A local independent company, A Broken Link Productions, will launch a gamer comedy webseries called “Lagged Out” in February 2013.
The webseries, which is being filmed in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, will feature the work of many college graduates and students from the area.
Written and directed by freelance comedy writer and Michigan State University film graduate Anthony Jurado, “Lagged Out” follows the story of Nicole Symanski, a pre-med student in her mid-20s and her quest to become a professional gamer in the United States.
After spending some time in Korea commentating on professional gaming tournaments, Symanski returned to America to assemble her old gamer friends into her own tournament team.
When she learned most of her gang had moved on with their real, professional lives, Symanski managed to scrounge together a team of newbs, who are unskilled gamers, and takes on the task of training them to go pro.
The “Lagged Out” project started in February and is by no means a cheesy film class assignment.
“I’ve had the idea for a long time and just let it incubate while I was in film school,” said Jurado, who was waiting for the perfect group of people to help make his vision a reality. “I did not want it to be some production that was not the very best quality that it could be.”
After he saved the money to start working on the project and acquired professional-quality filming equipment, Jurado began the search for his crew members. This led him to Eastern Michigan University senior Heather Antos, a double major in theater and electronic media and film studies.
“I told her my credentials and my ideas and she was on board right away,” Jurado said.
Co-producers Jurado and Antos assembled their cast and crew and began to work on the show.
“We auditioned around 30 actors for the main characters and witnessed a lot of talent,” Antos said.
“We are extremely lucky to have such a brilliant cast and crew. Everyone is extremely talented in their respective fields.”
Vivian Rackover, an actress from Rochester who was cast as the lead role of Symanski, said, “It may be independent, but it is a professional-quality production.”
The first season of the webseries is about halfway through production and has been filmed at local sites such as Pinball Pete’s, an arcade in Ann Arbor, and Seva Detroit, a vegetarian restaurant.
“The local area has been really responsive to us,” Jurado said. “We’ve been able to shoot in a couple of really nice establishments, and we’re really grateful for that.”
Antos said it’s been really exciting to have support from the community.
Its local setting and professional nature are not the only things that make “Lagged Out” an intriguing webseries. The creators of the show are determined to deliver high-quality entertainment to a fairly underrepresented, large demographic. The series targets gamers, a large community that does not generally receive a lot of positive media attention.
“A lot of what that demographic gets in terms of representation and entertainment is either stereotyped or not of high-quality production,” Jurado said.
One of the ways that “Lagged Out” breaks the stereotype of the socially awkward, male-dominated gamer world is through its powerful female lead.
“Even though more than 50 percent of online gamers are women, they are wholly underrepresented — at least in the world of professional gaming,” Jurado said.
And lead character Symanski is anything but stereotypical.
“She’s a power chick,” Rackover said. “She’s very witty, very smart. She loves gaming, but she’s really just a very passionate kind of person. She has a big personality.”
The name of the web series, “Lagged Out,” is a clever play on words. As many gamers know, lagging out is the frustrating process through which players can be disconnected from their game. They may reconnect to find their character has died or their team has lost.
“In this case, it also refers to how Symanski has ‘lagged out’ of life.” Jurado said. “All of her friends have moved on and she is still hanging on to her gaming career.”
While the series is based around gamers, the story goes much deeper than just a group of people playing video games together.
“Although gaming is the aspect that moves the plot, the issues in the story are about the human condition and what we deal with every day,” Rackover said.
Episodes will focus on the relationships and dynamic of the team members and the people in their lives.
Jurado said, “We’re not trying to alienate people. We want to make a story that’s compelling to everybody. We just want people to be entertained and feel connected to the story.”
“No one has done a show like this, and ‘Lagged Out’ has something in it for everyone,” she said.
“You don’t have to be a gamer to fall in love with the series. The banter between the characters is witty and fun.”
Teaser trailers will be released in mid-November. You can keep up-to-date on the series through its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/LaggedOutWebseries, where information and behind-the-scenes photos are posted regularly.
Jurado and the team is excited about the project.
“Our show will not be a guilty pleasure,” he said. “It will be something that you love and are proud to watch.”
“Lagged Out” is set to make its online debut next February through its production website, www.abrokenlink.com.
Episodes will be released multiple times per week in 2-5 minute videos and season one will run between 12-15 weeks long.
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