Director Alex Taylor: “LARP has a tremendous potential for social good”

Thomas Humphrey

For those of us that don’t know, could you explain what LARP is?

Alex Taylor: There are lots of different opinions on this one! But for the uninitiated, LARP (which stands for Live Action Role-Play) is a role playing game where you dress up and act everything out. So I guess it’s a bit like a bigger, more complicated version of a murder mystery party? That’s just the start of it though… it’s spread in some pretty interesting ways since it started way back in the early 80s. There’s lots of different opinions there too but for most people LARP started in the early 80s with a game called Treasure Trap – and that’s where the film’s title Treasure Trapped comes from.

Why do you think LARPing appeals so strongly to so many?

LARP appeals to many different people in many different ways. For some it offers the chance to experience sides of yourself that you never thought possible – a deep psychological exploration – for other people it’s just a hobby, like football. We look a lot at the different attitudes in the film, but one prevalent feature is definitely the open-minded attitude of the LARP community. All are welcome, and pretty much everyone we spoke to spoke highly of the community aspect. For this reason, and beyond, LARP has a tremendous potential for social good, but I’ll let the film explain that!

Do you think the media is waking up to the importance of LARP

I think the media is waking up to LARP as a legitimate hobby or community in a mainstream sense. When we first started researching for Treasure Trapped back in 2010 it was pretty difficult to track down information, especially in the mainstream media. Nowadays it’s a totally different story, LARP is all over the internet. The media can run stories on it, and people know what it is – which is a huge difference. I think a mainstream understanding is still in the distance, but more people accept and want to explore LARP now, which is great.

What made you decide to bring Trapped Treasure to Nottingham?

At the moment we’re taking the film where it’s wanted. We have a form on our website you can use to request that we bring the film to your city and we got a lot of requests for Nottingham. On top of that there’s a great independent film community in Nottingham, lots of creative students and a lot of LARP activity so it made a lot of sense for us – we can’t wait!

So to what extent are you operating outside the traditional distribution model?

Traditionally we’d have made a film, sent it to festivals, and then just hoped that someone saw it who would buy and distribute it. We’re cutting out the middle-man and taking the film straight to audiences. We’re still going to be submitting Treasure Trapped to festivals (we’re waiting to hear back from Sheffield Doc/Fest and a few others already), but we’re not pinning all of our hopes on that. We’re asking people to request that Treasure Trapped screens in their city via our website. If enough people do, we show that interest to the local cinema (in this case The Savoy) and then arrange a screening – everyone wins!

It’s nice to connect like this with people who want to see it. I’d recommend this method to any indie filmmaker. There are loads of other benefits too, we’re building a network around the UK (and the US with Tugg) that will come in handy for our future films, and it’s all about connections.

Is it difficult to make an independent documentary in the UK without these connections?

Making any film is difficult. We always had the mantra with Treasure Trapped that finishing it was the goal. In the UK these days, finishing a film is an achievement in itself. There’s little funding available for documentaries in the UK, especially documentaries that don’t immediately tackle important social issues. But why can’t documentaries be entertaining and informative? Why does it have to be hard hitting?

The UK could be more open to funding first time filmmakers – but there’s no money, so I understand it’s difficult. We used Kickstarter to raise half the funds for Treasure Trapped; the other half we put in ourselves (dangerous and not massively recommended!) or gathered from a few small private investors. Crowd funding is great as it helps to build the audience in advance of the film and helps to establish a community too. It’s not for everyone though, it takes lots of work and once you’ve called in favours you can’t really turn to those people again.

And as a final question, if people in Nottingham want to LARP, what communities should they look out for?

There’s lots of LARP going on around the Midlands and Nottingham. We spent some time with a great game in the Midlands called Wasteland, people should definitely check that out. If you ‘re turned off by the elves and wizards side of LARP, then Wasteland will show you a whole different post-apocalyptical, steam-punk side of things. Empire is another huge game that’s not too far from Nottingham. The best thing you can do is track down websites like larpfinder.com or larpevents.co.uk and give someone a holla – you’ll probably have people fighting to welcome you in.

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