A D&D Deep Dive into the “Eye of the Beholder” with Brian Stillman, Kelley Slagle, and Seth Polansky

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Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & DragonsAny longtime Dungeons & Dragons player will inform you that one particular essential to results is bringing with each other the ideal mix of player characters to guarantee maximum coverage of the exciting situations an adventuring celebration can encounter. This D&D ability crosses more than into the actual globe, considering that any massive-scale inventive endeavor requires to do the exact same factor, except replacing fighters, wizards, rogues, and clerics with directors, producers, editors, and all these other persons in the credits. We can see this dynamic at function with Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons, a new documentary film that follows the evolution of the artwork of Dungeons & Dragons from its earliest origins in the 1970’s to its expanding mainstream results with the 5th edition of the game. The core group behind the film also demonstrates the energy of multi-classing. Brian Stillman, founder of X-Ray Films and director of Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, served as Producer, Co-Director, and Director of Photography, although the co-founders of Cavegirl Productions (coming off the film Of Dice and Guys), Kelley Slagle and Seth Polansky, served as Producer, Co-Director, and Editor and Producer, Place and Post-Production Audio, and Legal Counsel, respectively.

We have been capable to speak with Kelley Slagle, Brian Stillman, and Seth Plansky by means of e-mail about crafting Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons.

POPGEEKS: When did you all commence playing Dungeons & Dragons? Have you seasoned all the ups-and-downs of D&D more than the years?

BRIAN STILLMAN: I started playing back in the early 80’s, beginning with 1st edition AD&D, and also the so-named “Red Box” edition of D&D. I kept playing into 2nd edition, but sort of skipped more than 3rd, three.five, and 4th. I produced the jump to 5th edition when it came out a couple of years ago and found that I seriously, seriously liked it.

SETH POLANSKY: I began with 2nd edition, played via three.five, skipped 4th edition, and came back to the fold with 5th. Skipping 4th edition was absolutely due to the “downs” more than the years.

KELLEY SLAGLE : I was constantly what I contact “gamer-adjacent.” For most of my life, most of my buddies have been gamers. I truly didn’t commence playing till for the duration of the creating of our narrative function film about part-players, Of Dice and Guys.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons
(left to ideal) Kelley Slagle, Brian Stillman, and Seth Polansky at GenCon 2018

BRIAN STILLMAN: I was certainly paying interest as D&D grew in the 80’s and early 90’s, with the improve in novels, the launching of the LJN toy line, and the cartoon. But I also saw when the recognition began to wane in the early 2000’s or so. I under no circumstances could have predicted how D&D would bounce back and completely take off like it is carried out right now. Seeing the explosion in the game’s recognition has been remarkable. It is seriously terrific that so numerous persons are discovering it.

POPGEEKS: How specifically did your partnership type?

BRIAN STILLMAN: I had the concept to make a film about D&D art immediately after acquiring back into the game. I was just coming off of releasing Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, and I believed it’d be enjoyable to function with Seth and Kelley, who I’d met and turn out to be buddies with when we have been all screening our films at a convention in Maryland. I knew they have been gamers and I loved their film, Of Dice and Guys. I believed it’d be enjoyable to collaborate.

It worked out seriously properly. Kelley and I co-directed Eye of the Beholder. I shot it, Kelley edited it. Seth, our production companion, handled each place- and post-production audio. To prime it off, he’s also an intellectual house and contracts lawyer, so he handled the legal stuff. In the finish we have been capable to deal with essential production and post-production duties in-home. It saved us a fortune and gave us a lot of handle more than the completed item. Plus, to be completely truthful, it was a hell of a lot of enjoyable functioning with each other.

POPGEEKS: Brian, you had talked about in an interview for Plastic Galaxy that Lucasfilm wasn’t involved with that project. Did you get to function with Wizards of the Coast on this project?

BRIAN STILLMAN: We reached out to Wizards of the Coast via their parent firm, Hasbro, and have been told that they weren’t interested in participating in the film. They didn’t indicate possessing any troubles or issues with us creating it, but they declined to be aspect of it. It wasn’t a large challenge for us most of the persons we wanted to interview have been either freelancers or no longer worked for the firm.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & DragonsPOPGEEKS: As a individual anecdote, I loved the art in the D&D books when I was a kid (beginning with AD&D), but it wasn’t till about a year ago that I realized I had under no circumstances recognized who the artists have been immediately after I picked up an Art of Dragon Magazine hardcover book on a lark. Had been you an ignorant/oblivious kid like I was, or have been you constantly paying interest to the credits and signatures? Do you consider there’s much more awareness right now of the artists behind the art in D&D and comparable fantasy RPGs?

SETH POLANSKY: I was entirely oblivious to the artists. When Brian approached us about the film, it was an eye-opening expertise to say the least. I hadn’t seriously viewed as how completely integral the art is to the game.

BRIAN STILLMAN: I was constantly conscious of who the artists have been, and I constantly had my favorites. Back then, they have been not only credited on the title web page of the books and modules, but they also had their signatures on the art. I would see a strange “-D-” or “DSL” or “DAT” or “DCSIII” and figure out who they have been — Jeff Dee, Diesel LaForce, Dave Trampier, and David C. Sutherland III, respectively. Names like the Roslofs, Keith Parkinson, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, Brom — they became symbols of high-quality. My buddies and I debated who we believed was very best, and our answers ordinarily changed weekly.

I’m not certain little ones right now are as conscious of who the artists are. Some names stand out, certainly, but D&D no longer makes use of a “bullpen” of in-home artists, so it is a tiny tougher to associate an individual with the game the way you could in the previous.

On the other hand, Magic: The Gathering players seriously know their artists. Every single card has the artists’ names printed on it, and that is helped persons understand who’s who. I consider that is carried out a lot to give these newer artists the recognition they deserve.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & DragonsPOPGEEKS: The large Art & Arcana D&D art book and your film came out in comparatively close proximity to each and every other. Did you cross paths or trade notes with the authors of the book although you have been functioning on your respective projects?

BRIAN STILLMAN: We’d just began shooting Eye of the Beholder when we met Michael Witwer, one particular of the Art & Arcana authors. It was ideal prior to he began functioning on the Art & Arcana project, and we became friendly. Then, moving forward, as we all worked on our respective projects, we stayed in touch, speaking at conventions or on the web. We’d chat a tiny about the projects, but we under no circumstances traded notes or something like that.

We like that book, their entire group did such an remarkable job with it. I constantly inform persons that to get a seriously correct image of this stuff, verify out each our film and Art & Arcana. We overlap in some places, but each and every goes in various directions. I consider in between us we cover all the bases.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons
Artist Larry Elmore

POPGEEKS: Had been there any artists that you wanted to incorporate in the film and just couldn’t get the scheduling to function out with? Or was there any certain artist exactly where you located your sense of journalistic neutrality challenged by your inner fan?

BRIAN STILLMAN: I’ve been a experienced journalist for about 20 years, functioning in each print and broadcast, and covering every thing from the arts to really hard news. Staying neutral when covering stuff is crucial. But the good factor about a project like this is that you can go in biased. We knew from the outset that we have been producing a film celebrating this art and these artists. So there wasn’t a concern about our fandom acquiring in the way.

There have been a lot of artists we couldn’t get, largely simply because they didn’t get back to us when we reached out. In a couple of situations, we didn’t understand how to obtain unique artists till it was also late to incorporate them. And at some point we had to draw a line about reaching out to much more artists simply because we didn’t want to overstuff the film. You come to a point in a project like this exactly where much more names does not necessarily imply you will do a much better job of telling the story. In truth, you run the danger of undertaking the film a disservice by possessing persons fly by devoid of saying considerably at all. It is a continuous balancing act.

POPGEEKS: What was the most surprising factor you discovered about D&D although you have been creating the film?

KELLEY SLAGLE : We went into the film recognizing the gist of the story immediately after undertaking some basic study. But there have been constantly weird tiny details that would pop up and surprise us. One particular of our preferred stories is about Jack Fred. Jack Fred wasn’t a actual artist, he was a character made by Larry Elmore and utilized anytime Elmore, and then some of the other artists, have been forced to release a painting they felt didn’t reside up to their requirements. So right now, if you see a painting that is not really terrific, verify to see if perhaps it was painted by Jack Fred.

POPGEEKS: Do you consider Eye of the Beholder would have located the funding it necessary if not for Kickstarter? How would you say that Kickstarter and crowdfunding in basic has changed what you can do as a documentary filmmaker?

KELLEY SLAGLE : We paid for the pre-production and production charges ourselves, and then later we have been reimbursed by the Kickstarter campaign. There’s a possibility we would have been capable to totally self-fund Eye of the Beholder, but the post-production method would have been much more tough and it would have taken longer to comprehensive. Crowdfunding enables you to immediately and straight attain the fans who want to see your film produced, accelerating your potential to finish your film.

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons
Artist Christopher Burdett displaying how he models for his personal art

POPGEEKS: There’s a lot of stuff that persons believed was weird when I was a kid, like D&D and sci-fi/fantasy fiction and superhero comic books. Now, all these issues are entirely mainstream pop culture. What do you consider accounts for that shift in mindset amongst the population? And how do you consider that development in recognition has changed the nature of the art of D&D particularly, for much better or for worse?

SETH POLANSKY: The persons who are creating these games (and the persons who are creating video games and board games) grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons. D&D has influenced so numerous of these other pop culture phenomena. I consider it is forced Wizards of the Coast to step up their game and incorporate much more fresh and exciting pieces of art in the items. And I think that is a excellent factor for the sector.

BRIAN STILLMAN: The shift in D&D’s art in response to well-liked influences is not something new. In the 70’s, when mainstream book shops began carrying the game, the 1st edition cover art by Dave Trampier and David C. Sutherland was replaced by Jeff Easley paintings. TSR wanted to compete with the paintings on the covers of well-liked fantasy novels. The art continued to evolve more than the decades as tastes shifted and trends came and went. It is a organic progression and I consider it keeps the art crucial.

POPGEEKS: Are you currently functioning on your subsequent project, or is there something else that you’d like to plug or preserve an eye out for immediately after Eye of the Beholder comes out?

KELLEY SLAGLE : We have an additional gaming-connected documentary we’re functioning on, but it is in the early stages. We hope it’ll have as considerably appeal as Eye of the Beholder is possessing.

Thanks to Brian Stillman, Kelley Slagle, and Seth Polansky for speaking with us. Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons will be offered digitally (on iTunes, Google, Xbox, Vimeo, Amazon, Vudu, Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, and much more) and on household video formats on Could 14, 2019. For much more information about the film, verify out the trailer (embedded above), the film’s official web site, or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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