Scott Weidemeyer, is an overweight and overbearing fantasy role-playing gamer. A master at his craft with an ego the size of his role-playing universe finds his life turned upside-down when a handsome and charismatic hipster joins his game. Scott’s troubles worsen with the faltering health of his grandmother, who has cared for him all his life, and the sudden arrival of his estranged mother and her new fiancé.
Zero Charisma is a fun film that any audience will enjoy, however, if like me, an old D&D guy, this film is very much about nostalgia and empathy. I watched this film for the comedy…what I experienced was a complete spectrum of emotions. I seriously laughed at, laughed with, cried for, became enraged with, routed against and routed for Game Master Scott. What I expected was a buffoon to mock, what I discovered was a man wrought with doubt and insecurity, trying desperately to find and maintain his self-worth in a not so supportive world.
Zero Charisma was written by Andrew Matthews and masterfully brought to life and directed by both Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews. The entire cast and casting should take a well deserved bow with Sam Edison at the forefront, he truly makes this movie and I hope we see much more of him in the future.
The Levity Ball was honored to sit down with the Writer and Directors of this instance cult classic to learn more.
Hi, first thank you for this interview, for making this movie and sharing a story that allowed me to lose myself in the past and relive my old D&D memories. So, that being said, let’s jump right into it…who here is the proud nerd? Which of you played and what do you remember of your favorite character?
I (Andrew) was and still am the gamer of the house. I’ve been playing RPGs since 5th grade and since I always insisted on being the GM, I was more used to creating non-player characters. My favorite, the villain of an epic campaign I spent months writing, was a Saurial Wizard from the Lost Vale. Unfortunately, the scope of the campaign was so large that our game broke up (from people moving away, etc.) before the players even met him.
Where did the creation of ‘Zero Charisma’ begin? Take us on the journey.
We’ve always liked films with lead characters who are, let’s say, a challenge to root for. The kind of people who would probably make you tear your hair out in real life, but on screen are so much fun to watch. We wanted a character who was pompous, hot-tempered and obsessive, but also genuinely passionate, principled, and vulnerable. Putting this character in the world of table-top RPGs was a no-brainer, not only because I (Andrew) was familiar with the world, but also because it’s such a creative and social pastime, it allowed Scott to be something of a misunderstood artist, whose success with his craft hinges on maintaining good relationships with others. Also, amidst the popularity of video game RPGs and MMORPGs, table-top gaming is such an “old-school nerd” hobby, which allowed us to make Scott the gamer equivalent of a vinyl snob who sneers at mp3s.
Sam Eidson in the lead was a master stroke. His performance invoked a variety of emotional responses . I personally went through several emotional extremes while watching ranging from pity, embarrassment and shame to hope, love and pride. What was working with Sam in the lead like and what did you do to coax such incredible work from him?
Sam was amazing and to work with and his was the only role we didn’t “audition” so to speak. We had seen him in some small roles in other Austin indies and he made us laugh so we asked if he would help us make a teaser trailer to kick off our fundraising for the film. For three or four days, we ran around town with Sam shooting a few scenes from the script and the finished teaser was so successful we knew Sam had a lot to do with it. So we offered him the role. In real life, Sam is nothing like Scott. He’s a total sweetheart. But we knew that it would be much wiser to cast someone naturally vulnerable likable and have them act domineering and offensive rather than try to get an actor who was naturally domineering and try to pull vulnerability from them.
Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Industries and Tribeca Films have teamed up for the release. This proved to be ideal for ‘Zero Charisma’ and really a match made in Chronias, the Highest Level of Heaven on Mount Celestia. How did this collaboration come to be and what has it been like to have such support?
Jonah Ray, a frequent Nerdist collaborator, saw the film at SXSW and contacted us some time afterwards, asking for a screener to share with Chris Hardwick. Of course, we said yes. Their response was amazing. We had had some meetings with distributors at that point, but no one came as close to “getting it” as the guys at the Nerdist. They seemed to know exactly why we had made the film and what kinds of audiences it would be perfect for. We jumped eagerly into that collaboration and are still giddy that it came to be.
If I am not mistaken, thanks to Nerdist, Tribeca and ReedPOP, you’ll be holding a private screening of ‘Zero Charisma’ on the opening night of this year’s New York Comic Con? I’d say it’s a given that this will be a blast and one of the tougher events to get tickets to. How excited are you and what are you looking forward to seeing or doing at this year’s Con?
Honestly, we always get so nervous before every screening and this one is so important, I don’t know that I’ll be able to relax at all there! As with any screening, we just hope that people have a good time. It is reassuring to know that the Nerdist and Tribeca will be in charge of the logistics and we can try to enjoy some of the other things the Con has to offer.
You’ve already won the 2013 Audience Award SXSW Film Festival. Any other festivals or screenings in the works to assist ‘Zero Charisma’ on its way to cult classic?
We’ve still got a number of screenings on the horizon. The full list can be found at www.zerocharismathemovie.com
When did you start loving the business and where did your careers begin?
Katie and I have been collaborating on short films and such for as long as we’ve been a couple, almost 14 years now, but our career in features started when Michael Paul Stephenson invited us to work with him on his directorial debut, Best Worst Movie, a documentary about Troll 2. That film premiered at SXSW and it was the first film festival we had ever been to. We decided there that this was the life for us.
Who are you influences and what have they taught you along the way?
Our shared love of comedy is what brought us together. Our first few dates were literally watching bootleg VHS copies of the entire first season of Mr. Show. Albert Brooks, the Coen Brothers and John Hughes are a few other big influences. The UK Office is an absolute masterpiece. I think what a lot of these influences have in common is finding hilarity in the real world. To us, the more grounded and real the characters are, the funnier their ordeals. We love comedy that’s woven into strong emotional content.
What’s next? Any new writing or directing projects in the works?
We have a few ideas we’ve been developing, but nothing to announce yet!
Any advice for directorial newcomers looking to break in and break out?
Do something no one else is doing. Otherwise, why should anyone care?
Would you care to share any parting words for our readers?
Come see our movie! If it’s not playing in your city, you can rent it on iTunes and cable VOD!