Behind the Scenes of Making Video Magic

The other week, Magic was featured on the story-telling site Narrative.ly. While the story speaks for itself about the diversity of paths we take to the game, how and why the story came to be is another tale. We had a chance to catch up with Holly Lynn Ellis and Andrew Tank Rivera, the forces behind creating the production.

(Photo by Andrew Tank Rivera)(Photo by Kurt James Brennan)

Who are you, and what do you do?

Holly is a producer, writer and actor. Her features include the Sundance-selected "Prairie Love." Tank is a NYC gaffer who is obsessed with buying lights and gear, which he rents out to local productions. We've been working together for over 5 years and this is our first documentary.


What brought you to look at Magic: The Gathering for a story?

Tank's been playing Magic for almost 15 years. We've honestly been wondering why no one made a documentary about it before, so we had to take it on ourselves! There are so many fantastic characters who play Magic. And you're all so darn nice! We had a blast meeting everyone and the personalities really shine through.


Walk us through the process: What went into capturing the story

Because Tank knows the game and Holly doesn't, we thought we had the perfect opportunity to make a film that appeals to both players and non-players alike. FNM (Friday Night Magic) was the best way to find a variety of players at different levels, and New York City's diverse population allowed us the opportunity to speak to a vast range of players. Tank's familiarity with the game allowed us to talk to players about their passion for the game and the intricacies of the rules, and Holly's outsider curiosity encouraged players to open up about the social stigmas they've faced because of their love for the game. (There is a short of even more players talking about their experience playing Magic.)


What surprised you most when looking at Magic and its players, and why?

Even given the factors above, we were still surprised by the diversity of players. There were so many times when I (Holly) was looking around the room and thinking "If I saw these guys on the street, I would guess they have absolutely nothing in common. But here, somehow they just make sense together." I mean, where else do you find a longshoreman competing against an attorney?


Was there anything that didn't make the story that you'd want to share now?

So much! We interviewed over 2 dozen players, at 3 stores and one home game. Everyone was so generous, smart and funny, it really hurt to cut them from the final product. We're ready to start working on a feature-length documentary that will allow us to dive further into the game, the rules, the history, and follow players from FNMs to PTQs (Pro Tour Qualifiers) and beyond!


What are you working on next, and when can we expect it?

We're ready to start shooting the feature as soon as we have the money. We want to follow players through tournaments, so we need financing for travel and additional crew members. There's no way to predict how long shooting a documentary like this will take, since it's all dependent on the outcome of competitions, but we want to start right away! In the meantime, another feature we both worked on, "Turtle Hill, Brooklyn" is about to have a limited theatrical release, a short we co-produced, the slasher-comedy "Booby Traps," will have a festival debut in April, and "Prairie Love" is available on Netflix.


Thanks again to Holly and Tank for sharing a little more around what it takes to share stories. We'll be waiting to see what you do next with Magic. A special extra thanks to Rachel Howard at Narrative.ly for coordinating this interview.