Victor Piñeiro '00 Premieres
Gaming Culture Doc at SXSW Film Festival
by Alisa Giardinelli
After two years of filming, Second Skin, a film written and produced by Victor Piñeiro '00, will premiere on opening day of this year's SXSW Film Festival next month. But Piñeiro says it wasn't until he was in Sanya, China, "covered in monkeys," that he took a moment to reflect on his experience creating his first feature-length documentary. more
Victor Piñeiro '00 (right) wrote and produced Second Skin, a documentary about gaming culture.
"We were [in China] to witness and capture the phenomenon of gold farming, where Americans pay Chinese sweatshop workers to play virtual world games for them and to amass virtual weapons and money," he says. "In the past week, we'd been stalked by the mafia, nearly lost our lives, and were now taking an excursion with a bunch of gold farmers to Monkey Island, where monkeys roam free and perform carnival tricks for humans. It was then and there that the global impact of online virtual worlds like Everquest, Second Life, and World of Warcraft really hit me. Watching these Chinese gamers work day in and day out, playing a video game, and often truly enjoying it, as part of a multi-billion dollar industry with no real-world products really said something about how far these games had come." />
Piñeiro credits Swarthmore with playing a "significant role" in setting him on his path as a filmmaker. After graduation, he secured an internship at the independent film company Killer Films with the help of Patti White, associate professor of film and media studies. At Killer, he met Ian Bricke '98, who he says was "incredibly helpful" in showing him the ropes.
Six years later, after a brief stint as a production assistant (a job found with the help of another alum) and a longer one as a teacher, he decided to pursue filmmaking full-time. When the time came to get advice on Second Skin,he looked up Ian Bricke again.
"And voilá - he's the director of acquisitions for The Sundance Channel!" Piñeiro says. "He brought us into the office (well, Robert Redford's office) and gave us extremely helpful critiques on our movie. Months later, he's opening doors left and right and getting our movie seen by the heads of all the big festivals. Thanks to him, we're premiering at one of the biggest fests in the country." This year's SXSW film festival will take place March 7 - 15 in Austin, Tex.
"In making this movie, I've seen virtual worlds bring together numerous couples, many of whom are now married," Piñeiro says. "I've seen virtual worlds cement friendships, provide social outlets, and educate many children and teens by offering them a crowd of older, more mature friends. Of course, I've also seen these games cripple the lives of many, shatter relationships, and even cost a few gamers their lives. I hope my movie expresses the complex issues brought up by this new virtual universe."