Second Skin’s Story (PART 1)

It was the last days of the Apprentice 3. I had met the Donald enough times that I had declined to ride in a limo with him. Which seems silly in retrospect. Either way I knew I didn’t want to do another year of reality shows (even though they are pretty bizarre sometimes).

In the end I was an NYU alumnus with big dreams of directing in the middle of a quarter life crisis trying to figure out what to do with a film degree. I’ll admit that I stared at it once in awhile stuffed in the corner of my closet trying to figure out whether it was two-ply. Most of the time though I was wondering why I hadn’t made those two features that I’d promised myself I would do by the time I was 25.

It was high time to do something. So I started a company with Peter Brauer called Pure West Documentaries in early 2005. He was a hallmate from NYU with a shiny degree of his own. The company we made wasn’t glamorous. We started out by doing industrial films for non-profits and pharmaceuticals. We got a couple of awards and loaded up on film equipment. We weren’t doing too shabbily which is when we decided it we actually wanted to pursue our dreams instead of becoming financially independent. The only problem was we just didn’t know what do do yet.

By day my life was your classic poor filmmaker trying to get by story. By night (in late 2005) I was an aspiring Jedi in Star Wars Galaxies. My brother Victor had just gotten the game from a friend of his. Had I known then what I know now about MMO’s… Everyone is always gifting the game for one another so they can play together. Ben, my brother’s friend, was really far ahead of us in the grand scheme of things. He was already a major contributor to a city, and deeply entrenched in a guild which was like a second family. The more we played the more his double life fascinated me. By day he was a teacher who was about to get married, and by night he was an important guild officer with serious responsibilities. We couldn’t even go on the adventures he went on because we were mere noobs. It didn’t take too long before I stopped. Victor had a little more resilience.

One random night my brother was playing with Ben. I was in my room. It was like two nodes converging. I love filmmaking. I love video games. These MMO’s sure are something aren’t they? Virtual worlds are amazingly similar to our real world. Man, I wish I was making a feature film. Why haven’t I made two already? Dammit! What if we made a documentary about MMORPGs? I ran into Victor’s room to tell him. We had made short films since we were kids, and most recently with a couple other buddies of mine, so it was only natural. He loved the idea.

Peter and I started researching MMO’s, and stopped pursuing industrial videos altogether. Victor, who was a teacher at the time, was pitching in as much as he could. It was simply a process of discovery after that as we began to understand how big these alternate universes really were.

Sometime in March Peter started having trouble working at home. I know it sounds like a dream commute, but being alone all the time is creepy. So we figured a good antidote to the blues, and a great aid to the movie would be if he played World of Warcraft. Peter was excited and tenuous about the whole thing. In another life he was a big fan of the game Diablo II. It had been a big time sink, and he thought Warcraft may be similar. In the meanwhile I made a synopsis about what a movie like this might look like. Looking back now it is somewhat laughable. These were our baby steps into a world we didn’t know, and yet there were many millions inhabiting it already. Peter had found an especially interesting thing called ‘goldfarming’ that fascinated us because it proved virtual economies were real economies. Victor then crafted a nice new treatment which we thought read like absolute gold.

Well (we thought) this is a million dollar idea, and someone is definitely going to pour money into us. Even if this is our first movie – it’s just the best idea ever. There is no possible way people aren’t going to fill our pockets with tons of cash to make this one.


Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza

Juan Carlos directed two acclaimed films: "Know How" a musical written and acted by youth in foster care, and "Second Skin" a documentary on virtual worlds. He is Director of Social Action Impact & Public Affairs at Participant Media, and the Founder of White Roof Project, a nonprofit organization curbing climate change. @jcpe

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