Not sure how many of you noticed the topic in our forums about a forthcoming documentary about FM. The title? Football Manager: More Than Just A Game.
It's an effort by journalism graduate and MA student Stephen Milnes, who states occasional rock critic, aspiring media whatsit and Sunderland AFC supporter.
He has initiated a facebook group about his FM documentary, and a vimeo account where he releases all of his videos. You can follow him on twitter, or read his blog The Rorschach Test. I guess you can also PM him on his FM Scout account.
OK, let's get on with...
Hi mate, tell me a bit about yourself and your studies.
I’m 23, very close to 24 actually which is quite depressing, and I’m just about to complete my Master’s in Media Production at University of Lincoln. Before that I did a Journalism degree at University of Sunderland.
As a graduated journalist, how do you see your future in your field? What made you start Vague Archive Productions? What's the idea behind it in terms of the ultimate goal?
I’d love to be making documentaries for DVD and cinema release, that’s the ultimate dream but before I get there I need to work my way up. Any medium from print, online or broadcast journalism is really where I want to be or starting out in TV production.
Vague Archive Productions was really just something I made up for the purposes of the MA. I needed a name for the production company to go on the release forms and credits for my first piece of coursework. I was listening to an album by a band called Grammatics at the time and The Vague Archive is one of my favourite songs from that album, simple as that. I’d love to be able to set it up as a proper production company some day and sue it to put together any documentaries I do in the future.
Around early May, you visited our forums and started a topic about a documentary on Football Manager. On how many FM related forums did you post about your project? And what was the response like?
In all honesty, I didn’t post on a lot of FM forums. FM Scout was one of the first ones I came to as it’s a site I was familiar with having made very occasional trips to it in the past. I managed to get in touch with the guys at FM-Britain and got an interview with Millie. That’s one of my favourites in the film. Those guys were brilliant.
The main source of information though was a Facebook group set up so I got a lot of people to comment on there, getting friends to invite friends and so on. Got over 100 members pretty quickly and managed to get some great stories from there. Some appear in the film, others are just a good read. Head over and have a look for yourself if you like.
The response I got from you folks at FM Scout, the guys at FM-Britain and from general fans through Facebook was great though, all very positive, enthusiastic and encouraging. I think that’s something that you don’t get with a lot of other games. FM seems to have a real community that has developed around it and, aside from the Llamas, everyone wants to help each other out, which is great! It’s something we touch on in the film actually.
Was it easy to get to some of the people you interviewed?
Surprisingly so. But then for the last 4 years, interviewing people has been what I do so it doesn’t seem like it’s an issue for me, to others, particularly my family, it just seems to boggle their mind that I could come up with an idea and get people to talk to me about it. It’s just a case of having as many channels of communication open to the world as you can. Email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, Google... they all helped me track down who I wanted and got me in touch with them, all of whom were more than happy to be involved. There were one or two interviews I had in mind which were agreed to but couldn’t be arranged so they unfortunately haven’t happened but that’s the way it goes. I’ll get them next time!
Who was the most interesting person you met on your travels around the country? And why? (You don't have to name that someone in case it was the celebrity one)
Tough ones this. Without wanting to sound like a really corny PR guy, all the people I met and interviewed had great stories to tell and knowledge to share. I enjoyed speaking to all and I spoke to them about different things of them so it’s hard to pick. I think the most obvious one to say was a highlight was getting to speak to the man himself, Miles Jacobson, at the SI studio. That was a real moment where I had to pinch myself but he was great and we ended up talking long after the planned questions finished. In fact, there was so much information he gave that on the DVD I’ll be handing in to lecturers there’s a longer version of the interview included as bonus footage.
Did you pay for all trips while gathering material? How much did the whole 'operation' cost?
Yeah it all came out of my own pocket. Fuel, travel costs, hotels, editing packages. I got help from the Bank of Mum and Dad as well as my Nana but luckily I already have a car and the equipment was free to loan from the University so that kept the project costs as low as possible. Not sure on the exact figures but I’m easily looking at around a grand.
Are you pleased with the outcome of this project? What about the critique from the faculty? Any FM enthusiasts among them? (lol)
I’ll get the marks about towards the end of the year. I’m pretty happy with the film given the budget and resources I had available to me. Being a student project it was a case of relying on favours from course mates and interviewees to get it done, a sort of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours type of thing. It’s all hugely appreciated and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. If I was to have a chance to re-shoot the doc with funding I know where I’d improve it and how but I think it’s just about as good as I could realistically have hoped for now.
I was told one of the lecturers is a FM fan but I didn’t speak to him about it. All those who helped me on the project as crew or interviewees were all big fans though so it was great fun swapping stories and all that.
Since when have you been playing FM? Are you playing lately?
I’ve been playing FM since I picked up the 2007 version in my first year at Uni. Before that I’d been playing Championship Manager 01/02 since secondary school. And before that I had a go with a game for the Playstation called FA Manager. My Fulham team on that were magnificent: Steve Marlet, Louis Saha, Sylvain Legwinski, Steed Malbranque, Edwin Van der Sar, Luis Boa Morte, Steve Finnan, Rufus Brevett, Barry Hayles, John Collins, Maik Taylor, Zat Knight, Alain Goma, Andrejs Stolcers, Bjaen Goldbeck... that squad was fantastic. That was the game that started me off.
While I’ve been shooting and editing Football Manager: More Than Just A Game I’ve not had a lot of chance to play it but I’m currently on a new career where I’m three seasons in with Havant & Waterlooville. Second season I won the Blue Square South and I’m now in the Blue Square Premier, comfortably mid-table but only a couple of wins from the play-offs. I may leave in the summer for a bigger club though. The aim is to win the World Cup with England.
Football Manager: More Than Just A Game. Is it really more than just a game for you? And in what way? The way it affects personal life or the way it gives you an edge on real football management or scouting? In your opinion, how much can Football Manager be used in real football?
Ultimately, yes, it is just a game in so much as I’d never let it interfere with my relationships or work and can go without it for a long time but as a game, it offers so much more than most other computer games. It’s not just the escapism, it’s the detail of it, the fact you are in control of it and the knowledge of football it gives to a player. It’s something that enables people to live out their footballing dreams and to some that may sound sad, but for thousands of players and football fans it’s something exciting, engaging and inspiring. It’s a hugely positive influence on people’s lives, certainly if they’re a football fan. I lost count of the amount of stories I’ve heard about the game spurring players on to become coaches, be it at grass roots or trying to get their badges. I think that’s brilliant, getting people to indulge their interests, letting them do what they love. I believe that’s one of the most important things in life and the fact that FM seems to inspire people to do that is fantastic. It’s something very few other games can do.
I think FM is something that can certainly be used in real football. There are professional clubs that already use Sports Interactive’s database as a scouting tool. Everton FC are just one example and Miles said that SI are always getting enquiries about more. I think it’s just a matter of time before clubs on a wide scale start tapping in to the knowledge that the game and the players possess.
I think there's a 'release date' for the video set at September 10th. Is it true? Are you nervous about it?
Well, that’s the official hand-in date for the Uni. I’m hoping to get it online shortly after that but I’ve got a few other commitments so it might not be until October. I’m not nervous about it really, more excited. I just hope that if anyone does watch it that they enjoy it.
Would you ever work for SI? What would be the ideal business position that you'd really enjoy being in charge for?
Haha, unfortunately I know absolutely nothing about coding so I’m pretty sure I would be of no use to them. I’d love to be one of the scouts they have but that would require far too much of my time and while I love football, I have more important things in life. Maybe I’d be a bit of use in their PR department but that’s stretching it haha.
Some final note from you: ..? :)
I hope folks enjoy the film if they see it and they feel it's done FM justice. Good luck with your games!
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UPDATE 31 Oct 2010: The videos have been made public. You can watch them here.