Experienced digital marketer, Susana Grilo joined Outland in 2014 as our Director of Marketing. She has been involved in a variety of really cool companies, such as Cartoon Saloon and Noble Beast, both of which have produced award winning material. She is also a talented project manager, film producer, and screenwriter. Like everybody at Outland, she wears many different hats, and we’re very lucky to have somebody of her experience working with us!
You’ve worked in production, marketing, and writing across a number of storytelling mediums. What got you interested in storytelling?
I guess I’ve been exposed to it since a very young age. First it was my Grandmother telling me all sorts of stories she invented on the spot. We then started reading to each other and that made me quite the story addict. Then I would reenact the favorite bits of the latest book or film with Playmobile. And when the plastic smiles wouldn’t do it for me anymore I started writing stories down: from fanfiction to original short stories.
Can you remember one of the first stories you wrote?
I believe it was a (supposedly) scary story for a Halloween party. I don’t think it was even two paragraphs long.
Your education is in cinema and audiovisual production. What made you choose film as a medium?
I’d loved TV and film for a long time, but here in Portugal it’s not something that is presented to you as a career choice. However I was lucky enough to run into a course brochure, in one of those work fairs, that was exactly that: Sound and Image. I still remember realizing in awe that “this is a profession. There are people who do this for a living.” Since then, being part of this world has been my focus.
You have worked on several projects as a producer. For those outside the theatre/film industry the duties of a producer can seem nebulous. Can you talk a little about what the duties of a producer entail?
What a producer does is always kind of a mystery. They say you’re supposed to be a kind of parent, a friend, and a boss. What you really do is take care of everything logistical and think about what anyone might come to need. Schedule and prepare your budget in detail.
When the time comes, you’ll be grateful that you had a plan that you could stick to, even if you (so many times) find yourself walking on the opposite direction. If you’re prepared, you can handle all those curve balls that always (yes, always!) come hurtling at you.
Do you prefer working as screenwriter or in production?
Production is a more active job: you’re out there, you have to solve problems quickly, deal with the demands and needs of a lot of people. Screenwriting is more quite: you can choose the pace you want to work at – unless the story gains life and propels you at full speed (which is also great).
I would have to say that producing something you’ve written is the most fulfilling of the options. You get the best (and worst, don’t get me wrong) of both worlds and a unique rush of adrenaline, because it’s your idea, it’s your story that is closest to become something tangible.
What film project in your career are you the most proud of?
I would have to say the short film “Entropia”. It was the final project of my MA, the team we assembled was working exactly on the roles they liked and on a sci-fi time traveling story—a genre we all loved. It still feels like a student film, but having it screened across more than 6 countries, in different capitals all over the world really makes me proud.
What projects outside of film are you most proud of?
I’d have to say promoting the Delicious the Event. I put it together by myself. There was a screening of the film “Delicious” directed by Tammy Riley-Smith, starring Louise Brealey (‘Sherlock’) and Nico Rogner (‘Séraphine’), followed by a Q&A with the director, the protagonist and the composer of the film score, Michael Price (‘Sherlock’ [BBC], ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Love Actually’). It finished with an instrumental concert by Michael Price, accompanied by cellist Peter Gregson.
It was really fun (yet stressful!) to make everything from scratch: from contacting managers to film producers, getting the right venue, and making sure everyone felt comfortable. But getting it all done, seeing how positively the audience reacted made it all worth it.
You also work in media marketing. How did that start?
I did an internship at the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, having the pleasure of working on the recently Oscar nominated feature film “Song of The Sea” – their second Academy nomination following “The Secret of Kells”. I worked on several departments during my time there and one of my jobs was revitalizing the social media pages. There were hundreds of fans waiting for updates and just talking about the film, but they didn’t have a proper outlet. So I started focusing on that and I’m pleased to see that the work I began 3 years ago is not only active, but prospering.
I really enjoyed switching places between being a fan and working for a company, trying to find out what each of these sides want and what are the best ways to deliver that. Since then I got the social media bug and continue to work with theatre companies, award winning publishers (Noble Beast), and now here at Outland Entertainment.
You have been involved in most, if not all of the steps in the creative process. What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in taking a concept and delivering it to an audience?
I believe it depends on the project at hand. However, I think that the financial aspects of it have become an integral part of the actual creative process. Most of the time what I’ve found is that – in spite of all the new resourceful ways to be funded – getting your budget is the most difficult part. If this takes too long or becomes too overwhelming. It can suck out the fun of any project, no matter how much you love it.
Do you have a favorite screenwriter or director? What draws you to that person’s work?
David S. Goyer has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. I’m addicted to all things that deal with time travel or the many-worlds theory, so his series “Flash Forward” was one that I really enjoyed.
Steven Moffat is another one for the high ranks. “Jekyll” and “Sherlock”, not to mention his early days in “Doctor Who” have been a great inspiration. There’s an episode in “Jekyll” that’s brilliantly structured. It meddles with all your screenwriting preconceptions. When you think you got it, he throws you another clue and you find yourself craving for answers: he completely plays with the audience’s minds.
Their writing, themes, and the entangled way in which they deliver their stories is what makes these works stand out.
It kind of comes and goes, but there are those films that stick with you like “The fountain” by Darren Aronofsky and “Jump” by Kieron J. Walsh.
And definitely “Before Sunrise” by Richard Linklater. The easiness of the flowing dialogue, allied to the simplicity and current relevancy of what is discussed turn what could be easily seen as a romantic “talkie” into an essay about love, youth, and life in general.
The whole rise of superheroes movies has its pros & cons, but I do enjoy a good blockbuster such as “The Avengers” by Joss Whedon.
Oh! And I may or may not know the lines from the 1st Pirates of the Caribbean by heart…and watched Nolan’s “Inception” a tad too many times… So you might say I’d recommend them.
The animation short film “Thought of You” by Ryan Woodward: it has beautiful fluid movements that resemble Glen Keane’s latest short “The Duet”.
What about the future? What projects are you looking towards in the future.
I have some projects lined up, but right now, apart from all the exciting announcements here at Outland Entertainment, I’m really interested in giving shape to a personal cross media project: “Next Stop”. It’s a fantasy world that provides an entertaining non-religious view on reincarnation.
Press Release: Outland Entertainment Introduces Creatures of the Outlands Blog Series
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUMMARY: Outland Entertainment LLC introduces bi-monthly blog posts of creature-centric material for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
TOPEKA, KS, NOVEMBER 15, 2015 — Outland Entertainment LLC, a digital publisher, producer and purveyor of fine artwork and fiction, is pleased to announce Creatures of the Outlands, a bimonthly website series of creature-centric material for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
This bimonthly series, available through the Outland Entertainment’s blog, opens featuring design work from RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 finisher, Christopher Wasko; and, Here be Monsters design contest winner, Nicholas Wasko.
Each entry in the Creatures of the Outlands series features a complete creature, with artwork, for use at your gaming table. For more information visit outlandentertainment.com/blog.
William Ward has a passion for storytelling, be it short story or comic strips. He is also an award-winning photographer and RGP developer. Let’s find out a little bit more!
William, it’s no secret you started out as an avid (and talented!) Dungeon Master. Would you say that D&D played a big part in your passion for storytelling?
The similarities between modern tabletop role-playing games and traditional oral narratives are, in my view, an exceedingly fascinating topic. Before the rise of the novel telling stories was a community driven process. It was interactive. The reason that a single folktale has dozens of variations is because of storytellers that altered their tales based in there audience. I think that tabletop role-playing games fall into this tradition of interactive storytelling. Seeing my audience at the game table was certainly rewarding – an experience that made me want to tell more stories.
What do you enjoy most in roleplaying games?
I’ve always enjoyed the creativity involved in the planning and running of the game sessions. As a player you have the opportunity to creatively solve problems within the game. As a game master you have the challenge of creating scenarios that will be well received.
How often do you GM nowadays?
I’m not able to play as often as I would like. I typically run Pathfinder once every other month. Our schedules make it difficult to get together more often, but in addition to those sessions in person they also roleplay on message boards between games.
How about working in RPG? What is the most rewarding part?
The things that I find most enjoyable about creation process overlap a lot with what I enjoy about playing. The process of creating a RPG is interactive. While you can create a role-playing game solo, it’s most often a group process. Game designers, writers, artists, designers – it’s a process that can create a lot of back-and-forth. I think it’s the same reason that I enjoy the collaborative process of comic books.
Speaking of writing comic scripts. When did comics enter your life?
When I was in elementary school and junior high school I’ve read a lot of superhero comics. I enjoy them, but at a certain point they no longer held my interest and stopped reading. I was fortunate enough to have my interest rekindled during my freshman year at college. A professor included Maus in one of my classes and it made me give comics a second look.
With a little research I discovered that the reason I lost interest in comics was that I was not reading the right comics. I began to read through all of the comics my childhood grosser didn’t carry: Sandman, Hellraiser, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, The Incal, and dozens of others.
Photography is another one of your passions. Is this something you consider a hobby, or more of a parallel professional activity?
Photography has somewhat come full circle for me – hobby, parallel profession, and back to hobby. While I’ve always enjoyed photography it became a serious hobby for me after taking a class in college. Taking what I learned from the class I entered the Main State Fair photography contest. Since (like most artist) I am critical of my own work, it was a surprise when I won best in show (B&W) and ribbons in half the categories where I submitted photos.
That gave me the confidence to pursue photography as a parallel career. Since then I’ve worked on-an-off as a portrait photographer for outside companies and independently. My real passion is for landscape photography though, and that is where I concentrate my time currently (as a hobby).
Who do you consider to be the most influential writers?
Ursula K. Le Guin as a writer that has had the most influence on me. A Wizard of Earthsea was my first favorite novel. I still keep a extra “giveaway” copy at all times that I gift to others who show interest in the fantasy genre.
Any novel or comic book recommendations?
There are so many lists out there that I always find it difficult to make recommendations. I’ll try to keep my suggestions somewhat obscure rather than repeating the same books that are on every other list. I’d recommend In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente and Little, Big by John Crowley for novels. For graphic novels I would recommend Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa.
How about the future? What projects can we expect?
Currently I’m working on a graphic novel retelling of a Shakespeare play based on an academic exercise that I was introduced to in college. I’m also working on several tabletop roleplaying supplements that use the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules.
Thanks William for telling us a little bit of your own story.
Working as a freelance writer often comes with its fair share of peculiar situations. While interviewing for an ongoing contract to write obituaries, I once provided a sample based on a fictional client that I’m fairly confident was MacGyver. Then there was an ill advised dip into the murky waters of the content mills. The story I want to tell today is my personal favorite.
Over the past two years I’ve backed a significant number of Kickstarters, most of them related to tabletop role-playing games. Despite a less than stellar track record for tabletop RPG related Kickstarters, most of these projects were able to deliver on their promises. In April, I came upon a Kickstarter from Conflict Games for Combat Description Cards for Storytellers and GMs. Here is a short excerpt on the product –
“You hit for 17 damage.”
What will he say next time?
“You hit for 16 damage.”
The rest of the game is so imaginative, so immersed in the world; let’s not let combat be the one thing that breaks the flow. Instead, we propose enhancing your combat narrative with this easy-to-use descriptive card deck.
Is your player using a blunt weapon? Imagine pulling the Blunt card and simply selecting one of the actions description listed right there on the card. Read it aloud, filling in the specifics as you need. And suddenly, you’re breathing life and excitement into your combat (just as you’re taking it away from someone in the form of HP).
Then, if the damage dealt by the player is going to finish the enemy off, there are Death descriptions for that as well, conveniently marked off by a skull-icon. Read off the Death description and give your player a thrilling and vivid description of their combat triumph!
Having a strong affinity for narrative intensive game sessions, this project immediately caught my attention. Wanting to support the project, I signed on as a backer. Then its funding took off, earning $50,000 with an original goal of $5000. Two weeks later I sent the resume to Mark M. Scott in response to an game related job listing. Not realizing at the time that Mark was the owner of Conflict Games and the job was writing stretch-goals Combat Description Cards. I’ve started calling it “That time I was hired to write for a product that I had already purchased.”
For more on Combat Description Cards visit http://www.conflictrpg.com/
Tabletop roleplaying games face a multitude of barriers in any attempt to be taken seriously as an art form. The first of these barriers is reaching an audience wide enough that critics outside of the tabletop RPG community will argue their status. What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art discussed several approaches to expanding the medium to reach a larger audience. Here are four tabletop RPGs that have expanded the medium
Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game
Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game is set in the fictional worlds of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Mechanics for the Amber DRPGs conflict resolution involves comparing four attributes –Safety, Strength, Endurance, Warfare–the highest attribute wins. Removing the randomness of dice rolls increased the level or roleplaying in the system, shifting focus away from conflict and towards what leads to those conflicts.
Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game
Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game was written by Greg Stafford as a game for novice players. Based upon the Prince Valiant comics and published in 1989 by Chaosium, its simple rules and art design also made it a game that was accessible to younger players. Significantly focused on the narrative aspects of roleplaying, Prince Valiant used only two attributes and a selection of skills that ranged from agilty to alchemy.. Differentiating itself from other narrative games Prince Valiant utilized these attributes and skills for both simple and complex resolution rules.
Dogs in the Vineyard
Dogs in the Vineyard is a narrative RPG that utilizes game mechanics to explore characters beliefs and desires when faced with questions of morality. Written by D Vincent Baker, the award-winning RPG places characters in an imagined frontier setting based (loosely) on the early years the LDS Church in the west. Mechanics for town creation helped create moral frameworks for characters to interact with, inserting a morality into the game that set the system apart.
Dread is a horror RPG that uses a simple mechanic that, when one considers the game’s theme, is exceedingly elegant. Winner of the 2006 Ennie Award for Innovation it is sometimes referred to as “the Jenga RPG.” Dread requires players to pull blocks from a Jenga tower as a form of action resolution. Mirroring the progression of horror films, the fear of players increases as the game progresses, eventially leading to the characters deaths.
These series of posts will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. The first article in the series can be found here: Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect” The second article in this series can be found here: What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art.
There is an immense community of video game designers that, over the last 10 years, have worked towards furthering video games as an artistic medium. While some of this progress relates directly to the rise of the video game industry, this progress is also the result of artists and designers making a conscious choice to consider video games as an artistic medium.
Despite the relative age of the medium, these efforts have made the argument of video games as art a serious academic discussion. Museums across the United States now consider the value of video game exhibits. Even Roger Ebert has taken up the discussion, lending credence to the debate despite his own conclusion that art cannot be won. While there is significant overlap between the design factors involved in video games and tabletop roleplaying games, efforts to further tabletop roleplaying games as a medium are virtually nonexistent.
How have video game designers made progress furthering videogames as an artistic medium? Here are 2 approaches that may serve as a guidepost for the future of tabletop roleplaying games as a medium.
Tell Different Stories
Designers of video games who want to reach a wider audience have made significant gains by following in the footsteps of comic book creators. In the same way that graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis have transcended the idea that comics and the superhero genre are the same (comic books are not a genre), releasing video games outside of typical genres like Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Phoenix Wright, and Dance, Dance, Revolution has increased the breadth of the video game audience.
Experiment with the Medium
While hardware limitations have always served as a catalyst for creativity in video game design, it has rarely served as the source for major innovation. Instead it has been the role of indie game studios, often on limited budgets, to create innovative game structures. Major studios may occasionally break new ground, as Lucas Arts did with its noir-comedy Grim Fandango, but for each example of innovation from a major studio, there are a dozen indie examples. Developers, thatgamecompany, are perhaps the most well-known, having released the highly experimental Flower and Journey.
Tabletop roleplaying games are a medium that has a significant amount in common with video games. Yet the community of video game designers working to further their medium has no equivalent in tabletop roleplaying games. This isn’t to say that there are none, only that those treating tabletop RPG design as an artform are limited.
These series of posts will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. The first article in the series can be found here: Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect” Our next instalment will take at tabletop roleplaying games that blur lines between simple game and artwork.
The first time that I sat in my friend’s basement–polyhedron in hand–I understood that Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t an activity that one advertises. The intense focus on D&D as “satanic training” from the 1980s wasn’t the issue (this was 1991). Mazes and Monsters was simply another brilliant comedic performance by Tom Hanks. While the 12-year-old me couldn’t pinpoint the issue, looking back, I think it was as simple as my subconscious realizing D&D was considered mindless entertainment. Something that “rots your brain,” like comic books or video games.
What constitutes mindless entertainment has changed a lot in 20 years. An entire generation of video game addicts have grown up–brains intact– had kids, and continue to be “gamers” while functioning as productive members of society. Family nights at the Symphony that once consisted of Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores, now include orchestral interpretations of Zelda and Mario. Even the Smithsonian American Art Museum has opened an exhibition that celebrates 40 years of games. While never reaching the commercial heights of video games, it can be argued that comic books have been more successful in claiming the title of art. Gene Luen Yang, author of the graphic novel American Born Chinese, was a finalist for the national book awards in the Young’s People’s Literature category in 2006. An achievement that follows in the footsteps of the special Pulitzer Prize awarded to Art Spiegelman for his book Maus.
Gaining acceptance as an art form is a monumental task. Early novels were seen as the frivolous pastime of aristocratic women. Fantasy novels were labeled as children’s books for decades, despite their intended audiences, and even today’s writers of the fantastic often feel the need to relabel their work as speculative fiction. It seems most mediums and genres are subject to this artistic rite of passage, forcing me to wonder why some forms succeed while others fail.
These series of posts, in the vein of Susana Grilo’s exploration of speculative fiction, will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, why don’t roleplaying games “get no respect?”