In April, 2000 I was walking the streets of Prague in the Czech Republic. It was my first trip to Europe, and I was on business. Somewhere on Narodni Trida (street name) there was a bright red sign that read "Laser Game." I had to go in to see if it was really a laser tag, here in a former communist nation. It was a Laser Quest brand laser tag center. The next night I went back with my camera, and with their permission, shot some video of the facility.
Some time before that, I finished reading a book titled Directing The Documentary by Michael Rabiger. I'm not sure how long I've had that book, but I finally decided to read it. One of my first jobs in broadcasting was as a production assistant at WWOR-TV Ch9 in New Jersey. There I worked on five different documentaries for the Special Projects Unit. I guess that's how I became interested in producing them. I've always enjoyed watching documentaries on any subject. My friends and I would often joke about the most obscure topics we'd seen. One piece of advice from the book that I remembered throughout the two years working on this project was to pick a topic you love. Something you know and enjoy because throughout the life of the project you'll go through highs and lows. Some days you're productive and happy. On others you'll want to scrap it completely. It was sound advice.
I never wanted to give up on the video, though. My goal ALL along was to complete it. That simple. Produce a video about the laser tag industry. If I was lucky enough to create a compelling program that people wanted to see AND enjoyed watching, well, that was the bonus.
I've been playing laser tag, specifically Photon, since 1985, so I had a good base of knowledge to begin planning this out. Have you ever done a Google search on laser tag? You'll get over 100,000 hits easily and that's just the generic. Try some specific searches on your favorite brand of laser tag. There's a lot out there from manufacturers and indvidual stores, to fan sites, message boards, usenet groups and EBay auctions. I visited hundreds of web sites, pulled articles, press releases and even looked at some old video that friends lent me and others digitized and put on the web. Birthday parties are a given, but there were some serious tournament and competition sites, group outings (from sororities, scouts, college dance squads, even a mention that they had a laser tag set up in the Olymic Village in Australia), and plenty of information to help me choose some topics for the video. I've included the sites that are still around in the links area that helped in some way.
After meeting with some laser tag friends (and convincing my wife I could complete what I started) I decided to begin interviewing folks at a Photon Reunion Tournament in Laurel, MD. (XP LaserSport, May 2000) Part of why I thought this video would be interesting to the laser tag community was that this was the ONLY operating unit running the original commercial laser tag system. Tournament level players from around the country had come to play in this and past tournaments at this center. What compelled them to travel across the US to play THIS system? These weren't just old timers looking to relive their teenage glory. There were NEW people who had never even played a single game of Photon before. Some of them even walked away with medals.
©2002 Yo Vinny! Productions