SXSW 2013 Review: Zero Charisma
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Zero Charisma
Director: Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews
Screenwriter: Andrew Matthews
Cast: Sam Eidson, Garrett Graham, Brock England, Anne Gee Byrd, Cyndi Williams, Brian Losoya, Vincent Prendergast, Katie Folger, John Gholson, Dakin Matthews

Directed by Andrew Matthews and Katie Graham and written by Matthews, Zero Charisma is an indie-comedy about an obsessive fantasy nerd who becomes unhinged when a charming hipster joins his role-playing game.

Graham and Matthews served as Director of Photography and Editor, respectively, for Michael Stephenson‘s award-winning documentaries Best Worst Movie and The American Scream. They make their directorial debut with Zero Charisma, which is also Executive Produced by Stephenson.

The film stars Sam Eidson (Natural Selection, My Sucky Teen Romance) as Scott Weidemeyer, a metal-loving gamer geek who lives with his crazy grandmother and works a dead-end job at a donut shop. But every Tuesday night, the terminally uncool Scott is the all-powerful Game Master, guiding his role-players through a tabletop journey of dark fantasy and adventure.

After a friend is forced to leave the game, Scott must defend his tabletop turf from Miles, a charming neo-nerd played by Garrett Graham. With the sanctity of his quest at stake, Scott takes extreme measures to reclaim his spot at the head of the table and re-establish his identity as Game Master.

Zero Charisma is like Big Fan for Dungeons & Dragons fans – a film about the darker, more obsessive side of fandom. Eidson’s metal-geek gamer embodies ‘nerd-rage’ but the film doesn’t settle for easy stereotypes and cliches (like Kyle Newman’s Fanboys) – it examines the underlying factors that could shape someone into a resentful, angry outcast.

Beyond the film’s charmingly earnest premise, Zero Charisma succeeds on great performances by Eidson, Graham, and the gorgeous Katie Folger (Grow Up, Tony Phillips), who plays Miles’ girlfriend, as well as archetypal game store clerk John Gholson.

As someone who’s played his fair share of tabletop and card roleplaying games, I appreciate the passion and honesty put into Zero Charisma – the characters that occupy Matthews’ script are genuine. As sad and pathetic as Weidemeyer is, you understand his rage – his longing to escape a less than fulfilling reality by delving into worlds of might of magic.

Yes, there have been many films that cover this topic to some extent: Role Models, Darkon, Monster Camp – but Zero Charisma transcends the standard “look at these crazy people” approach to roleplayers and tells a story about our inherent urge to belong and the friendship gained from participating passionately in a hobby – whether it’s an intramural hockey league or a Magic: The Gathering tournament.

Zero Charisma is definitely one of my favorite films of this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival and a love letter to the uncool kids, the geeks, the fanboys, and anyone who’s ever nerd-raged over something they love.



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