Gamers' dreams become reality in 'Unicorn City'

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

Voss (Devin McGinn) stands with other live action role-players in "Unicorn City."

Deep Studios

OREM — If Don Quixote were alive today, who would he be?

“We figured he’d probably be a gamer,” said Bryan Lefler, director of the film “Unicorn City,” which screened at the LDS Film Festival on Jan. 27 and 28.

Role-playing gamers create characters for themselves that often have abilities unavailable in reality, so the idea of Quixote being a “larper” (live action role-player) made sense to brothers Bryan and Adrian, who co-wrote “Unicorn City.”

They did their research at Hastur Games & Comics in Salt Lake City, where a Dungeons & Dragons guild met.

“I would play, Bryan would sit behind me and laugh and take notes,” Adrian said.

Most movies about gamers, Bryan said, make fun of them, so they made sure their film didn’t, or at least not in a negative way.

“Gamers are brilliant, smart and kind," Bryan said. "Everybody we gamed with went against the stereotype."

From their experiences with the guild at Hastur, the Leflers were able to write a lot of gamer-specific dialogue into some scenes.

“Only people that are like way into gaming even catch all that stuff,” Adrian said.

Their efforts were appreciated when the film started screening.

“It’s been great,” Bryan said. “We went to comic cons; they went insane over it.”

The film also won Best Feature Film at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival and was an Official Selection for the San Diego and Heartland film festivals.

Although the film is about a group of gamers, it’s not really about gaming, Bryan said.

“Comedy was going down the tubes,” Bryan said. “What I really wanted to do was make a PG movie that can appeal to everyone. The backdrop is about gaming; (the film is) about friends and family.”

The film explores the idea that people are, or can become, what they pretend to be. “You are what you pretend to be” is the film’s official tagline.

“Pretending to be something more than you are will probably get you to (become) that something later in life,” Bryan said.

So learns Voss (played by Devin McGinn), a hardcore role-playing gamer who wants to get a job with a game development company, but doesn’t stand out from the other applicants. All of them have proven gaming ability, but questionable leadership skills. If Voss can demonstrate his ability to lead within a week, he’ll be reconsidered.

Voss tries to become the campaign leader of his tabletop role-playing guild, but loses to his nemesis Shadow Hawk (Jon Gries). With encouragement from Marsha (Jaclyn Hales), who secretly but not subtly adores him, Voss decides it’s time to bring the game away from the table. He recruits his guild and other gamers to follow his leadership in a makeshift camp, called Unicorn City, for some live-action role-playing.

The gamers participate enthusiastically in the adventures of Unicorn City. Each comes dressed as his or her character, and stays true to its specific abilities. The utopia faces challenges in remaining hidden from the public and the police, and fails to remain a secret from Shadow Hawk, who arrives without an invitation.

Marsha records Voss’ efforts to run the camp, but Shadow Hawk quickly undermines his leadership attempts. When Voss again finds himself ousted from the game, he has to decide whether what he has been pretending to be is what he really wants to become.

The film was shot almost exclusively in Alpine, Utah. It took 21 days and one day of reshoots to film, and an additional year to complete.

“Unicorn City” has a running time of 96 minutes and is rated PG for language. It will be released in select Utah theaters on Feb. 24.

For more information, visit www.unicorncity.com.

Email: rbrutsch@desnews.com

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