After they discover they were both fantasy geeks as kids, Shane and Cooper decide to spend a night playing Dungeons and Dragons. But they canʼt remember the rules, so they invite a true gamer to help them. When he shows up in a cape, things get awkward very quickly...
We developed the story for The Dungeon Master to explore what is "cool" and what is "geeky" in a world where adults regularly collect action figures and dress up for conventions. Even the most tolerant and open-minded folks seem to have a point where they snap - where they look at a Star Trek fan, or a video gamer, and want to scream, "Can't you just be normal?!"
We were fascinated by the fact that in our culture, we don't judge people if they wear the jersey of their favorite basketball team everyday of the week, or obsess over fantasy football, or paint their faces in their team's colors... but good old fashioned geeks are still fair game to ridicule.
Also, The Dungeon Master is based on a true story. Mostly.
When we were kids, we were both geeks - we played Dungeons and Dragons and all sorts of other things that make you a social outcast as an adult. As teenagers, we discovered how uncool girls thought these activities were, and so we let them fall by the wayside.
We couldn't remember all the rules, and so we invited a friend-of-a-friend to come and help us. When this person came to our big game night, he was - in many ways - a stereotypical, awkward geek. We all got along fine and had an OK time, but the next morning the two of us realized a couple things: 1) that we felt compelled to make fun of this poor guy, and 2) that we were doing so out of of our own insecurity.
We were too cool. Our irony was a self-defense mechanism - and we were letting our insecurities get in the way of having a good time. We were acting like self-loathing snobs who go to a dance, and then stand on the sidelines and make fun of the people dancing. If we were honest with ourselves, we wanted to participate in a geeky activity, but we were still scared of being perceived as geeks. The Dungeon Master was our way to dramatize this tension and weave it into a fun, revenge-of-the-nerds narrative.
Stylistically, we wanted to shoot the short in a way that gave nods to both a hipster, mumblecore sensibility (handheld, improvisational - dripping with irony and sarcasm) and big budget fantasy films (sweeping, rich in color - earnest). We wanted our visual style to cross from one to the other and grow more beautiful as the story pushes our identification away from the judgmental cool kids and towards the brave, lonely geek in a cape.
The Dungeon Master Trailer from The Strong Brothers on Vimeo.