Craig Bass almost lost his lead.
“I was driving by the arcade and I saw this huge array of skypanels out front with semi-trucks down the side streets, crew everywhere,” he recounts. “I was like, what the heck?”
After more investigation, Craig found out that a production was shooting a scene for Shining Girls, an Apple TV show. He felt relieved.
“I was always going to be doing something with the arcade - this is my neighborhood,” he laughs. “That (moment) jostled free this idea that had been locked in the recesses of my mind for so long.”
Director Craig Bass (center) watches the frame while on set of the documentary | Kyle Bice
As it usually does with Craig, it all started with a Christmas party.
“I struck up a conversation with a woman named Megan,” he reminisces, “and somehow we got on the topic of her having been in a video game right after high school - for her, this would have been like 12-15 years ago.”
Craig learned that Megan was a part of a video game similar to the old Mortal Kombat game, where they filmed scenes with real actors - and it all took place in Brookfield, IL. She then went on to remember Doc Mack, the mastermind behind the operation.
“He has a very unique look,” Craig notes, “with the long black hair, black fingerless gloves, and black jacket with the big ghost logo on the back.”
So, after a close call with another production potentially documenting Doc’s story, Craig decided to contact the man himself.
Galloping Ghost arcade owner Doc Mack (center) is the main subject of the documentary | Kyle Bice
“I wanted to hear more about the game and see if there's a story there. He (Doc) invited me to his office,” Craig relates, “and for somebody who I anticipated being arrogant and bizarre, he's actually a super generous, articulate, really cool person. When I heard the story, it clicked.”
Doc Mack, currently 45, has been working on the same video game since he was sixteen years old. In the meantime, he also started his own arcade in 2010 called Galloping Ghost Arcade - the largest arcade in the world with over 885 games.
Yet, on his journey to create his video game, Doc has run into many roadblocks. From technical issues such as needing to create software to actually build the game, to realizing that the footage looked outdated and needing to re-shoot, Craig’s new documentary Ghostlord and the Quest for Dark Presence goes deep into Doc’s journey in creating his dream game.
“Doc’s endless quest (of creating a game) is super interesting to me,” says Craig, “the passion, the dedication, the perhaps psychosis that goes into all of it.”
DPDavid Gall (center) operating an Easy Rig setup during production | Kyle Bice
On a similar note, Craig has also faced his own share of struggles with creating the documentary. One major obstacle has been funding.
“The biggest challenge (for me) is the biggest for every filmmaker, which is funding,” Craig relates. “It’s been self-funded, but I’m a man of modest means.”
However, another issue that Craig encounters isn’t financial - it’s about capturing the actual story. Not only did Craig encounter issues with the subjects’ memories, but it was also hard for him to record events that unfolded in real time.
“The way in which Doc and his world functions is that there's a thousand plates spinning at all times and things just kind of happen and things come together,” Craig explains. “So, some of the verite aspects when you want to capture have already happened.”
Anya Kalfus working as a camera operator on set | Kyle Bice
Although Craig’s using traditional visual elements, such as B-Roll and photographs, to bring the past to life, he’s especially excited to think outside the box for depicting something that’s already occurred.
“If we take that thematic idea of how Doc’s existence has really been about how much he loves video games, then how do we make that real?” Craig poses. “What if we take inspiration from video games and how they present things? Instead of drawing life into a game, how can we draw games into life?”
Craig plans on making a homage to the video game medium by parodying several of the filmmaking techniques found in those older games. For example, plans on experimenting with video game motion graphics, designing pixel art, and occasionally filming from a top-down angle similar to the type of styles in 8-bit video games such as the original Zelda games.
He’s even thinking about recreating the style of an older show Masterpiece Theater, where similarly he’d cast the martial art instructor from the area who Doc had cast in the game.
“So, we’re using the media that shaped us - games, for sure, but also the shows and films - and we’re using that as a jumping off point for our aesthetics,” Craig hints.
Craig Bass interviews video game designer and art director Josh Tsui (right) for his documentary on Doc Mack | David Gall
“When Doc was nineteen, he was doing presentations in his bedroom to investors that were flying in from all over the United States,” Craig considers, “and he raised tens of thousands of dollars to fund the game.”
For Craig, he finds Doc’s story inspiring. He remains inspired by Doc’s steadfast devotion towards pursuing his dreams.
“Just that boldness to bring people into his parents’ bedroom and pitch them on this game,” Craig praises. “You can’t listen to this guy’s story and not be inspired to take whatever it is you’re passionate about and get into the trenches and start doing battle.”
Filmmaker Craig Bass (right) and camera operator Anya Kalfus shoot video for Bass’ upcoming documentary | Kyle Bice
CRAIG BASS started his career as an independent documentary filmmaker. This led him across the nation, and around the globe, from Europe to Japan, always seeking to capture the essence of the story. After crossing paths with John Scaletta, the two decided to formulate Motion Source, and try their hands at a new breed of marketing video: one that was as stylish and cinematic as it was effective and focused on the client's needs. Currently, as at all times, Craig is working on a slew of passion projects: a handful of music videos, a short film, and a story for a comic anthology.