we’re basically the same age, we’re basically both from Florida, we’re kind of similar demographic people. He’s a big booster of this, the sport. And he you know, he came into the Kickstarter and just threw a ton of money at it and. And he came in, he was in the Twitch chat being like, by the way, like, I know the Director and he’s like, you know, we used to work together. And I thought, that’s very sweet, right? So John Green, like, by the way, I was I was reffing a fan of his and she had said the reason she got into it was because John had encouraged her to go ahead and try out. Because she’s in she’s a fan of John Green and the Nerdfighters and that whole group. And I had to really hold my tongue and not go into my whole, like, oh, John Green and I used to work together. I was like, okay, let’s see your Nintendo. Like, turn it on, turn it off. Okay, cool. But you know what? When I then emailed John and said, here’s the link. I was like, by the way, like, here’s this player I was just I was just talking to—and I thought you might want to see this because I know you’re off social media, you know, good for you. So, you know, people are people. And like I was also really pleased that somebody did buy that, but they bought one of those, like, you know, Chris Higgins things because like where that comes from is I do a lot of screenings now remotely like that’s what I’ve been able to do while being unemployed.
Frank [01:39:40] Yeah.
Chris [01:39:40] So, for example, on Thursday, I I’m doing a screening of another film I made for Warby Parker. They’re a glasses company. And I’m just going to be joining them remotely to like do a Q&A after a screening. But like these companies are and, you know, some of it’s companies, it’s educational stuff and whatever. But like that’s a little bit of work I’ve been able to kind of grab around the corners. And I think that’s what people are going to use some of that time for is like, do you want me to talk to your group? Do you want me to do whatever? Anyway, that’s a very long answer just to say, like, I appreciate the thing you’re doing in the world. Like I legitimately listen to your actual podcast or my actual phone, along with all of my other podcasts. And so when I thought, like, OK, so where are the people who care about Tetris, Classic Tetris? Where are they? They’re listening to this show. Right? So my core—if you listening to me talk about this Kickstarter and you can afford the, you know, fifteen dollars U.S. or whatever, I would love it. I think you’re going to get at least that much value out of five episodes, you know, and by the end episodes probably going to be a half hour plus. So we’re talking hours and hours and hours of stuff over the coming year. So I think that’s like—this is where my people are. I just wanted to I wanted to talk to my people, you know.
Frank [01:40:58] Is that your main target audience, the Tetris players, the insiders?
Chris [01:41:04] Well, yeah, it’s half and half right. So I think that like the people who watch CTWC and the people who listen to this show and like that’s it’s obvious to me that if you are somebody who’s interested in that stuff, you are almost definitely—like I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like this movie, right?
Frank [01:41:20] Yeah.
Chris [01:41:20] At the same time, there’s a ton of people who are backing who don’t know anything about Tetris. They’re like fans of other work I’ve done or whatever or they’re fans of somebody else who’s in the movie or whatever. They’re interested in documentaries or they’re…whatever. So I do have to be careful when I talk about the movie to not spoil it for them because they don’t know. They don’t know, you know, like—.
Frank [01:41:44] What happens!
Chris [01:41:46] It’s a it’s a tough balance, right? Yeah. So anyway, there are people who don’t want to be spoiled as to like who wins what. Everybody could just grab Google and figure out like what happened in 2014. So there’s a thing where in the trailer I actually blur out a person and I saw in the in the Twitch chat yesterday, somebody was like, why was somebody blurred out? And I so I added as an FAQ and I was like, the reason is because it’s a huge spoiler. Like if you know who that person was in advance then there’s no drama really, like I mean, it’ll still be fairly dramatic. But anyway. I just think that, like, one of the beautiful things about 2014 is that a lot of the matches that you—first of all, no one has seen these matches because the only thing that’s on the Internet is the finals, as far as I know.
Frank [01:42:32] Yeah.
Chris [01:42:32] So a lot of these matches, you don’t know what happened. You don’t know why. That was an amazing match. Right? So there are several of those where, like, it comes in and you’re like, this is a match for the ages. And yeah, it’s not two 1.1’s, right? Like, we’re in a different era. But the amount of tension is still there because you had a room full of screaming people who were losing their minds because they were seeing what was then the absolute best Tetris gameplay in the world, like they were seeing it live. So those players were pushing each other. And I just I just love that. And I know that the people who love that, too, are watching the tournament and they’re listening to this and they’re in all the Discords. I think there’s like a lot of discussion about, you know, tapping versus DAS versus all this stuff. And that’s fine. Like, I currently don’t take a position on that. But I think one thing that Chris Tang said yesterday, I think, in his commentary, it was an interesting note. And by the way, Chris Tang and James Chen are going to be doing brand new commentary, even though Chris Tang already commentated these matches live. We’re going to have them do it over again.
Frank [01:43:37] Are they going to do it when they saw the match beforehand and then take notes of things they need to focus on? Are, are they going to do it quote unquote, a live style? So, commentate what they see?
Chris [01:43:50] I’m trying to do the latter, so I’m trying to surprise them. The goal is we’re going to try to get them into studios. And this is a very challenging thing. But Gilbert and I are working out a way to get them into a safe, like studio environment where they can actually… art of the thing about being a commentator is that you’re physically next to that person. And also part of it as an audience. I don’t think we can safely do an audience right now.
Frank [01:44:11] Yeah.
Chris [01:44:12] But I mean, those those two men have been next to each other for a lot of Tetris. And so if there’s a way to do it safely, we’re going to try to do that. But what are we going to do? It’s Gilbert and I get the matches ready. We get the the video that’s that’s important for them to see. So they may even have like four or five different angles that they can see because we had we had between six and 10 cameras rolling all day that Sunday. So we have GoPros that are showing the players. We have the game, we have the audience, we have all this stuff. And so we even have the audience reaction. And we even could be playing Chris Tang, his own commentary back. But that would be probably annoying and confusing. But I want them to be surprised. So the goal right now—this is this is my proposed procedure, we might change this, but the idea is we’re going to basically prep them a little bit. So we’re can say, OK, look, you’re looking at a match. It’s here in the bracket. We will have blanked out the remainder of the bracket. So it’s this person versus this person. And so to get here, this player had to defeat this other player to get here, right, and also here’s all the background material you need to know. So it’s 2014, right? We’re not going to have them pretend that they’re talking in 2014. We’re going to say, like leading up into this, these people had faced each other in tournament play. And this is this is what happened. So here’s the here’s the rivalry that you’re looking at. And then have them just look at what they’re seeing and react to it. And then we’re probably going to run it through a second time. So that we’ll do it all the way through, just live, and then record that. And my thinking is we might then do it a second time so that theoretically, if they see a second thing, you might be able to like, kind of splice those things together. I haven’t fully decided if that’s the way to do it. But I want an honest reaction because, you know, James Chen has never seen the games. And Chris Tang has but it’s been a really long time. So to have them now have the ability in TreyVision to see the droughts and stuff. And by the way, we’re never doing a four-up layout. We’re only doing two-ups. So they’ll always be able to say, like, we’re focused entirely on these two games. That should help. But by the way, one quick note is that yesterday I heard Chris Tang say something like, you know, we’re seeing these these very high scores, these like these players pushing each other. He said, you know, what we’re seeing today is the players are pushing each other and that’s what’s causing the level of play to elevate so high. So we’re getting, you know, these these dueling one point ones and stuff.
Frank [01:46:38] Yeah. Nuts.
Chris [01:46:39] And he also said and that’s that’s what’s different today. And I agree with him. But I also disagree. Because what you’ll see in 2014, what you’ll see in this movie is the exact same thing was happening. People were pushing each other. People were actively pushing each other. The difference was scale. The number of people who were who were there to be pushed.
Frank [01:47:02] Yeah.
Chris [01:47:02] There were only like 40, 50 people in the universe of Tetris. There were only a few dozen max-out players, you know. So what you were seeing was this this thing of Jonas and Harry were essentially providing examples. And Thor, you know, like these these players who are providing examples and were pushing the rest of the field. You saw that exact same kind of behavior happening. The difference is now the universe of Tetris is like thousands of people. I don’t know how many max out we have now, but it’s it’s definitely more than a hundred.
Frank [01:47:40] 200, 220, I think? I don’t know for sure.
Chris [01:47:44] And we I mean, there was even a part in this movie and I’m not going to spoil it, but there’s a big hilarious argument in my kitchen after the Sunday night where some players are arguing about whether it’s possible for a random new player. Like, let’s say here’s the gambit. Let’s say you could get a million dollars. A random person off the street. If somebody was providing a million dollar prize. Bill Gates just giving out a million dollars to anybody who can pick up NES Tetris and max it out in one calendar year. How many people, what is the percentage of the population who would attempt that would actually get the million dollars? That was the question in 2014.
Frank [01:48:28] Yeah.
Chris [01:48:28] What’s fascinating is the people who had already maxed out said, you know, most of them, it’s like people. And I think Ben Mullen said something like, if they have two thumbs, they’re going to they’re going to get it, right? Because a million dollars is a million dollars. It’s like, there’s nothing special. The people in that room who had not maxed out had a very different opinion. They were like, we think there is something intrinsically difficult. The ability to max-out is so difficult that it just cannot be done except by these extremely specialized people. And what’s been proved lately is, oh, you can max-out. If you want to max-out, you can max-out. It’s going to happen. But we didn’t know that was possible because we didn’t have streaming and we didn’t have game footage. People were recording these games on their VCRs if they were lucky, you know, like it was a different era. So. I am so pleased to see that the pushing now is we’re pushing past boundaries that were impossible. 29 play was you know, we had hypertapping a little. But like, this is even pre Koryan and this is right before Koryan enters the scene and it’s a beautiful thing.
Frank [01:49:41] What do you want us to see? What the scene was back in 2014? Or do you want to implement the knowledge that we have today? Do you want to add that to the film?
Chris [01:49:56] That’s a really good question that I haven’t fully resolved. So this is a writing problem that I have with Gilbert, where it’s like, how do we deal with the present versus the past? I think that probably the best way to present the film is from the perspective of, you know, 2014 and leading up to it. However, there will be voices like the commentary, you know, that are happening in 2021 or whatever, like whenever we record that, which is soon. There’s no way to pretend that the future never happened, right? but I think that for it to be an exciting film to watch, you probably need to take it from where it is. So it’s like if let’s say you made a movie about, you know, football clubs playing in 1965, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to be like saying, you know, just to start in 2010 and say, OK, well this is where this club ended up. It would make more sense to say, OK, well in 1960 here’s where they were. And then five years later we’re going to see how they’re doing. We have to situate them in time, I think.
Frank [01:50:56] Yeah.
Chris [01:50:56] We also can’t ignore that things later happened. But I think the way I’m going to do it is if you didn’t know, like, if you’re not a Tetris, you know, if you’re not already deep in the Tetris world, it should make sense to you. There should be nothing this movie that’s like not, you know, understandable. So a normal average person could watch this movie and learn about the Tetris and figure it out. And that’s fine. If you are somebody who has seen what happened later, you’re going to see a lot of echoes. You’re going to be like, oh, I see. And then this leads to this. Which leads to this, which. Hmm. Right. Kind of like when you watch Ecstasy of Order and you see Thor and you’re like, boy, this hypertapping thing seems like a thing, right? You know, like how come more people aren’t trying this? There’s a little bit of that, that echoing. But that’s that’s one of the biggest challenges, honestly, in the edit, in the next stage of this. I don’t want to shoot new material because I don’t think we have to, but I am writing new narration, right? Part of it is a lot of the players, I think maybe all of the players that I’m featuring are still playing. You know, they’re not in that top eight bracket in 2020. But like, they go on to do things. Like, by the way, Jeff Moore is also in this movie. And so like, you know, like a lot of the a lot of the players that you see today have been there. It’s not so long ago that they’re not they’re not the same folks, but the people who are winning like especially this year, it’s a different group, you know. And so and I want to celebrate that. But that’s a different movie to celebrate in. Like this movie is about the people that we actually have on camera from back then. But there’s a lot that they say that points toward the future. And there’s a point where Terry says, look at Jonas. There’s like no gameplay footage of Jonas on the Internet. Like I have found and downloaded every game and there’s only six of them. And you’re like, Jonas? There’s not enough gameplay of Jonas on the Internet? Like in 2020 jonas plays every day on the Internet. That’s his job! So like it’s a fascinating difference just in how like Twitch and all those things changed the scene and change of the game and made it possible for people to understand how to do it.
Frank [01:53:08] Who’s currently working on on the movie?
Chris [01:53:12] Currently it is me, Gilbert Tang and we have an editor named Ryan Douglass. He is doing the kind of mechanical parts of, you know, going through and putting sequences together. He actually edited that two minute like, you know, fast cutting—the thing we keep playing at the tournament. But mostly right now, because the money didn’t come in yet, it’s mostly me. So we do have some early scoring work going on. Carl King wrote all the music that’s that you’ve heard so far in these videos and he’s been doing some score work to get ahead of it. And I’ve just paid him early for that, you know, things I can. But at this point, like part of it is like we go through and Gilbert and I figured out how do we want to break out the episodes, like what happens in episode one, what happens at the end of the episode five or whatever? If we make more money, do we do we push it to six episodes? And if so, what is the extra episode? Is it just like is it some fun side thing or is it just more?
Frank [01:54:15] Or how the scene is right now?
Chris [01:54:18] Yeah, exactly. Is there a way to say, well, look, because that won’t come out until last, do we…? Like, there’s a lot of a dance here about…like we are promising the first episode for April of 2021, and my thing is I want to promise something and then I want to beat the promise. So like April, like you, you’re going to get an episode in April, you’re probably going to an episode sooner than April. But then like if we have five episodes, I have made no statement about whether you got them in May, June and July. Like how long does it take for each other episode, right? Yeah. So that’s that is a question like we don’t know what the world will look like by April, and I don’t know whether it will be meaningful for me to be able to shoot more material. So if I have extra budget and I have a story to tell, then maybe there is a reason to go ahead and do a sixth episode that focuses on something that’s newer or more interesting, you know, if it’s safe. And maybe it will be like that will be at the time it comes up. Right. So we’re keeping those options open because, I mean, why not. Like but at this point, that’s also part of why going past the initial budget actually is meaningful. Because if we end up at, you know, ten thousand dollars, we will have a good budget to do a really solid five episodes with, like, great original score and great design. It’ll be terrific, right. If we get fifty thousand dollars, which I don’t think we will, but if we do, uh, we’ve gotta think about that. We’ve got to stand back and be like, oh OK, what do we do now. Like what do we do with this extra stuff. Because we’re not talking, just going to take that money and just, you know, take a vacation. I’m going to put that on screen. And so. I don’t know. So given that we still have like a month essentially in funding left, I am very curious. And you may have noticed the Kickstarter actually ends after the finals. Several days after the 2020 finals.
Frank [01:56:19] Yeah.
Chris [01:56:19] Because if we get another champ and if they agree to do it, I would love to offer a lesson with that champ, too.
Frank [01:56:26] Well that would be amazing.
Chris [01:56:28] Who knows? Like there’s a lot of folks in that…there’s seven folks in that bracket who are not Joseph, right? So you never know and want to be ready for stuff like that. I am grateful to be doing this and I’m grateful that there are so many options as well. And so part of saying like, look, please back my Kickstarter is you’re going to get to see as we hash it out, as we figure out what is the strategy here, that we have the broad strategy, but then there’s a lot of specific, like tactical decisions to be made.
Frank [01:57:04] Yes.
Chris [01:57:04] And that’s what you get if you’re a backer. You get the like the behind the scenes, especially if you get the director commentary streams where we’re going to be just very honest. Like like, look, I’m going to open the project, the Premiere project on my computer, and we’re just going to start clicking around like, do you want to see some cool scenes? Check this out, you know, or whatever. Like I’m all about outtakes and bloopers and all that stuff. So when I by the way, when I say five episodes, there probably will be special features, which I don’t include in that. And so I don’t know how I’m going to do that. But they’ll just—they will exist somehow and you’ll get them. But there’s a lot of side stuff in here, like, for example, we have like I think it’s 90 minutes of talking with John Tran about guideline Tetris, which has nothing to do with CTWC. But it’s a nice interview. It’s a great interview. And like we could probably get to John and talk to him more today, six years later, if we wanted to. If we wanted to make a whole, like, sort of sub side feature about how has guideline Tetris, you know, how is that scene worked lately?
Frank [01:58:06] Yeah. What are the distribution plans for the movie. Is it going straight to DVD or are we going to see it on a streaming site or do you want it to be on TV some some day?
Chris [01:58:23] So I come from a background where it’s important to own the creative work that you make. Right? Like when I was in bands, we were never signed on labels. We made records at our house and sold them. Right? And in movies, sometimes you have to make big compromises, like in movies, if you have a movie with a budget of like, you know, five hundred thousand dollars and you don’t have five hundred thousand dollars, you make a compromise. Somebody gives you the money, you make the movie. But now you have to do what they say, right?
Frank [01:58:50] Yes.
Chris [01:58:50] This is not that! I have spent at least twenty thousand dollars of my own money making this movie so far, and I will spend more. But, you know, the Kickstarter will help with that. What I mean is I’ve never borrowed money or taken investors. So I have every option in how I want to distribute the movie. My bias as a punk rock teen or whatever is to distribute it in the punk rock style to say, OK, it’s going to be on the Internet in a—like, you’ll have to have a password or whatever. But I’ll make it easy, you know, and you’re going to go to a place and you can stream it there and you can probably download an MP4 and even if technically you’re not supposed to like, I’m pretty sure you’ll figure out a way. I don’t care. Like, that’s the intent. The intent right now is to provide a, use a streaming service called Vimeo on Demand, which enables, you know, you go there, you get a code, I will email everybody a code and those are special to each person and they’ll go and make an account and then they download and stream and whatever. Have fun. Now, that doesn’t close down the the options of other things. So although no one has contacted me and said, hey, I’m from, you know, Netflix or Amazon or whatever, and I would like to carry this, it’s possible. One of the things is also a challenge is that a lot of the footage for this thing was shot when 1080p was the standard. So it’s about it’s about like three quarters 1080p and a little bit of 4K. And right now, the only content that you ever see coming, that’s like new content that has 1080 stuff in it, is documentary on streaming services. But they have standards that are like if you’re shooting a new movie today, you have to give us like the maximum resolution. So that’s a challenge. And that’s a technical thing where some streaming services will look at this and say, well, if it’s not in 4K HDR, I don’t want it because it’s not technically interesting to me.
Frank [02:00:42] Mm-hmm.
Chris [02:00:42] But if we have a lot of people who are interested in this movie and think it’s cool, I think it could be distributed by somebody bigger. My—to answer your actual question—what I want is for the a lot of people to see this movie. And I will do what it takes for that to happen. But my responsibility is to my backers, the people who put down the money and said, I want the movie to get made. You’re going to get the movie. Now if somebody comes along and says, like, hi, I’m from, you know, some giant corporation and I want to take the movie and like, you know, shut this down or whatever, you know, like, thank you. But no. If it’s an add-on, if they’re like, look, we’ll let you distribute this to all your people and then we’ll go ahead and show it on our service later. That’d be great. And if you happen to work at a large streaming service and you’d like to contact me, I go to Chris Higgins dot com and go to the contact form. You know, like I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think that this is a fairly special purpose thing. So I think I think what’ll happen is I’ll sell it on Kickstarter. People will buy it. After Kickstarter, when we have episodes up, I’ll have a little way where you can go and buy it. Then, you know, you can go and go with it, basically, you know purchase the series after it actually exists or maybe during it being released.
Frank [02:01:56] Yes.
Chris [02:01:56] But and, you know, I would love it both financially and for the audience if there were some way to get a much bigger audience. And I have constructed the project explicitly so that is possible. I have nobody who owns anything. And every contract is written so that I can distribute it because I thought I was! I thought I was going to make a 90 minute movie that’s going to be in theaters like and I’d have to go through a distribution company. So it’s possible. I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s possible, I guess.
Frank [02:02:29] Yeah. My final question is, why do we need to back the Kickstarter? And if we don’t have the money right now, why should we buy the movie next year?
Chris [02:02:39] If you are in a position…someone listening to this, if you’re in a position where spending 15 or 20 dollars US is difficult for you, but you might be able to come up with it later, like next year, you should wait. You know, if it’s going to be a if it’s a problem for you financially, you should wait. Because the money will still be here. The movie will happen. Like that has now been demonstrated by everybody else. The thing that you will miss out on and I’m sorry you’ll miss out on it, but you will is the updates along the way. You’ll miss out on the director’s commentary streams. And those are going to be I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but CGP Grey does these things where when he makes a video on YouTube, he does another stream where he basically just opens like his editing app and shows you, you know, plays 30 seconds of it, then stops it and says, OK, OK, this shot right here, check out this. Let me tell you the back story. Then goes into this whole tangent, you know, and shows you shots that he didn’t use and all this other stuff. Those are going to be a lot of fun because we’re going to have a big we’re going to able to bring in guests, you know, like I have this whole Zoom thing set up. That thing is a five dollar add-on. I think it’s extremely worth it if you’re into that kind of thing. And I don’t know how to sell it late is the other thing. Like I don’t know how to sell that thing. Like the you know, how do you buy a ticket to a stream? Like, maybe I can do it. But that the reason to do it now would be to be able to follow along and to hear us. And and we’re not going to, like, bug you every—we’re going to say every week, like, here’s a bunch of stuff we’re struggling with! Like we’re going to say this is this is what’s happening. Or for example, like, do you want to see behind the scenes pictures of, you know, what is the setup for when we do the the recording of the new commentary? Like, what does it look like.
Frank [02:04:24] Yeah.
Chris [02:04:24] And what is the video that those commentators are looking at so we can give them the best possible view to simulate being in the tournament hall?. You’re not gonna be able to get this. It’s not going to be possible if you’re not getting those Kickstarter updates. So that’s the thing to get. At the same time, I want to be very clear. Like, I don’t want to pressure anybody into doing something that is financially difficult for them because that’s not right. So I understand we’re living in an unusual time. And I don’t I don’t think anyone should feel bad if it’s a problem for them. And I will be here to, you know, give you a great movie when you can. So, you know, I would love to have the money now and I think would be more fun for you now and over the coming year. But also, you know, you’re going to be OK. There’s going to be Tetris regardless of whether you can chip in the money today or not.
Frank [02:05:26] Where do we need to go to back the Kickstarter?
Chris [02:05:29] We have a special URL set up. If you go to TetrisChampion.com, that will redirect you to Kickstarter slash blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure if you go to Kickstarter and just search for like Tetris or Best of Five, which is the—it’s called Best of Five: The Tetris Champions Tetris? Yes, The Tetris Champions. [laughter] We we had a whole discussion about the titling very recently. You’ll be able to find it pretty easily, but just hitting TetrisChampion.com is the easiest way to get to there. And when you get there, there’s a big video, there’s a whole bunch of writing there about like, what is this? Who is the team? Photos of people who are working on it and stuff like that. And a bunch of rewards, like there’s other stuff we haven’t talked about and go read about those. One thing I do want to briefly mention, Kickstarter has a beta feature called add-ons, and this is very new. Like this came out, I think, in the past month or two. And so we had to apply for a special beta program to get it. And what it is, is like in the old days when you backed a Kickstarter, you had to be like—you to construct the tiers. So it was like poster, Blu-ray, Blu-ray plus poster, you know, book plus Blu-ray plus poster plus, you know, like you had to make these terribly confusing things. Without add-ons, you pick the thing you want, even if it’s like the cheap thing. And then in the checkout process, they’re like, would you also like a poster or a Blu-ray or two or whatever? And we discount those things like by 25 bucks when you get to that point because you’ve already bought the movie. So, just one thing to note, because it’s just new. So if you’ve backed Kickstarters before, you know, you might not know that that’s going to happen. It’s also confusing because when we add new rewards, they go to the bottom of the add-ons. So if you go and edit your pledge, you’re like, I’m not sure I’m seeing the thing I want. Well, I get hit next and then and then scroll down and they’ll get there. So it’s a new thing. It’s a little bit, not buggy, but it’s just like not fully baked, but it will work. And it’s another way to to say if you’re somebody who, like, really just wants the Blu-ray or whatever, like you can do that. Or if you want that unusual combination, you know, like you can really build your own. And that used to have to go to a third party company. So I’m glad we don’t have to do that because again, we’re running this pretty cheap. It’s you know, it’s me.
Frank [02:07:58] Chris, I thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure to talk about anything about the documentary and about CTWC.
Chris [02:08:05] Well, thank you, Frank. I really appreciate, you know, or should I call you SirMaser? I think what you’re doing here is important. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a Classic Tetris podcast to pop up. But this is this is a great place to be. And it’s my privilege to join you and to speak to your listeners.
Frank [02:08:24] Thank you. Thank you very much.
Chris [02:08:25] Thanks.
Frank [02:08:29] And with that all being said. This will be the end of the Piece Dependency Podcast. Thank you all for listening and make sure to follow the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Don’t forget to join the Kingsman Tetris Friendly Discord server and follow me on the socials @SirMaser. Don’t forget to help Chris Higgins with his Kickstarter. Go to TetrisChampion.com and join the fun. For now, have a great Tetris time and I will see you all in December. Bye!