Web Series Wednesday: Love, Guns and Level Ups

Producer Jodie Kirkbride, co-directors Andrew Shanks and Nicholas Cleary and photographer Morris Abraham.

Directed by Nicholas Cleary and Andrew Shanks
Produced by Jodie Kirkbride
Written by Andrew Shanks, Nicholas Cleary and Daniel Vink
Starring Eduard Geyl, Lisa Fanto, Shabana Azeez and Walter Buckley

“At its heart it’s a small and sweet love story, but that didn’t stop us from pitching it as Notting Hill with guns!”

When an International cosplayer and an introverted game developer connect online, they discover the challenges of a real-world relationship. An action rom-com about video games and modern dating.

Article Written by Nicholas Cleary (Co-director)

People don’t ask what Love, Guns and Level Ups is about… It’s all in the fricken title. But when we are asked to elaborate on the project we aim to muddle and detail the eccentric nature of the show. It’s like a pizza with everything on it – an action/adventure rom-com with elements of horror, mushrooms and 8 bit animation. There are cowboys, gamer geeks, goblin lords and samurai duels – all carefully crafted so as to comment on modern dating and the garlic breadroll technology plays in our relationships. 

But really, at its heart it’s a small and sweet love story. Probably a little more in the vein of 500 Days of Summer than 27 Dresses, but that didn’t stop us from pitching it as Notting Hill with guns! 

The initial concept for the film was to tell a story about a couple of gents who kept their estranged friendship alive via online videogames. Just as we, the Fury Fingers team, seem too. But we quickly realised we could give it higher stakes, and things could heat up quickly if we made it a love story instead… and in that realm, as young men, we have loads of experience dating. And failing. Mostly failing. We are gentlemen idiots who know first hand how hard it is trying to secure and keep a mate.

Walter Buckley as Sean in Love, Guns and Level Ups.

When we set out to tell our romantic tale with a colourful and assorted videogame backdrop we went to the well. We’ve been making ”Fury Films” for a time, we’ve met and formed relationships with various colourful artists, from wrestlers, make up professionals, stunt people, graphic designers, thespians, cosplayers, military enthusiasts, prop makers, vfx artists and fighting specialists – we have set up and belong to a diverse community of creatives. So when we write we have our producer hats on and we know whom we can incorporate well. As we were tinkering with the script I messaged one of my parkour buddies “Hey, wanna do your flippy thing dressed as a mummy? Wraps and all, on camera?”.

Love, Guns and Level Ups was written by the three of us – ‘The Fury boys’ as we are better known to our peers. We’ve been working together for years on various projects, created X projects together,  and have a good-shared creating collaborating dynamic. There are of course tensions at times and quite a harsh (and effective) ‘2 against 3’ voting dynamic.

One of the challenges in pre production was deciding who would direct each webisode. There are 6 diverse episodes that require different skill sets and approaches to life and love.  Before we drew straws on the issue – personalities were dissected and a rigorous flow chart system was devised to best determine who had the best qualities, life experience and peculiar hang ups that reflected what each dramatic scene needed.

Co-writing and directing can be tricky and arranging credits is a challenge. For some reason I’m comfortable being credited as the director first, but it cost me winning the first writing credit to Andrew. Dan is either a true artist or doesn’t want to get in the way of our petty squabbles. Even now writing as I – Nick, do all the typing and word rearranging I’m lamenting the fact that Andrew is being quite helpful and offering positive and generous ideas beside me.

Shabana Azeez as Steph in Love, Guns and Level Ups.

As another man-boy heavy passage finishes it becomes abundantly clear that special mention must be made of our producer Jodie Kirkbride. Jodie is the Queen, as deadlines she has set for us draw nearer  we grit at her and say her name in vain – but we need only remind ourselves no-one can make things happen like she does. And as a collaborator and friend her efforts are saintly: On frequent occasions she will ask the group a question only to get no response as indecisiveness and the hope another Fury Boy has a good answer seems sadly commonplace. Needless to say she is a bad-ass when she needs to be. She gets her answers and we love her for it. 

There were many challenges creating Love, Guns and Level Ups. “Bree” the female lead is based on many of our friends as a beautiful, talented and popular cosplayer. So creating our own persona, name and brand was joyous and challenging. We got right in there playing dress ups – learning about the cosplay community, discovering what’s acceptable and what’s not. And building our own large fake social media profiles full of photos, costumes, comments and digital assets. Lisa Fanto who plays Bree was very patient with the Fury Boys as we bickered on what characters she would replicate and how best to wear her hair and make-up. 

For the sake of balance, here is special mention of Eduard Geyl who plays the show’s male lead – “Elliot”. We were excited about meeting the smart, sexy, strong Bree when we wrote but – but we didn’t expect the communal man crush we’d have for Ed. Woof. This guy acts.

Receiving Funding from Screen Australia and YouTube was such a gratifying step for us as filmmakers. We don’t create regular content on our web channel, so we try not to classify our creative success by subscriber counts or views. As our upload deadline nears we grow nervous and excited about sharing it. It’s been a wild ride, we are tired and almost over it – but it’s all about to really begin. Watch it!

All six episodes of Love, Guns & Level Ups will be released on YouTube on Friday September 18th 2020 at 6pm ACST. You can find out more about Fury Fingers here.

ADVERTISEMENT – Pacifico will be available to watch from October 1. See the trailer above.

ADVERTISEMENT – Watch Riley Sugars’ award-winning short film Rabbits right here.

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