We all know that gay gamers are awesome, and now one of them has an award to prove it! David Nguyen was awarded the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award at the 24th Vancouver Queer Film Festival for his side-scrolling animated short film Insert Credit. A videogame fan from the womb, Nguyen created the film as his grad project at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
"The film is an autobiography told through the style of an old, SNES-era 2D sidescroller," he explains. "It's told through 'levels' of my life, beginning with my childhood, where my dad and I never got along. He never liked that I hated playing/watching sports with him, and that I enjoyed playing Barbies with my female cousins. Granted, I would often play Street Fighter with them..."
The film may look like a fun SNES side-scrolling adventure game, but it tackles a very serious subject as Nguyen explores his tumultuous relationship with his father. "I wasn't his idea of what a son should be," the filmmaker admits, "and we constantly fought because of it. He died from lung cancer when I was in middle school, and the rest of the film touches on how that even has affected and how it still affects my life.
"It's a heavy story," Nguyen adds, "but I tried to tell it in a way that wouldn't make the audience uncomfortable as they watched it. It's generally lighthearted, and I love hearing people laugh as they watch it. I knew I wanted to tell this story as my grad film because I had been fucking up my years at Emily Carr due to personal problems. I was tired of it. I never talked to anyone about my issues with my dad, so as a form of catharsis, I made this film. Even after making it stylized, it was incredibly painful to basically animate my dad dying in a colorful way."
Nguyen did most of the art and animation on the film with some assistance from friends, but confesses that the subject matter, while ultimately cathartic, was tough to work on. "It shouldn't be surprising to hear," he says, with a rueful chuckle, "but when you make a story about how much you fought with your dad, how he died, and how you never resolved your relationship with him... it makes you not want to work on it very often. I would have to chain myself to my desk, unplug my router if I had to."
He doesn't recall exactly how long the entire process took from start to finish, but estimates that it was anywhere between four and eight months. "My friends Toni and Sterling helped me with some of the cutscenes," Nguyen reveals. "And my friend Steph did the Canadian monster sprites moos and laser-shooting maple leaf with a giant eyeball... standard stuff. My partner's friend, Raph Choi, did the music and sound effects, and he did a fantastic job. Far beyond what I imagined for it myself."
In the end, Insert Credit not only gave Nguyen a sense of closure, but also recognition when he took home a prize at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. "I was horrendously awkward," he admits of the actual ceremony. "They announced all but the biggest awards during the closing gala, so of course I didn't expect to win. I was stuffing my face full of popcorn, ready to cheer on one of the two films that I thought was going to win. They suddenly announce my name, and I am in shock, and my partner TJ was staring at me, and I was still chewing, and my hands were still buttery and gross, and oh God, what is going on? I made my way up there, and I think the first thing I said into the mic was "Holy crap." Not the most articulate speech given, but apparently it was well received!
"It's crazy getting this kind of recognition," Nguyen continues. "I thought the audience that would appreciate my film would be really niche. Gay gamers that are into small, independently-animated shorts aren't too common in the grand scheme of things, right? But when more and more people told me how much they liked it and how they related to it in their own way, it was really touching. I'm so glad that I could reach more people than I thought I would."
Since then, Nguyen has been freelancing a little in game-related work, but confesses that the award revived his desire to continue telling stories. A trailer for Insert Credit is available here, but it's really just a teaser. "I'll be submitting it to more festivals soon," he reports, "but I DO plan on releasing the whole thing online eventually!" For updates on Nguyen and Insert Credit, you can follow him on Twitter at @euthanasian.