From Carts to Hearts: A VGM Interview
VGM: From Carts to Hearts is a heart-warming look at the VGM community that we all know and love. After watching the 11-minute documentary, I felt compelled to speak with its creator, Peter Gillette, to learn more about the creation of his short film.
Everyone in the documentary started with the same tools that you have—you just need dedication and passion to get to where they are.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Peter Gillette. I’m the head of GHDY Productions and run it with Hao Ho as well as a few other folks. I directed the film, edited, and came up with the concept to do the film.
How did you come up with the idea for VGM: From Carts to Hearts?
This film actually started out as a film for a documentary class, but as I was working on it with my good friend and assistant director, Hao Ho, this project evolved into what it is today. When I created the planning documents and look book (something used in the film industry as a reference guide), I realized the scope of the project—it wasn’t a film for class anymore, it was a film for me, and, in a greater sense, a film for the community that I had been following for many years.
How long did it take to put the whole thing together?
From planning documents to releasing the final film, it took over half a year, closer to 7 months I’d say. We started planning in January, interviewed artists from February through April, and cut the film along the way. We had film drafts as early as April, but nothing resembled the final version until early May. I think in total there are 20 or so drafts, the first being around 25 minutes long. The thing that took the longest was figuring out what was necessary to tell the story, and how to make it as concise as possible.
One thing that surprises me is how close knit everyone is. It’s not a charade that these artists put up—they are as welcoming and close-knit as they appear.
How familiar with the VGM scene were you before you started?
I was very familiar with the VGM scene before making the documentary. In fact, VGM was how I got interested in YouTube and even filmmaking in general.
The first person I followed was David Erick Ramos in 2007 (back when he was docjazz4). I religiously followed his stuff for years, even getting my own ocarina and making a few covers myself. Later I found people like FamilyJules, Jam2995, Artificial Fear, Ro Panuganti, and many others. I even found Carlos (insaneintherainmusic) before FamilyJules’ competition when he was doing the summer of covers for child’s play charity.
In the early years, when I was just watching David, I thought it was crazy that you could record videos and upload them to YouTube for anyone to watch. I specifically remember his Ocarina of Time 10th year anniversary where he had fans from all over the world interview themselves and send the videos over to David so he could make a little Ocarina of Time documentary. I thought that the video was so professionally made, and, at the time, it had a good amount of views. That really made me think about how YouTube and online streaming could make a big impact.
Why did you pick the specific artists that you did for the documentary? Did you know them before starting this project?
For the documentary, I knew most of it was going to be community-based, so I chose people that I knew collaborated frequently, and I also picked some of my favorite artists. I knew David before this because I had worked with him in the past doing some editing work. This started when he released his cover of “Without You” by Avicii.
I had noticed some of his videos could look better, so I downloaded a very compressed version of the video, popped it into my editing software (Final Cut Pro X at the time), and spent about five minutes doing some color correction and grading. I realized that it was a night and day difference, so I decided to make an edit that showed the difference between my versions and the original. Right as I was about to send it to David, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to offer some help if he wanted.
About an hour passed, and he reached back to me and asked if I could do some editing for him on the Ocarina Road Vlogs he was doing at the time. I agreed and edited the promo and each episode minus the 3rd one. I also helped him out with the 2017 world collab (I did not edit the whole thing, but I helped with that edit).
Are there any other VGM artists that you wish you could have interviewed for this project?
I wish I could’ve gotten folks like Smooth McGroove and LittleVMills just to name a few. There were a few other folks that I interviewed that didn’t end up in the final cut. I have the groundwork set up for a follow-up that’s also a more complete look at the VGM community with some really cool surprises if everything works out. So if any VGM artists, or even game composers, want to be interviewed, please reach out. Everything isn’t fully set in stone, but I know that there will be a follow-up of sorts to this documentary because I feel that there is much more to the story than what I told in Carts to Hearts.
What did you learn about the VGM community from doing this project?
I already knew that the community was so nice and welcoming, but even so, the generosity and kindness that everyone showed was incredible. They were gracious enough to set aside half an hour, sometimes close to 2 hours of their time, to interview. They not only set aside the time, they were also willing to share their equipment because the only way that this documentary could be made was remotely. I’d be on one end of a video call, and they would be sitting on their end, recording audio and recording on their own equipment. I also learned some more insights into their creative process as well as their hardships. That’s something that you don’t really see on video because it’s not easy to share.
It’s one thing to make a really cool cover of a song, but it's another to be able to share it with an awesome group of folks that you can tap into at anytime.
Did anything surprise you about the VGM scene?
One thing that surprises me is how close knit everyone is. It’s not a charade that these artists put up—they are as welcoming and close-knit as they appear. It’s a community that is growing, and it’s growing without the huge amount of hate that other communities generate. Sure, there are there hateful folks here, but they are the minority. Everyone is so nice and welcoming; I know I keep on saying that but it’s so true.
Another thing I thought was fascinating was at the end of each interview I would ask two questions:
“If you could go back during your time with VGM and change anything what would it be?”
“What’s some advice you would give to someone getting into VGM, music creation, video making, or anything creative?”
To my surprise, everyone seemed to have very similar answers. For the first question, most of the responses were along the lines of “I wouldn’t change anything because I learned through the process” with the occasional “maybe I’d change this small thing, but I’m happy where I am”.
For the second question, they would always say “Just make something, don’t worry about what others will think. You will become better if you make something, and if you make it for you.” Everyone answered in their own way, but the message was always the same.
If you had to do this all over again, would you do anything different?
There’s not too much I would change to be honest. I learned quite a bit going through this process, but it was all interesting and very educational. Maybe I would’ve been a bit more organized with communication with everyone with the questions, how the interview was going to work, and with some forms.
What the most important thing that you want people to take away from this documentary?
I want people to recognize the communal aspect of this documentary. This is an awesome time to be around because of places like the VGM community. It’s one thing to make a really cool cover of a song, but it's another to be able to share it with an awesome group of folks that you can tap into at anytime.
I also want people to take away that you don’t need to have crazy good equipment or skills to start making things. Everyone in the documentary started with the same tools that you have—you just need dedication and passion to get to where they are.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
I have a few, in fact. So there is the follow-up to this documentary that I want to hopefully get out by the end of the summer, but it might end up being later depending on the scope of everything. The next one is a project that I shot with David out in L.A. when I shot his interview. I don’t think I can fully announce what it is, but it looks great and should be coming out soon.
However the biggest project and most exciting project that I can’t say too much about will be announced July 19th. I’m working with Ro Panuganti and the assistant director of this film Hao Ho on a huge really cool project. Everyone should keep their eyes peeled on either twitter or YouTube on GHDY Productions or Ro Panuganti for this announcement.