Smash Forward [PRESS KIT]

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Official title Smash Forward: Growing the Vancouver Esports Scene
Also known as Smash Forward
Release date July 15, 2019
Distribution TELUS Optik Video-on-Demand, STORYHIVE YouTube
Running time 20 minutes, 25 seconds
Rating PG
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Logline The game is changing. Video games embody the vital connection of community and opportunity for personal growth.
Synopsis Enter Vancouver’s esports scene on the cusp to unstoppable growth. Meet the grassroots community’s colourful personalities as they tell all on what it took to get this far and how video games push them to be their best, build lifelong friendships, and make the most of their personal growth.
Crew Producer/Director: Melissa Dex Guzman
Editor/Director of Photography: Kial Natale
Original soundtrack: Adrian Talens
Sound design: Jeff Hilman
Main interviewees
  • Brendan Pryde (Pryde)
  • Jen Zall (Llumiya)
  • Martin Byerley (Zerango)
  • Courtney Gilbert (CourtFTW)

Official teaser trailer

Official poster



Why Smash Forward? What prompted you to make this?
I grew up gaming, and I have really fond memories of playing video games with my dad and brother. I really believe that it was gaming that led me into my career in technology, and immersive experiences in the AR and VR industry. If we have to be real, the games industry is always the first to get the best of the best tech and being involved with playing games allowed me to express myself in ways that I didn’t think were possible – interactive storytelling namely. With the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizing “gaming addiction” as a mental illness – I felt like now was a good time to show gaming in a different light, and that perhaps the addictions we see online are closer tied to something deeper, and playing games is just a coping mechanism of a symptom for something else that we aren’t aware of.

This is your first film – what were some of the challenges you had a first timer?
It is the first film that I not only directed, but also produced. My former line of work with systems administration and IT leadership had already introduced me to a world of streamlining, scheduling and efficiency, but flexing my creativity where there’s a crew and people involved was something else. Directing is really all about communication and if you can’t communicate, you can’t direct. Creating content in Canada was also a challenge because my background was also in photojournalism and YouTube content. Making a documentary about a community that revolves around someone else’s IP is literally a clearance nightmare.

What do you think viewers will be surprised or taken aback by?
Honestly, we think that the player community may be surprised at how we portray them. This is a light most of them haven’t seen themselves in – it’s more raw, it’s real, and we cut straight to the heart of gaming. We’ve watched other documentaries on esports and they seem to focus on “the top”, and how “cool” the scene is. With a scene growing so quickly here in North America, we think it’s also important to remember and honour the roots of where it all started: in communities, and passions of these gamers.

What makes Smash Forward different from other esports documentaries?
In Smash Forward, we focused on the Fighting Game Community (FGC) which – I feel – is still relating to esports, but for some reason some folks think they’re different. We were at an advantage because unlike PC gaming, most fighting games are played in-person at tournaments. It’s social by default because it’s old school couch co-op. It certainly made showing the social potential of gaming easier because of that in-person nature. PC gaming is social too, but it’s social in other ways that may be harder for a wider audience to understand context.

Do you have any advice for other filmmakers who might want to make a documentary within the esports realm?
The hardest part honestly was the IP clearance. Other directors advised me that “it’s better to just ask for forgiveness later” and sure that works but when you are basing your story around that IP, it’s not about forgiveness so much as it is destroying the narrative. We were fortunate that our pitch helped us win a TELUS STORYHIVE grant, but with that said, if you can’t clear the IP you’ll need to hire a VFX artist if you want those logo removals to be more seamless. Before I went into the production for Smash Forward, I was also advised that whatever we planned for the documentary – it will likely change because documentaries always change. I didn’t expect we’d change so much but once you get a bigger picture of what you’re investigating – it will always turn out for the better.

What are you most proud of with Smash Forward?
I think our team handled the acknowledgement of sexism in the gaming realm very well, despite it being a complete surprise for our team. We met and interviewed women and transwomen on their experiences in their perspective communities and while Vancouver’s esports scene is fairly inclusive, it’s important to really bolster those efforts and showcase that if players want support for their communities. It needs to be a healthy environment for everyone.

Crew and Cast bios

Melissa Dex Guzman (Producer, Director) – Melissa Dex Guzman is an emerging Director ready for her new challenge in documentary filmmaking. By day, she works in the immersive technology industry, and moonlights as an accomplished photojournalist well-versed in live music, esports, and weddings. She’s led workshops for Google Developers Group Cloud Vancouver for community building, and Vancouver International Photography Festival with her top skill in precision for capturing emotional moments. Her clients include: SIGGRAPH 2019 Business Symposium, Squamish Valley Music Festival, CBC Radio 3, and Vancouver Winter Olympics, Cultural Olympiad 2010. She mains as Protoss.

Kial Natale (Editor, Director of Photography) – Kial Natale is the Director behind Megasteakman, an independent YouTube channel featuring shorts that have garnered over 28 million views with 62K subscribers. His student project Pokemon Apokecalypse was created in 2010 and went viral with 12 million views during its first year of release. Kial was also the Lead Editor behind Emmy award-winning All Hail King Julien, premiering on Netflix in 2017. He has done VFX for clients including HTC for esports spots, and is a frequent collaborator of Mike Diva, The Nerdist, and Corridor Digital.

Adrian Talens (Official Smash Forward Soundtrack Composer) – Adrian Talens is a music producer from Vancouver, BC, known for composing soundtracks to various video games as well as a prominence in electronic dance music. In 2016, Adrian was featured by PC Gamer in their article “Listen to the Best Game Music of the Year” for his soundtrack in the video game Poly Bridge. In 2017, he produced the soundtrack to Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe mobile game titled Dreamland Arcade. In this documentary Smash Forward, Adrian brings us an original soundtrack encompassing every exciting moment filled with hype, anticipation, inspiration, and emotion.

Jeff Hilman (Sound Design) – Jeff is a Vancouver-based sound designer who has honed his audio career while working at several of Vancouver’s AAA gaming studios, and continues to burn a passion for creating rich & unique soundscapes for film & video games with a specialty in action-adventure. Most recently Jeff worked on the location audio, sound design, and mix for the documentary Smash Forward, where he attended a regional Super Smash Brothers tournament in Seattle, WA and record interviews, ambiences, controller clicks, arcade machines, and more.

Brendan Pryde (Pryde, main interview subject) – Brendan is a Vancouver-based esports competitor, caster and streamer. Video games have been a vital aspect of his life, helping shape his passions and motivations and pushing him to achieve his goals. Brendan advocates for the positive benefits video games can provide for people, and supports his local esports community to prove it. Through his stream, he uses his charisma and energy to be a positive influence on his viewers and hopes that they too will also see the benefits that video games can provide.

Martin Byerley (Zerango, main interview subject) – Martin is an Ontario born lad motivated by his passion which is competition and entertainment. Martin works at his local gym pursuing his physical goals while working to help build a strong esports scene in Vancouver as well as supporting a personal stream community. Most recently Martin has hosted a number of events and volunteers to help run tournaments on a weekly basis.

Courtney Gilbert (CourtFTW, interview subject) – CourtFTW got her start in gaming at a young age, first as a hobby to lose herself in and turning into a full blow passion project. She created her twitch community by turning an unjustly suspension into fun way to engage with her viewers and since then has been intrigued by helping other streamers with building their own community in unique ways. Creating Streamers Unknown as a way for other streamers and gamers to connect and influence one another, she continues to be apart of the esports community to help it grow