The Voice of the Force: Interview with SWCCG Documentary Directors

“This is about players who have dedicated a large portion of their lives to a community and showing what it means to them.”

This is the purpose of the upcoming documentary “One With The Force: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Star Wars CCG”.  The documentary will unpack the rich history of the game across a number of different dimensions including interviews with former players, Decipher employees, Players Committee representatives, etc.

We’re super excited to be able to chat with the producers/directors/writers and everything else behind “One With the Force.”  Continue on for our interview with Brandon Baity and Brian “Twigg” Terwilliger!

Resources for the post:

Clone 1: Guys, thanks to you the Circle is Now Complete.  The game, based on a movie, will now have a movie based on the game.  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about the documentary.  We have a million questions, but we know you guys are super busy right now.  Tell us where in the world you’re at and what you’re currently working on the doc.

Brandon: Thank you for the interest in this film and the opportunity to discuss it. This is a passion project and we are happy to answer whatever questions we can. Currently, I’m at home in Portland, Oregon. I just got back from Atlanta, GA where the US Nationals tournament took place. In a couple weeks I will be heading to Bochum, Germany to attend the European Championships and then it is off to the World Championships in Morristown, NJ. Multiple interviews will be conducted at both events.

Brian: Thanks for having us! I am based in Fairfield, CT and will be joining up with Brandon in New Jersey for the World Championships this October. Currently, and always, working on the overall (and expanding) narrative of the doc. Every time Brandon sits down with a player/luminary from the SWCCG community it unlocks an ocean of thoughts and emotions from others just like them…we are seeing quite the domino effect.

Clone 1: Excellent to hear and no surprise that the SWCCG community is being supportive!  Just to get this out up front, tell us when we can hope to see the documentary and how we should gain access.

Brandon: I would love to tell you when it will be done, but we are in the heart of doing interviews so it would be difficult to set some sort of date. In my mind, the best case scenario is May 2019, but that is probably unrealistic considering the way films go. The goal is to have an actual premiere at a theater in Portland and eventually have it released on Netflix or other streaming services. Other than that the best way to get a copy is to donate at least $15 to the GoFundMe campaign.

Brian: Brandon is in charge… so I would listen to him. And YES, everyone reading this should donate to the campaign to allow us to keep on working on this passion project!!

Clone 1: Calendar marked – either a Portland trip or SWCCG watch party will be on the docket for 2019! As of today you’re 70% towards your fundraising goal; hopefully this post will be helpful to achieving the last 30%!  Let’s shift gears to you guys.  How did you first get into the game and why did the game resonate with you?

Brandon: I grew up in Florida as a huge Star Wars (and Star Trek) fan in the 80s/90s. Like many other SWCCG players, I watched the movies a countless number of times. I remember my friend, Tyler, showing me the cards in 6th or 7th Grade. I was so excited that Decipher had created cool looking cards for both Star Wars and Star Trek and immediately had to start buying them. After the initial purchases, it sunk in that this “kids” Star Wars game was really complicated, and as someone who loves Chess, it all just felt made for me.

Brian: My dad bought my brother (Chris) and I our first packs of card in 1997. We kinda liked the movies but really fell in love with the mechanics of the game and then, like all of you, couldn’t get enough. Things shifted into overdrive once we found a solid competitive scene. We were in the midst of moving to the Albany NY region. We randomly stumbled upon a shop in a dingy mall and met a guy name Johnny Chu (he traded me an IG-2000 for my Avenger; lol). He told us about a group of players who had events weekly. A few months later we moved to the Capital Region and joined the likes of Matt Sokol, Aaron Kingery and Mike D’amboise… “Team Albany” was born.

Clone 1: And Brian, you had a lot of early success in competitive play.  World Team Champion in 2000, 2x New York State Champion, Boston Grand Slam Champion.  Tell us about those days – what decks were you running, how did you come up with them, and what drove you competitive success?

Brian: Even though 2014 Worlds runner up is my “best” solo achievement, the 2000 team title will always be my favorite.  Long before there were regular “factions” of players in the game, the 2000 DecipherCon was a changing of the guard. A shift in player power to a much younger group (as proof by the subsequent world championships that followed).

I am quite fond of those days. As a 16/17 year old, my room was never not scattered with thousands of cards.  Every night was spent play testing until 4am with my brother Chris. In addition, we had weekly “local” tournaments with national level competition against Johnny Chu, my brother Chris, Matt Sokol, Aaron Kingery…at one time we had 5 of the top 20 world ranked players in our local store.

As far as decks, “Albany” Yavin 4 mains and Hunt Down were staples that Albany/Coruscant really helped solidify and popularize within the meta. I usually liked turning the decks on their sides so to speak and throw in surprises. For example my Boston Grand Slam light deco was Y4 mains…with a handful of high Destiny droids and inserts. Definitely caught players off guard. And I would be remiss to not mention Scum And Villainy/alien combo decks. Anything off the beaten path…that was my personal bread and butter.

Clone 1: Wow that is nuts.  Playing weekly against 5 of the top 20 world ranked players is obviously a great way to keep your skills sharp.  So obviously you’re both lifelong fans of the game.  Was there a time that you left the game (like almost everyone did) and what brought you back?

Brandon: With SWCCG, you can never really leave because the Force is always with you. Haha, is that too corny?

Clone 1: Haha right on.  The game is always around us.

Brandon: In all seriousness, after Decipher lost the license, I slowly stopped playing the game by 2003. This was also around the time I went to film school.  I would occasionally keep an eye on what the PC was doing over the years as a lurker, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I came back to truly wanting to play.  When I moved to Portland, I had to clean out my storage unit and I found a bunch of my SWCCG cards.  That got me wondering what the status of the game was. I checked the forums at starwarsccg.org and saw that this major reset had taken place. It was a perfect time to reconnect with a lost love.

Brian: Like Brandon 2002 was rough for me.  I remember waking up in my college dorm to see the headline the game was dead. After throwing my cards across the room as there was much anger in me, I slowly faded away, only to come back a year or two later thanks to the never ending connection with my brother and the rest of Team Albany.

Clone 1: Okay and now the obvious question, what was the inspiration for the documentary.  So you get back into the game, see all these passionate fans and realize that the game never left…but what caused the light bulb to go off that ‘this is a documentary that should be made?’

Brandon:  I suppose if I break it down to a light bulb moment, it probably came in May of 2016. I had decided to play in my first SWCCG tournament in many, many years.  I went to Seattle and participated in the Endor Grand Prix that year.  While I was there I had a game against Matt Sokol (2000 SWCCG World Champion) and I remarked to him about how I had met him 16 years ago at the 2000 World Championships in Florida when I was just 17.  This second meeting felt very cyclical and after thinking about it I wanted to dive deeper into the community, stories, and history of the game.  Having a film background, it was only natural for me to decide to combine these concepts into a sort of love letter to the SWCCG.

Brian:  I tried making this documentary roughly 11 years ago. For a number of reasons my efforts kept getting snagged (resources, participation from others). Ultimately I decided it was more than any 1 person could do and it fell on my mental back burner for years… that is until Brandon posted his footage from the Endor Grand Prix and we connected on the message boards. Brandon was kind enough to let me support him on the project.

Clone 1: So the documentary is over a decade in the making!  It’s great timing now as the game and community appears to be seeing a resurgence.  Tell us some more about the documentary.  I know you can’t disclose too much as we need the suspense to build, but what should we expect to learn about?

Brandon:  As was mentioned, the primary story is about the people who have been involved with this game, whether that is players, Decipher employees, or volunteers of the Players Committee. We think people will be excited to learn about what went on behind the scenes during the Decipher era and the struggles to keep the game going during the PC (Players Committee) era.

Brian: The great thing about this documentary, as Brandon mentioned, is it will cover everything! From your favorite players, unearthed moments from DecipherCon, to hearing about the decisions made behind closed doors in Virginia.

Clone 1: So how has the story evolved as you’ve gotten deeper into the history, players, etc.?

Brandon: As each new interview has been conducted it feels like another puzzle piece has fallen into place. While one person might have a unique recollection of a specific event, another person has a different perspective to add context to that same event. This shapes the way I approach the next interview because then I am able to ask a new set of questions.

Brian: Everyone has a story. And our focus on the SWCCG community is no different. The reason it has been going strong for so long is the fact that the community is far greater (and powerful) than the sum of its parts.

Clone 1: So the story has evolved far beyond your initial expectations.  I’m sure this project hasn’t been a cakewalk though – have you had any setbacks?  Any issues that you didn’t expect?

Brandon:  No, it hasn’t been a cakewalk.  Having the right equipment for a portable travel setup has been difficult at times, but I think I’ve got the proper gear checklist down now.  Other than that, it has been fairly easy to accomplish most of the early goals in terms of interviews.  The incredible donations we’ve received so far have been a key to that success. The biggest issue going forward will be editing.  I love editing, but I’m kind of dreading next year’s post-production phase knowing we have over 30 hours of footage so far, haha.

Brian:  Brandon is right… the editing/post-production of this film is going to be a monumental burden all onto itself. However, that is also my favorite part of the process. Brandon has already been leaking some teaser clips to the internet and we can pretty much guarantee we will have no shortage of footage.

Clone 1 [Follow on Facebook for some of this leaked footage]:  Wow, 30 hours of footage…the community has been supportive!  Enough about setbacks.  What has been the highlight of film?  I know you’re just halfway through, but what has surprised you in a great way?

Brandon:  One of the major highlights of this whole project was when we received a whole box of old tapes from Derek “Gold 46” Brooks. It was shocking that someone had saved all of this old footage from the Decipher days and was willing to share it with us for the film.  It is a real treasure trove for sure.  Another thing that has been a big surprise is how willing everyone has been to cooperate and be a part of the film.  I guess I should have expected that with how this community is, but it is still a great feeling to see that desire to help.

Brian: Derek is the MAN! That footage is crazy. It even contains tournament footage of Brandon and I competing in the World Championships sitting just a few seats from one another!

Clone 1:  This footage will be excellent for the newbs like me who weren’t competing at the national level back in the day.  I’ll be looking to see if I can recognize you guys as teenagers when the doc comes out!  What about something you didn’t expect that changed your view on the game?  Any enlightening discussions?

Brandon: I think the discussion with Scott Gaeta (former Senior VP of Decipher and founder of Renegade Game Studios) was quite eye opening.  Honestly, I did not know Scott’s name or role at Decipher until about a few days prior to interviewing him.  The opportunity to sit down with him came out of the blue and coincided perfectly with other interviews that were already planned.  I don’t think we knew too much about the inner workings of Decipher going into this project, but to hear someone give details about the people, logistics, projects, and goals that made up who Decipher was proved very informative.  Many revelations came out during that meeting and I left with a new perspective on Decipher and the SWCCG.

Brian: Hearing about the secret sauce back at Decipher, especially how the game was initially created and how it evolved. You won’t believe how such basic things like battles and force drain started out…

Clone 1: This kind of behind the scenes access is fascinating.  Alright, the suspense is building for sure.  I know you guys are crazy busy with World’s approaching.  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and we’re looking forward to the release!  I encourage everyone to get to the Go Fund Me site to donate and make sure they secure a copy.  Let’s make sure to catch up again when you guys are back from World’s!

Brandon: For sure! We’d be happy to update you as the film comes along. Thanks again for the chance to talk about this project. We hope the final product lives up to everyone’s expectations and is a great representation of this incredible community.

Brian: May The Force Be With you!