Computers and Hollywood: An Interview with Terry Farrell

There are at least two ways to look at every issue, and multimedia development is no exception. So, for all of you programmers who are either considering building your own interactive title or are already engaged in the process, here is a view of multimedia game development as seen by someone else: the actors.

The following is a candid conversation I had with actress Terry Farrell for Windows NT Magazine. Farrell is the star of the soon-to-be-released Treasure Quest game from Sirius Publishing, due out March 22 at 12:14 a.m. in your time zone. She has appeared in fea-ture films, and she plays the role of Dax in the popular television show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (ST:DS9). In this interview, Farrell provides valuable insight as to how actors and actresses feel about computer multimedia, the production process, and where the business is headed.

WNTM: Where do you see the entertainment industry heading over the next few years? Do you think that more actors' time is going to be spent working on computer games rather than television and film?

Farrell: I'd like to incorporate the two--have a film come out and then a game to go with it, like \[Disney's\] Toy Story so that you can play the \[main\] part. Set it up so that \[actors\] are filming the game at the same time they are doing the film.

WNTM: What's harder and more work? Acting in front of a blue screen for a game or on a sound stage for a television show?

Farrell: I think it was completely different. Acting in Treasure Quest, I was looking directly in the camera, and I had more fun because I chose to talk to my best friend. Sometimes it's easier working with people because you have the interaction. In the interactive game, you are assuming that people know what you are talking about without getting any response while you are \[acting\].

WNTM: What do you think is going to be more profitable over the coming years: $60 games or television shows?

Farrell: I think it would be games because the industry has changed so much with videos and \[games\] being available to people. People can do a lot at home now. They don't go to the theater as much anymore--they'd rather wait for \[movies\] on video. But they won't wait for a game.

WNTM: From a marketing standpoint, as well as for entertainment value, it is obviously more attractive to the buyer to have known celebrities playing major roles. Does that hurt profitability, or does it make the game sell better? What factors should developers be considering when building a new multimedia title?

Farrell: In my case, I think you'd have to weigh the advantage of me being on ST:DS9. My built-in audience of Trekkies happen to be very involved with computers, so they find my involvement in a computer game interesting. It would seem to be a plus that I have a built-in audience that loves computers. I don't know whether I attract other people to \[the game\] because they saw me 10 years ago in Paper Dolls, but it would certainly seem that there is a built-in marketability with the Trek fans.

Otherwise, I would say that the marketing would have to do with what the game is about: Who you are trying to attract to play it--are you trying to attract young kids to play it, or adults? What group are you aiming it for?

Sometimes I think that unknown \[actors and actresses\] are more attractive because you don't want somebody's celebrity personality attached to the character. You get worried that \[the players\] are not going to see past the celebrity to see the character he or she is playing.

WNTM: Do you think that people will move from pickling their brains in front of the television to pickling their brains in front of a computer screen?

Farrell: Don't they already?

WNTM: Would you do another \[game\] or encourage others in your position to consider doing one?

Farrell: I had such a great time working with these people--I hope it's such a big success that we end up doing two of them. It was fun!

I do think it's "to each his own," that some people wouldn't have a good time doing it because it's very fast. It's much like a commercial in the way that every second counts in what you're doing.

WNTM: How long does it take to put it together, start to finish?

Farrell: Four days for principal photography. I know it sounds fast, but I did 10 characters, five monologues each, and then little pop-ups. That's 50 setups in four days--an awful lot of hair and makeup changes. It sounds impossible. The idea for the game came up about a year ago, and we filmed it in September--so about nine months total. It will be out March 22.

WNTM: What do you see that is bad about computer entertainment or bad about where it is headed?

Farrell: Anything that would numb your mind, I suppose, would be bad. If you just play games with no kind of value or consciousness, that would be bad too. Any kind of \[draining\] of the brain--when you just simply exist in front of a machine that gives you your life--would be bad.

I think that ratings on the games are a very good thing. It's bad if people get desensitized to violence, and I think that television and film have already done that, so that would be an argument against violence in games. But I don't think that Treasure Quest is a violent game.

I think you have to consider the intelligence of the people playing the game.

WNTM: Do game/title developers need more of a conscience when designing new stuff, or \[should they\] leave it up to the consumer?

Farrell: Well, then it's my responsibility, too, because as an actress I have to take the responsibility for taking a part where I have to murder somebody. Is somebody going to get the idea to kill someone from watching it? I have to make the assumption that the people watching it are intelligent enough to know that I'm playing a character. I certainly have some fans who can't distinguish between me playing Dax \[on ST:DS9\] and me being Terry Farrell.

I think that \[social conscience\] is not only the film/television/game-industry people's responsibility but also the people who buy the games. If you find Mortal Kombat offensive, why did you buy it for your kid? I find it incredible when people blame things on the people who produce them. If people keep buying the games, they're going to keep making them.

WNTM: From your experiences creating Treasure Quest, what would you like to tell other developers to do when working on their projects--or not to do?

Farrell: I think we didn't realize how long it was going to take with how many changes we had. If we would have had more time to do the setups, then that would have been a good idea. I got the scripts right before we started. To know what you are saying more in advance \[of the filming\] so you can make choices and know the scripts better, rather than having to rely on a teleprompter, is important because you have more confidence doing it when you know exactly what you're saying.

I work like this all the time, but somebody not used to green screen/blue screen might have trouble adjusting.

WNTM: Anything else you'd like to share about your first multimedia experience?

Farrell: I can't wait to see it! It's going to be a trip!

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