Hard-core gamers do not have a great reputation in mainstream society, but in an upcoming movie they manage to build a utopia in the wilderness.
Unicorn City, a comedy movie directed by Bryan Lefler, comes out in Utah theaters on Feb. 24. More than 20 BYU film major students participated in the production, which was primarily done in Alpine. The movie is about a man named Voss, who wants to convince a game company to hire him by building an ideal community with his gaming guild in the middle of nowhere.
“We wrote the script for many years,” said Lefler, explaining the movie took a lot of effort and preparation. “We reworked it, reworked it, reworked it. Probably 100 times.”
Lefler said the participation of the BYU students not only helped lower the movie budget and but also provided real-world experiences and opportunities to the students. They were involved in sets, grips, lighting, camera, sound, hair and make-up, all parts of the production, according to Lefler.
Sophia Borich, a BYU junior majoring in film, was one of the students who worked on the production. Borich assisted costume designers and fitted costumes. She said it was a special experience to work with actors and professionals from different places like Los Angeles. She said the movie title might fool people, but the film is full of laughs, there is meaning in it and it is interactive with the audience.
“It was such a joy to be on set and laugh on set,” Borich said. “And the chemistry and the liveliness that the actors put into their characters, it was so amazing to see that on set and to see it get translated on screen, and a lot of it has to do with the director and all the work that people put in to make this film happen.”
Chris Nielsen, a BYU senior graduating in film this April who did grips for the movie, said he and crews worked about 12 hours a day, six days a week, which is typical for a filmmaker on set. Nielsen did grips for the film, which has to do with moving and manipulating the lighting for the directors and camera crews.
“One of the greatest things was the crews,” Nielsen said. “They were fun to work with. Even though we got a lot done and it was stressful at times, the crews were always easy to get along with. It was invaluable, especially because I was [mentored by] two professionals that I worked directly under and because I’ve gotten so much work that I’ve been able to get paid for.”
Unicorn City has obvious comedy and well-timed subtle humor, appealing to both young and adult viewers, said Courtney Russell, producer of Unicorn City and an adjunct faculty at BYU in charge of recruiting students to the production.
“It is charming, silly, poignant and kind, both acknowledging the humor that can be found in quirky and unusual people and situations, but never making fun of either,” Russell said. “It is generous and careful, making it all the more wonderful. It’s a film everyone can enjoy.”