Interview with WePlay Director about the creation of tournaments, difficult production work, and the secrets of Clutch I

Jun 16 2020 10 min read
WePlay Esports

Interview with WePlay Director about tournaments, difficult production work, and the secrets of Clutch Island event. Read the unique content and enjoy esports.

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УхО and Enkanis
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the winners of the clutch island tournament

Passion, desire to win, primal instincts and ambition to be the best — all this will fill the atmosphere of the island lost in the ocean, which will serve as a battlefield for the prize pool of $50,000 and RMR-points.

We already visited the island, surveyed the local area, made sure that the spiders are poisonous enough, and now we want to tell you what WePlay! Clutch Island is about, why such an idea was chosen in the first place and what awaits our contestants. And who is a better person to tell us about it than the one responsible for such an impressive picture the viewers see during every WePlay! Esports tournament?

This time we decided to talk with our director Klim Denisov, who told us about how the tournament image was shaped, the painstaking work of hundreds of people and what exactly is  WePlay! Clutch Island.

Hello! Tell us what your job is at WePlay! Esports? Which tournaments are already in your piggy bank?

Hello, my name is Klim and I’m the director at WePlay!. My job is to manage all the production processes: creation of a tournament concept, search for the visual images and making a decision on the decorations, leading the promo-campaign, selecting artists for a pre-show, developing, shooting and working on a subsequent post-production of content, dubbing, preparing backstage diaries during tournaments, picking costumes for our casters, making aftermovies and more.

Let's just say that the production team creates a “turnkey tournament” and does everything possible to make the audience feel the integrity of each individual event. I came to WePlay! Esports in the first days of moving from the old office to the new one, the studio was still under construction, but the development of the first tournament after the restart, WePlay! Reshuffle Madness 2018, was already underway, so I'm here from the first tournament until my last breath.

Let's talk a little about what stages the tournament is going through in our company before appearing on the screens of the viewers. Let’s say, we learned that we will host a tournament. What happens next?

So, we’ve been told “yes!”, we begin! The task arrives to the production team and we begin to develop the concept of the tournament. We are looking for a suitable image that will pique the viewers’ interest, the one that will tell a story inside the tournament, make each event a separate movie in a new genre.

After the idea is approved and the main images are created, we begin our work on the story that will hold all the components together — this is the tournament promo and content. It's ready-made, pre-filmed content that the viewer sees before the event (promo) and during it and between matches: guides, game clips, mockumentaries, parodies, sketches, clips, etc. These things are the glue that connects everything together: the idea, decorations, costumes and the acting of the casters in the frame. For our casters, we always create roles, like in movies. Leaders of the scout training camp at Forge of Masters, secret agents at Lock and Load, members of the secret elite society at Pushka League, train conductors at Forge of Masters Season 2, Aleksey "yXo" Maletskiy played the role of Dr. Disrespect at the cyberpunk Mad Moon — and the list just goes on.

Then, our authors sit in a small, dark, closed room without any food or water, where they write and edit scripts for days. Just kidding, the room has water and lighting, but everything else is true. The script writers are doing a great job, since everything they write is often edited, modified or scrapped altogether, since it's quite hard to hit the desired sweet spot in the video content from the first try.

When the presentation form is found, the script starts being worked. My job at this stage is the filming process. We try to work with all the talents involved in the tournament. We often work with professional artists — actors, voice actors, puppeteers at WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020, circus performers, musicians, illusionists, pyrotechnicians and more. And cut! After everything is filmed, all the material is sent to the post-production department. But the creativity does not end at this stage, as many think.

Oftentimes our editing directors come up with new ideas and techniques during this stage, add new flair and refine the already existing jokes. Speaking of flair, the next stage after this is color correction.

Sometimes, between these stages, we cooperate with CGI-artists. All the graphics and effects are their work — God bless their gentle fingers. One of the most important parts of every tournament are our SFM-videos, fans love those, some even became viral. The Drow Ranger dance, the tale about a Little Prince, the clip that tells us about the Antimage’s fateful encounter with Meepo, etc.

At the same time, the work continues with production designer, costume designer, communication with on-air team, and photo sessions. So many small things are happening that we could talk about them till next morning. By the tournament’s start, everything is given to the broadcast team, and they are the ones that present all the content in the best light. They cast their special kind of magic that makes the chat let out cries of joy and empathize with everything that happens on screen.

Do the writers usually have any precise plan, or do they have free reigns?

It’s not exactly a plan. More like constraints of a particular genre we decided to work in. I should point out that I try to give complete freedom to our team of authors: I participate in the first brainstorming sessions, try to inspire them with numerous references, give them cues and guidance, but after that it’s free sailing for them. My level of trust in these guys is so high that control is done with half an eye: I simply look over their shoulders to confirm what they are doing. I try not to bother them.

I have a lot of experience in working on TV, less in advertising and clip-making, but I did not appreciate it in any job when others interfered with my writing, editing or developing with their advice. This approach can help novice screenwriters, it can give them much needed push, make it so they avoid rewriting and predict their own mistakes. But we have a team of pros, there isn’t any point in knocking them out of their own way. Our experience shows that the lack of rigid framework doesn’t mean there will be any mistakes. Authors do value their freedom.

Were there any crazy ideas for the tournaments that you wanted to implement, but someone came and told you: “Woah there guys, that’s too much, come back to Earth”?

I’ve already told you about the mastery of our writers, but even they can go overboard with humor. Between us, we laugh, then laugh some more, then croak like a wounded horse, but then someone inevitably says: “Guys, stop, this is cringe in the worst way possible”. 

It is evident that the most sensitive topics nowadays worldwide are issues of racial discrimination and the right of sexual minorities. Since we carry our ideas to the masses, we must be clean in our thoughts, so if even the slightest hint of an insulting joke slips through the cracks somewhere, we immediately cut it out like a tumor, work on our mistakes and make sure to not repeat it in the future. Humor needs to make people smile, not offend them!

Okay, who enters the fray when the script is approved?

Next is work on storyboards with operators. Then come production designers with studio decorations and overall look. Next are costume designers with the images of our beautiful casters. Then comes approval of actors for roles in the content, then shooting, dubbing, editing, graphics and effects, coloring, editing, editing, coloring, editing, editing, and we’re live! In general, edits are the hell of any production, but not ours. Somehow everything merges organically together and we are very proud of it.

Our studio design changes before every tournament. Some small details, unnoticeable for a naked eye, are always added. Who are the magicians that make our eyes happy?

At last, someone asked this question! This happens because we receive a lot of useful feedback from the community after our tournaments. We work with a team of decorators led by an incredibly talented production designer. LAN events have their own dedicated crew that’s several times bigger, lives have their own smaller team. Our synergy with them has become so good that we understand each other from a single reference. They join the production after the script is approved and begin their long journey from finding references and drawing studio sketches to actually finalizing the project with those little details that create all the atmosphere. They are the ones that tirelessly work to make your eyes happy, so let’s say “Hi” to them!

Let's move on to the topic of our current RMR tournament. Tell me more about the concept, what is Clutch Island?

To summarize in a couple of words: it’s a parody of the world-famous survival shows. They were everywhere on the TV: we had “The Last Hero”, the US had “The Survival”. The seed of the concept is that in the show there is an inherent opposition of the two teams, just like in CS. Therefore, the thematic fits.

Next, it’s Summer now, and the show was always set on an uninhabited island. Great picture is already guaranteed: island atmosphere, impenetrable jungle and golden sand of the ocean shore. Even if it’s for a moment, but we can “send” our viewers to that unreachable place. Viewers will witness the trials of our participants (our talents in the post-production content), close rivalry of our contestants (our teams), lots of parodies and humorous content.

The center stage will be taken by a hub-like lobby where the game analysis will take place.  WePlay! Clutch Island is ready to host the new season of an epic survival show, so put on your loose t-shirt, make yourself an alcohol-free mojito and get ready — it will be a hot summer!

Describe it, how does this island look in your imagination?

For the promo of this tournament our talented CGI-artists made an entire  WePlay! Clutch Island from scratch. It is a small paradise/hell somewhere in the middle of an ocean. On one hand it has amazing beaches with palm trees and white sand in the style of “Bounty” commercials, on the other it’s guarded with treacherous rocks on the approach from the waters, it’s festered by hidden caves and grottos, and ravines are connected by flimsy wooden bridges. The island is drowning in a lush jungle, which is teeming with danger. Everyone has a single goal in mind — survival!

The primal culture of the island is very rich and is full of idols, which we brought to life with Totems. Each of those belongs to a team and burns down when the team loses. We wanted to create a virtual trophy as we don’t have a real one, and our CGI-artists came up with the main totem which you could have already seen in our promo.

Which part of the world is this island located in? Where does this survival take place?

The art of directing has a term “getting to know the author”. After choosing a work, you must study the entire life of the author, all his works, and analyze what caused this particular one to be written. Only this way can you find the real idea, understand the conflict inherent to this history and interpret it correctly, on behalf of the author.

I watched dozens of hours of this show while working on the concept, studied different islander cultures and made a conscious decision to attribute this island to the Polynesian archipelago, filling it with references to the Maori culture, since they are “ideal warriors”. In any case, the image is collective and is the eclecticism of many island cultures. Call it that — Polynesian Zealand [laughs].

We have already made summer tournaments in the past: WePlay! Reshuffle Madness and, in some vein, Forge of Masters. In what way is this tournament different from the previous ones?

The fact is that summer is not a topic, as many people think, but only the proposed circumstance. At this time of the year, you can carry out gladiatorial fights, ride dolphins, or plough your garden. The only thing that connects these tournaments is that they’re set during the hot weather. And the real thematic — the reality show — is completely different.

I will emphasize that everything that happens is a parody of sorts, so the tournament itself will have many details that are much more important than just the scorching sun. I assure you, we will travel to summer countries and places many more times, but each time it will be something completely new and fresh, so you will not have a feeling of déjà vu.

Survival is a challenge and a trial only for direct participants, but being online unties our hands. We can give everyone the opportunity to feel the atmosphere of an uninhabited island. Are there any planned interactions with the viewers or our talents? 

Of course! We want to create the effect of presence, so we will absolutely have some interactive segments. But to see what they are you will need to watch the streams, we won’t uncover the secret today. Wish good luck to the participating teams, since surviving on this island is not a trivial task!

Join our live streams, root for your favorite participants, and remember that all the work of a huge amount of people is only aimed to entertain you!


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