Filming a low-budget film that focuses on a specific topic like video games may detract its appeal to some viewers who aren’t familiar with the gaming sub-culture, or don’t easily connect with the lifestyle specific nature of independent movies. But the new gaming comedy ‘Noobz,’ which is now playing in select theaters and is set to be released on VOD and DVD on January 29, doesn’t solely focus on the competitive nature of gaming; it also chronicles the building and destruction of romantic relationships and the bonding of friends who embark on a journey together. Actor Jason Mewes, who stars as gamer Andy in writer-director Blake Freeman’s new film, is a gamer in real life, and showcases how the sub-culture both advertently and unintentionally influences society in general.
‘Noobz,’ which was written and directed by Blake Freeman, follows four friends as they decide to hit the road to compete in the Cyberbowl Video Game Championship in Los Angeles. The idea for the trip comes after Cody (played by Freeman) loses his job and his wife leaves him because he can’t stop gaming. His friend, game store clerk Andy (portrayed by Jason Mewes), convinces him to get their Reign Clan together, including the sexually confused Oliver (played Matt Shively) and asthmatic teen “Hollywood” (portrayed by Moises Arias). The team becomes determined to win the prize money and meet Andy’s online gamer-girl crush Rickie (played by Zelda Williams).Nothing, not even a Mom armed with mace, Greg Lipstein (portrayed by Jon Gries), an arcade game champion stuck in the ’80s or even Casper Van Dien will stop the unlikely team from trying to win the competition.
Mewes generously took the time to speak about ‘Noobz’ over the phone recently. Among other things, the actor discussed how being a gamer in real life influenced him to take on the role of Andy; how he enjoys working on independent and studio movies; and how his close working relationships with his co-stars, including Freeman, who allowed him to improv while filming, helped improve the comedy.
Question (Q): You play Andy, who convinces his friends to travel to LA to compete in the Cyberbowl Video Game Championship, in the new comedy ‘Noobz.’ What was it about the script and the character that convinced you to take on the role?
Jason Mewes (JM): Well, for one thing, it was definitely the whole idea of video games. I’m into playing online games, usually first person shooters. I play ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Call of Duty’ and such. So it definitely seemed like it would be fun in itself right there.
Also, the script follows these four guys who don’t like the jobs they have. My character works retail, at a store, which is like how I started out. I worked at a Quik Stop when I was 17 and 18. They have a dream to go win this tournament to change their lives. There’s the big reward money, and then they could get the sponsorships. So it was the fun in the road trip with the four guys, who have a dream that can change their lives. All that wrapped up in one story was good for me.
Q: Director Blake Freeman has said he had you in mind for the role of Andy when he was penning the script. How did you become involved with the film-did Blake offer you the role, or did you have to audition for it?
JM: Blake called my agent, and told him he was going to be shooting. He wanted to see if I was available on the dates of filming, and he sent me the script, and I read it. There wasn’t an audition. They made me an offer, because he said he had me in mind when he wrote the character. So he contacted me, and I read the script and accepted the role.
Q: Besides helming the film, Blake also co-wrote and starred in ‘Noobz.’ Do you generally prefer working with directors who also wrote the screenplay for films?
JM: It doesn’t really make a difference to me. It doesn’t make me want to work with them more or less.
But in my experience, when directors also act in the film, they’ve been a little bit more lenient with improv, because they know what it’s like. When they’re doing dialogue, and they have to switch it up a little bit, they’re so much more aware of what’s going on with the characters. They understand more what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera, so they’re more open to readjusting dialogue. They’re like, oh yeah, I agree with that. I definitely dig it.
Q: Speaking of improv, how closely did you stick to the script while you were filming? Did Blake offer you the chance to improv, since you are a gamer in real life?
JM: There was a lot of ad-libing. When we were with the other actors, we stuck to the script about 70-80 percent of the time. But when it was just Blake and I, we clicked right away with our scenes together. We did a lot of ad-libing, and it was about 80 percent improv in our scenes. He definitely allowed for ab-libing.
Q: Did you do any research on the gaming culture before you began filming? How did you prepare for the role of Andy?
JM: I didn’t really do any research, because I play video games. We spent about two days playing the game that’s in the film, and shooting at different angles and saying different things. I already knew all the processes of game playing.
As for us interacting with each, I wouldn’t really say I prepared. I lived working in a convenience store and not liking my job.
Andy also has the whole thing where he’s talking to Zelda Williams’ character (Rickie) online, but he never met her. He’s nervous about meeting her, while also being excited about it. That’s happened to me before, though not necessarily online. I’ve talked to someone on the phone, but haven’t met them.
I’ve experienced a lot of it before, but I didn’t want to play it exactly like myself. So I tried to throw a little extra in there. I looked back on all my experiences, and rolled them into one
Q: The film follows Andy and his friends, including Cody, played by Blake; Oliver, portrayed by Matt Shively and Hollywood, played by Moises Arias, as they prepare to compete in the Cyberbowl Video Game Championship,. What were your working relationships like with the other actors on the set?
JM: It was pretty awesome (working with them). Matt Shively was awesome. He was a really cool dude. Again, Blake and I have the same sense of humor.
I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but my wife and I went through a phase for a week straight where we would watch Moises in ‘Hannah Montana.’ So I had seen him in that, and thought his character was awesome in the show, and I enjoyed it.
So when the four of us were hanging out, before we started shooting, we would sit around and joke. Casper Van Dien was awesome. Everyone we did scenes with and worked with, and the crew as well, we had a good time. I really enjoyed it.
Q: ‘Noobz’ was filmed on an extremely low budget, a reported $340,000. Did having such a limited budget influence the way the film was shot?
JM: No, I know they didn’t have a lot for the budget. But with all the sponsorship, it looks amazing. At the end, the ballroom and the set where they shot the tournament looked amazing. It honestly looked like a $1 million set. I know it didn’t cost that much, but Xbox and a bunch of different companies helped out by loaning Xboxes and different equipment. The film had a lot of different sponsorships. The car they were driving was also donated. So I don’t think the budget really affected the acting or the look of the movie.
Q: You have appeared in several low budget films before, including ‘Clerks’ and ‘Feast.’ What is it about the low budget films that you enjoy making them so much? Do you have a preference of acting in the independent films over the bigger studio films, or vice versa, or do you just like acting overall?
JM: I just like acting in general. Don’t get me wrong, I like working on both. In the bigger budget films, you stay in a nicer hotel. But in the independent movies, the directors and producers have more say on who they want to see as the characters. It’s been pretty awesome that people think I can play these different characters.
Q: Why do you think people who aren’t familiar with gaming should see ‘Noobz?’ Do you think the film has an appeal to everyone who enjoys comedy?
JM: Yeah, I think everyone will like it. It’s not an hour-and-a-half of guys just playing video games. People who aren’t into games shouldn’t say, ‘I don’t want to see it, because it’s about games;’ there are a lot more elements than that.
Again, it’s about a guy who used to be on the top of the gaming world, who has to compete with the new gamers. It’s also about my character, who’s about to meet this girl who he has a crush on for the first time. So there’s a little bit of romance in there. It’s also about the guys going on a road trip for the tournament. It has a lot of comedy and romance, and a lot of different elements for everyone to love.
Q: Do you have any upcoming acting projects, whether in films or on television, that you can discuss?
JM: Yeah, Kevin Smith and I still have our YouTube podcast (SIT! SModCo Internet Television!) that we do live, that tells all the events we’re going to be at. There’s also a ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ cartoon movie that I produced and Kevin wrote, that’s hopefully going to be out in April, and we’re going to be touring with it. There are also a couple movies in the works that I’m waiting on.
We’re trying to build our YouTube channel, and we have a couple of web series. I’m also doing some access TV, which is on DirecTV and Fios and Dish Network. I’ve been hosting that every Monday and Tuesday.