Not All Fun and Games in the NEW VIDEOGAME DOCUMENTARY

TOM GARLAND shares all about his latest DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

After watching the brand new screener for Arcade Gamer, which follows Jordan Dorrington, one of the best arcade video game players in the world. He holds multiple world records in the classic arcade game, Galaga (1981). Now eager to conquer Donkey Kong (1981), the film follows as he pursues his obscure obsession. I still had so many questions rolling around in my noggin so, honestly having been a fan of Tom for years I decided I’d reach out to him. He and I met through a mutual friend, WWE Hall of Fame’er and current AEW star wrestler Rob Van Dam. Not enough people know but he’s been doing standup comedy over a decade and Tom was his opening act as covered in the documentary Headstrong. That was a Joe Clarke film so it was fun to see what chops Tom has on his own. Turns out he’s ready to kick some ass. Telling you all to go see it just isn’t good enough. Let’s hear more in depth from the man himself! I called the film’s director, Tom Garland. I’m thrilled for my readers to get to know Tom a bit. He’s usually working hard on something new, and Tom always has great perspective on the business side of entertainment which is what I always try to stress: Its called SHOW BUSINESS for a reason.

TIM CHIZMAR: Now Tom, I know you, mostly from the stand-up comedy world. I know you’ve been in films in the past as an actor, but this whole project seems a little out of character for you. Before we get into the interview, can you please introduce yourself to the readers in case they aren’t familiar with you.

TOM GARLAND: Yeah, of course. Thank you for doing this, Tim. I’m Tom Garland. I’m certainly not well known, but as you mentioned, if someone does know me, they probably know about my time spent in the stand-up comedy world. I started doing stand-up in 2010 and I’m still performing every week, 13 years later. I’m a real firm believer that stand-up creates the building blocks of a good entertainer. It helps you flush out ideas, workshop your thought process in real-time and offers immediate feedback. Stand-up has always been the focus for me, but I do like to get out of my comfort zone and certainly did with this project.

TC: When the credits roll at the end of the movie, it is basically just your name over and over. I’d say that’s way out of most people’s comfort zone. Most films have a whole crew, and it seems like you basically did most of this yourself? Do you have any previous background in filmmaking?

TG: Yeah, I can talk about that. No, is the quick answer. The long story is that I studied broadcast journalism in college before I started pursuing stand-up full-time. I had an internship with a local TV news station where I’m from in Iowa and worked a lot at the University’s student news TV program. I learned to use a lot of film equipment that way. I also learned there’s a lot of equity in being a “one-man-band” when it comes to projects like this. When I later moved to Las Vegas, where you and I met…

TC: Back when we were lovers…

(Tom laughs)

TG: if I may continue… So in Vegas I went back to that world as a side hustle. I was doing a lot of in-house film production gigs for the NHL, WNBA, and live concerts. I worked that around my comedy gigs there and it really got me excited again about film stuff. When I started this project, I had moved back to Iowa due to the pandemic. There’s not a lot going on in Iowa for entertainment opportunities, so I’ve always known that I must create stuff for myself here. The idea of doing a film project about Jordan started floating around between us while we were on his brother DJ’s bachelor party together. I’ve been friends with their family for years, went to high school with them, did a lot of entertainment projects with DJ, so as Jordan and I were kind of hammering out ideas, I knew this was something I could at the very least do in my free time on the side and if it blew up in my face, they wouldn’t be too upset about it. I wanted to be as budget conscious as possible, so I just took on all the filming and editing myself. Jordan was able to talk other arcade professionals into getting involved, like Mat McGill and Noah Banwarth, and they all helped introduce me to that world. Then, I was able to talk my friend Don Tjernagel into coming on as an Executive Producer. Don has a ton of films out and was a touring stand-up comic for many years, that’s how we know each other, so he was a great resource to help get this thing out to the public and carry the ball to the finish line.

TC: This documentary, Arcade Gamer, is unique. It seems almost like a secret world of guys that still hang out in arcades and seek out chasing these high scores. Are you really into video games?

TG: Not really, I play some video games, but no more than most people. I just thought it was an interesting topic to really sink my teeth into. I think the real humor and interesting stuff in this film comes from more than just the video games and pursuit of those high scores. The travel, their personal relationships, and the location all kind of feed into that. I think it’s super crazy that all this stuff takes place in a lot of small towns. You’d think a story like this needs to take place in Tokyo, but instead we’re in Iowa and Arkansas for the whole movie. That is still crazy to me.

TC: What was your biggest production challenge?

TG: Well, arcades are loud and hard to move around in. They have lots of tight spaces and sometimes have kids running around all over the place. It was difficult to get shots and sounds that I was happy with at times. However, being in those arcades kind of becomes the production value of this movie, so those environments were a blessing too.

TC: Is this a one-off project for you or do you plan to work on more film stuff soon?

TG: Don Tjernagel, who I mentioned before, is a great indie filmmaker. I’m helping him produce a project right now that he wrote and is directing. The film is called, “Huskies,” and it is a PG-Rated basketball movie. That should be out in 2024 and we’re having a lot of fun with it. I think the cast list for that is almost 100 people, which you know, is big for any indie film. We have some other stuff in the works together too that I can’t talk about just yet, but I’m excited for the future.

TC: Hey man, thanx for the chat and know this, in a world of scumbag filmmakers (of which there’s lots of ’em) you’re one of the good guys! I’ll always be in your corner and my readers should support you too. Nerds Unite!

“Arcade Gamer: The True Story” is currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime. The film also
makes its regional TV debut across Iowa markets on November 19th at 5 pm on KFXA FOX TV.


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