Five Questions with Gregory Gertmenian

The main man behind Chubby Boy Films, Gregory Gertmenian produced the upcoming short film Balrog: Behind the Glory – set to premiere next weekend at Evo2k11 in Las Vegas. He’s been playing Street Fighter II Turbo on 16-bit consoles for roughly sixty-five years.

Maj: What are your general preferences in fighting games?

Greg: I’m ashamed and smug to admit that my interest in fighting games never progressed past SFII. There is something extremely elegant about the simplicity and balance in that game, which kept me from taking a risk in learning anything else.
Introducing Greg Gertmenian
I had a Sega Nomad, so I took SFII to school and on trips and played on full stars over and over again until I knew the rules for fighting every character. My rule for eight-star Guile was “Don’t jump.”

I played Killer Instinct for a bit because the endless juggles made me feel like a king on the arcade. Plus there was always some kid who knew how to do the finisher where Orchid flashes her boobs and her opponent just dies. Something about the time it took her to undo her buttons really captivated my thirteen year old attention.

But for the most part, it began and stopped at SFII, even as the brand progressed through all the evolutions. Viper will never feel as much like family as Ryu did all those years. My obsession with SFII can be likened to my loyalty to T-9 flip phones. I’m the fastest texter I know if we’re talking 9 buttons. If I upgrade to keypad, I’d lose years of progress. Like I said, both ashamed and smug.

Maj: What’s your favorite thing about Street Fighter?

Greg: I like that there’s an answer for everything and that, at a certain point, it becomes more of a puzzle game than anything. I love the elegance of establishing a pattern and breaking it.

I like the ghostly 2-bit echo of a Hadoken war that lasts three minutes. I like drawing a tie four times in a row when you’ve already tied 1-1 in a 3 round match. I like not giving Zangief a chance to get up. I like Tatsu-makying as many stinky feet in Chun-Li’s face as possible when her backflip works against her and she lands on the wrong side of me.

Maj: Where did Balrog: Behind the Glory come from? What’s the origin story behind it all?

Balrog: Behind the Glory PosterGreg: Well, you gave Vahe the idea to make a Street Fighter movie for Evo and then it sort of spiraled out of control. Vahe (our director) had always wanted to make a Street Fighter sketch, and he knew our friend Brett had a great idea for one, so the super powers aligned one night at my house and we never looked back.

The idea for this story was one that Brett thought up several years ago. Brett told me that it was floating around in canon that Balrog was head of Shadaloo after M.Bison was killed and then quickly ran it into the ground. I think for Brett, imagining that scenario was all the fodder he needed to tell a priceless story.

Our agreement was that, if we were going to explore this vague and ridiculous piece of canon to maximum hilarity, we wanted to treat it realistically – as seriously and gravely as possible – in the format of a documentary. A former heavyweight boxer inherits an international crime syndicate?? Okay, what would that really mean?

Maj: Why Balrog?

Greg: Balrog is the funniest. I’m sure we all had different motives for pursuing him as the central character to this piece. For me, he seems the least observant and the flashiest of all the Street Fighter characters. He’s always caught up in the moment and never seems to care about the big picture. That’s just a fantastic combination.

The various levels of melancholy in imagining that person’s existence gave us a terrific avenue to explore. Especially when you consider that, despite his marginalized popularity, Balrog seems to never stop celebrating.

That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be completely thrilled to expand on a few more characters’ storylines … We have some ideas.

Maj: What exactly does a film producer do, anyway?

Greg: In general, producers are like the employer for the temporary business that is a film. You make creative choices about goals and strategy, you hire everyone in each department, you make sure everything gets done by the deadlines, and you make sure everyone, at every level, understands how their job fits in to the overall vision.

Communicating the “vision,” to all parties may ultimately be the most important responsibility. That, and making sure your shoot is the most fun any of your cast and crew has ever had on set.

Maj: What was the hardest part of making BBTG happen?

Greg: I wish I could say that, as a fan-made narrative, we encountered very unique production obstacles. But actually, our biggest hurdle is common to any production: Locations.

BBTG Location Photo #2Hopefully, you’ll see when you watch the film. None of those places were easy for five kids with no money to get access to. I don’t know why we set out to find such ridiculous locations when we had no connections or cash. Hopefully it ends up contributing to the feel.

Maj: And the most enjoyable part?

Greg: Making hilarious shorts which feature deep, human elements is the most fun I can conceive of having. The most enjoyable part of that process is the fact that I’ve gotten to “make stuff” with all of my incredibly talented friends and feel like we’re not just dicking around because we’re all working to finalize a product.

Everyone who worked on Balrog is outrageously talented, and this project gave me (a man with no real specialties), an excuse to hang out with them and learn from them. We got really lucky with the caliber of kids that lent a helping hand – they’re all on another level.

Maj: What’s next for Chubby Boy Productions?

Greg: It all depends on what kind of response BBTG receives. We’ve set up a twitter account, facebook page, and youtube channel to make it easy for everyone to follow what we’re doing and give us feedback. If we can demonstrate a market for our work – in the form of views – we may have opportunities to expand stories of other characters.

BBTG Location Photo #1The Chubby Boy team is in place, hungry to do more, and has only grown stronger and garnered more experience points as we’ve met more talented people in later stages of post-production.

If people dig our take on this stuff, we have a trove of ideas for other original SFII characters – I won’t say who’s next. There’s even an idea for a really cool take on the Final Fight crew.

Of course, these ideas can’t grow without support. In a perfect world, everyone at Evo will enjoy the movie and tell their friends about it. If the response is positive enough, we’re hoping Capcom supports us to continue making more Street Fighter related films.

Gregory Gertmenian is an aspiring actor, producer, and just about any other role there is to serve on the set of a film. You can find more information about his movie projects on the Chubby Boy Films website or by following him on twitter or facebook.

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3 Responses to Five Questions with Gregory Gertmenian

  1. Maj says:

    Thanks to Greg and Chubby Boy Productions for providing photos and stills for me to use. That prison shot is intense!

  2. Snoooootch says:

    Reading what he had to say about why he chose Balrog made me reflect on how little I actually analyse some characters of this game. I like his explanation. He actually put some depth in the ideas behind what I though was something ordinary and straight forward. Now I’m very excited to see it!

  3. Maj says:

    Yeah it was lot of fun hanging out with these guys, partly for that specific reason. Greg and Brett are both natural comedians, so they’re always examining character motivations and story arcs.

    It’s fortunate that they happened to grow up playing Street Fighter. The ideas they told me for future films are all equally awesome, so i really hope this gets them noticed by Capcom or some major film studios or something. I’m not sure how that whole process works, but i suppose raw view count is important.

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