The Blog September 3, 2014

Catan Soars at DragonCon!

So at this point, I’ve seen The Lord Of Catan play for a number of festival audiences, and I have noticed certain patterns emerge.  There are various moments that I can count on the audience to react to.  I pretty much know where the big laughs are and where the flat stretches fall.  Sometimes the biggest laughs come from lines I never thought of as particularly funny.  There’s a comfort in knowing that no matter how the screening is going, I can always count on Fran’s line about making glue from the hooves of sheep to get a laugh.

But it’s the moments in the film that differ audience by audience that are most interesting.  The susurration of oohs elicited from Amy Acker’s expression of brimstone fury and their subsequent transformation into splashes of laughter on the whip pan to Fran’s backpedaling reaction shot tell me how much the audience is buying into the reality of their relationship.  And then of course, there’s the penis jokes.  Sometimes, they don’t laugh at the penis jokes, and this confuses me.

Because they’re penis jokes.

But the ultimate barometer of an audience’s engagement with the film is, without question, the uterus line.  Most audiences aren’t super into the uterus line.  Oh, there’s usually a few laughs from a couple demented bastards in the film festival screenings.  But if you want to find an audience that will explode with laughter at this left-of-center joke, you’ve got to go left of center.  In short, you’ve gotta go to the cons.

In this particularly case, Gen Con and Dragon Con.  I had the privilege of screening the film at both venues this past month.  Overwhelmingly, the folks that came to see the film were the most engaged audiences the film has played for.  Every laugh landed bigger than anywhere else.  But did they laugh at the uterus joke?

Oh, yes.

Filmmaking tip #1: If they laugh at the uterus line, you’ve got ’em by the balls.

The audience reaction makes sense considering the subject matter and actors in the film, but still, you never know how the film is going to play for an audience until it’s happening.  Now, don’t get me wrong–the film is made to appeal to normies, too.  We’re playing at the San Jose and Southampton Film Festivals in October, then Seattle Shorts Fest in November.  I like to think the movie has a broad appeal.  But it also goes places.  You know… those places, which is why I was thrilled that the film won Best Dark Comedy at DragonCon.


Afterwards, one of the other filmmakers came up to me.  “Did you know you made a dark comedy?” he asked.

Well, yeah.  I mean, I didn’t set out to make a dark comedy.  I just set out to make a movie.  Hopefully a funny one.  But hey, when you think dead baby jokes are funny, you get used to people putting adjectives and qualifiers on you.  That’s pretty much how those of us at these conventions ended up at these conventions.  Geeks, nerds, weirdos–we’re the ones on the edges of the bell curve.  And that’s where all the interesting stuff happens, anyway.  Normal is boring.  So dark comedy?  You’re damn right.

When we got married, my wife and I sent out wedding invitations that had our faces Photoshopped onto the poster from Freaks.  So to all the freaks of Gen Con, Dragon Con and every other con–even if it’s just you sitting alone in your room playing both sides of the Star Trek Customizable Card Game by yourself (I was really cool in middle school)–I bid you join me in this, our eternal anthem.

One of us.

One of us.

One of us.




P.S.  The film will also be playing at the Festival Internacionales de Juegos in Cordoba, Spain in October, so for all you Spanish tabletop gamers out there:

Uno de nosotros.

Uno de nosotros.

Uno de nosotros.


P.P.S.  Wil Wheaton did not respond to my Gen Con Settlers of Catan Challenge.  I can only assume he was not man enough to face me.  However, I hold no grudges and maintain an open invitation to Mr. Wheaton to defend his honor at Gen Con 2015.