Griffith Film School lecturer Sue Swinburne has captured the incredible rise of the Brisbane games studio who created Fruit Ninja in a new documentary to screen on ABC TV tonight.
In 2010, a bunch of gamers at Halfbrick Studios developed the world’s most addictive app. Fruit Ninja is now the second most downloaded app across the globe and is set to become a major Hollywood movie produced by New Line.
Ms Swinburne began filming at Halfbrick Studios as part of a 6-week artist-in-residence project, funded by the Australia Council. She kept shooting for the next three years.
The documentary explores how success changed the company forever, destroying friendships along the way.
Indie studio to gaming superpower
“When I began, they were a small, indie gaming company,” she said.
“But the CEO, Shaniel Deo, could see an opportunity for the company to grow and become a real superpower in the games industry.
“For the guys he built the company with, that was never their ambition.
“It wasn’t long before I could see the cracks starting to appear.”
The price of success
Ms Swinburne said she become emotionally invested in the story after following the major players over several years and three continents.
“Last year, 35 people left the studio, including the senior staff that had founded the company,” she said.
“It was heartbreaking watching these very close relationships fall apart.
“These guys had spent 10 years working together, and went through tough times and incredible highs.
“The film examines the price of success, particularly in an industry that is constantly changing.”
Life mirrors art
Ms Swinburne began her career on the ABC’s 7.30 Report in Brisbane, before working as a freelance producer and director on observational documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK.
She is currently completing a PhD at Griffith Film School, exploring the creative and commercial possibilities for interactive factual storytelling, with a focus on games.
The film screens on ABC TV on 22 November at 9:30pm.