Matt Wilson, Chief Creative Officer of Privateer Press & Director of the film Wolfsbane sat down with NERD TREK for an exclusive interview. Privateer Press is responsible for the WARMACHINE product line as well as HORDES, IRON KINGDOMS, and No Quarter Magazine. The movie Wolfsbane is Wilson’s first foray into the film industry and is a steam-punk twist on the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood.
JN: Hello Matt, thanks for taking the time to meet with NERD TREK and answer some questions!
My pleasure! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to be able to get back to you. I think this has been, quite possibly, one of the busiest years of my life due in no small part to the becoming a new father and completing an interstate move!
Questions about Privateer Press
JN: Please tell us a little about Privateer Press.
It’s hard to say just a little! Privateer Press just celebrated its ten year anniversary, so I think we’ve claimed veteran company status in our industry. Still young by some standards, but we’re definitely not the new kids in the play yard anymore. We started a decade ago published d20 RPG material in a new setting called the IRON KINGDOMS. From that sprang our flagship properties, the award winning tabletop miniatures games WARMACHINE and HORDES. During that time, we’ve also produced several other games, including MONSTERPOCALYPSE, a collectible miniatures game that was recently optioned by Dreamworks to produce a feature film with Tim Burton attached to direct. As well, we have a line of family oriented games called BODGERS GAMES which include a card game called INFERNAL CONTRAPTION, the board game, SCRAPPERS, and an upcoming card game called HEAP. We also produced a sports inspired robot combat game called GRIND, and have a full range of hobby products to support our miniatures lines, including paint, brushes, tools and a tutorial DVD all under the P3 Hobby banner.
In addition to producing a bunch of great games and products, Privateer also supports these products through the best organized play program on the planet. We run several in-store leagues throughout the year, providing new content for the miniatures games and a fresh experience for all players involved. We also attend several conventions each year where we hold huge tournaments and a variety of other gaming events that highlight gaming skill as well as hobby expertise and artistry. Last year, we started our own gaming event called the LOCK & LOAD GAMEFEST. This is an annual event held in Seattle where hundreds of Privateer Press fans gather for a weekend of intensive gaming and some serious fun.
JN: How did you get started?
With an idea…
Actually, lots of ideas. The Iron Kingdoms needed to be born and we managed to be in the right place at the right time when Wizards of the Coast announced the d20 Open Gamin License. We enjoyed the opportunity to create content for a system that had a large following and from there, initiated our own new game products based on the world we established in our RPG products.
JN: We have a mutual friend in cartographer/illustrator Todd Gamble, how did you two meet?
Todd and I were actually studio-mates at Wizards of the Coast. I was the lead concept artist for Magic: the Gathering and he worked in a neighboring cubicle as a cartographer. Todd is an amazingly talented guy and someone I became fast friends with. When Privateer took off and the artists that worked in the WotC studio went their separate ways, Todd and I kept in contact. In addition to being a brilliant cartographer and illustrator, Todd is also an incredible model maker — in fact, this might be his greatest talent of all. When we produced the second WARMACHINE book, Escalation, Todd created the diorama terrain featured in that book — the snowy battlefield and Khadoran fortress. It was amazing. He also did countless maps for the IKRPG books. He’s truly an amazing person.
JN: Todd Gamble and I will soon be launching a RPG campaign setting & series of adventures called Adventureaweek.com! What three key ingredients would you recommend to others attempting to start their own business in the gaming industry?
I think you need:
1) a good business strategy. Making hobby games is not a hobby or a game. If you want it to be successful, you have to treat it like a real business.
2) a good idea. People constantly want to be inspired by fresh, new ideas. You need to something that will grab their attention and give them a reason to spend their time with what you’re making.
3) tenacity. Every business is tough, whether it’s gaming, construction, or accounting. You’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices and push past a lot of obstacles to be successful with anything. I don’t think success ever comes easy for anyone, it just looks that way to those on the outside if you’re doing a good job of it!
Questions about Working in Film
JN: What was the catalyst that launched you in the direction of film?
Being born, I think! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but earlier in life I just wasn’t sure how to do it. So I went into comics and eventually into games where I could do what I wanted to do, which was tell stories visually. Film is the ultimate expression of visual storytelling and all the comics and games experience, believe it or not, has given me a great deal of preparation for film making.
JN: How did you get your foot in the door of the film industry?
I’m not sure I’d say it’s ‘in the door’, but I’m kicking on it pretty hard! I have several different media projects going on. First, there are the licensing projects with Privateer’s intellectual property, such as the aforementioned MONSTERPOCALYPSE film. As well, I have been writing and directing my own projects with the hope of financing a feature soon. Once that project is done I’ll say I’ve got my foot in the door. But it’s a very strange and fickle door and I think it actually takes a while to know if you’ve actually been let in or not!
JN: Are there any similarities to working in film vs. gaming?
More than you might think! Film is both a creative endeavor as well as something that requires incredible organization, and to be commercially successful, a good business plan. Anyone can make a film, just like anyone can make a game, but in order for it to be successful, you have to consider the audience you’re trying to reach. With directing, in particular, I’ve found that my experience working with other creative people like artists and writers translates very well into working with actors and other crew members. It’s all about bringing a lot of people together to create a single, cohesive vision. And just like making games, there are a lot of moving parts in film making and it’s a very complex and chaotic process.
JN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I rarely try to look that far into the future because I don’t think I’ve ever been right. Everything changes so dynamically, and often, the best course is one that you don’t see coming. Fatherhood has recently taken priority over everything else, so in ten years, I hope I’m spending a lot of time playing games and going to the movies with the kid! Otherwise, I can just say that I hope I’m doing more of everything I’m doing right now, which is enjoying my work making games and films and telling stories any way I can.
Questions about Wolfsbane Film
JN: Please tell us a bit about your film Wolfsbane.
Better to show it, though I have to confess the site hasn’t been updated in some time:
WOLFSBANE is my first ever film project. It’s a steampunk reinvention of the Little Red Riding Hood fable. I wrote and directed the film, and produced it with my good friend, Rennie Auracto. We shot it in Seattle, mostly in the warehouse at Privateer Press. It’s shown in over a dozen festivals all over the country and at least once in the UK during the past year. I get asked often when it will be available online and I’m not quite sure. Possibly once my next film project is complete, we’ll make it available for viewing.
JN: This is a modern twist on the old classic “Little Red Riding Hood”. In what ways is it similar? Different?
Not so much ‘modern’ as very, very ‘steam punk’. It’s also got a horror twist to it that sort of warps the message of the original fable.
JN: Who are the stars of your film? How did you find them? Was it hard to fill each role to your liking?
Casting is very difficult but we found some wonderful actors in the Seattle theater community as well as from local film making. Christian Doyle, who many will know from THE GAMERS and DORKESS RISING as well as the recent web series, JOURNEY QUEST is the starring ‘villain’ known only as The Gentleman. Tarryn Darr, who has performed from Seattle to New York plays the mysteriously innocent heroine. Tallis Moore and Mary Bayley round out our cast as The Constable and Grandmother, respectively.
JN: Next up we have some questions from our readers here at NERD TREK.
Fan submitted questions
Are there any plans to bring back the bodgers/gobbers either as a single unit or even better a playable force?
We are all fans of the gobber bodgers at Privateer and hope to see more of them in the future!
When will PP be able to return to the regular release shedule and when will those annonced items like new shirts etc. will be aviable?
Additional question: are there some news on the upcoming video-game?
If by ‘regular release schedule’ this means new releases every month, then I think by the time this is publicized, we’ll have already been back to the regular schedule for some time. I also know that we’ve got new t-shirts available in our online store.
As for the video game project with WhiteMoon Dreams, it continues to move forward behind the scenes. I can’t really answer too many questions for them as they’re currently dealing with publishers, but hopefully before the middle of next year, we’ll have some great news about the future of this game.
I live in So Cal and was wondering how I get my creative gaming ideas to the people that make things happen? I have several concepts of brand new unique games and systems but don’t how to cross the bridge to the next step? Should create a portfolio and blindly submit them to companies? Thanks for your time.
I can’t answer for other companies, but in the case of Privateer Press, we don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Part of this is for legal reasons and part of this is because we’re got a very full slate of projects we’re planning to produce and so don’t have the extra room on our schedule to bring in outside development. However, there are other companies that do publish third party developed projects, so it’s just a matter of finding the right folks for your game. That said, ‘ideas’ very, very rarely sell. A publisher is going to be looking for a project that is at least finished in development, or far enough along that not much work needs to be done. They’ll hire artists and graphic designers for the physical aspects of the project, but if they can’t play the game, there’s nothing for them to buy.
Jeremy Fleet asked:
It is UNBELIEVABLY frustrating to try to get Privateer Press products. My local stores have tried FOUR different distributors, and even tried to order directly from Privateer Press! All are unable to get at least half a dozen products that are on your “core list”. Will this problem EVER be addressed? Your “catch up” month of August has been and gone, and shortages still are prevalent across the entire line. It is very frustrating to see you creating new figs and new supplements for your games when some of the core units/solos for factions are still no where to be seen. What steps are you taking to ensure production will be brought back in line and WHEN will that be?
The steps being taken to address supply issues been stated on our web page and through our forums, so start there for answers. That said, by the time this is publicized, I think you’ll see a great deal of this issue has been addressed. We have literally doubled our production staff over the past year and continue to hire. It’s a frustrating situation for us as well as we certainly want to get our products to as many people as want it. But our new release schedule is a completely separate entity from back-catalog fulfillment. New releases we can plan for and we’re very good at keeping on schedule with them. But back orders are a very dynamic situation that come and go seasonally, with conventions, and with the latest trends in the games. This is impossible to predict, and because the metal product is all hand made and hand packed, it takes time to meet the production when we see a surge in orders. It also takes time to train personnel — about 90 days just to get someone proficient in casting metal, which isn’t an easy job at all. It takes experience and a lot of knowledge of how to work with the machinery and materials to make products of our quality. Hopefully by now much of the supply issue appears to be abating in your area. From our vantage point, we’ve made huge headway in addressing the backorder backlog and are only 3-4 weeks out on even the oldest orders. We feel the frustration as well and have put every effort into addressing it. On the other hand, it feels good to be wanted and beats the alternative!
Jimmy Lindquist asked:
Will we ever see Vinter Raelthorne [from Iron Kingdoms] as a playable character?
While he hasn’t made it into standard tournament legal play, we did create a historic scenario in No Quarter #7 a few years back that gave rules for playing Vinter in the Lion’s Coupe. Back issues available here!