I remember it like it was yesterday. It was, appropriately, my eleventh birthday. My sister, who was just 2 years older gave me a present that changed my life. There was nothing to unwrap, as her curiosity had caused her to already start reading my gift without me. In September of my 11th year, just like Harry Potter, I made my first trip to Hogwarts.
I had dabbled in the nerd realm before, reading classics like The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. But Harry Potter and The Sorcerers Stone was altogether a different experience. I became obsessed. I poured myself into nerd culture. The years brought more nerdiness. During the early 2000’s, I was convinced I would be an effects artist at Weta Digital, the studio who produced special effects for the Lord of The Rings films. I voraciously read just about anything that had to do with space, witches, and/or fantasy worlds, my love for all things nerd deepened over time.
If I haven’t proven my nerd street cred enough, feel free to reach out, but I think it’s safe to say, I know good quality geek when I see it. A few weeks ago, I was cruising around on Reddit, when I came across a podcast-video hybrid on a Youtube channel called Arch City Studio. Intrigued, I clicked play. An episode of Geek And Stein appeared on my phone screen. By the time I was done watching the video, I was thinking about two things. One, I couldn’t believe something so wonderfully nerdtastic existed in my own city. Two, I had to talk to these guys.
All of that leads us to a clandestine meeting at a coffee shop on the north side of Columbus. After digging around their Youtube channel, I could tell that the gentlemen at Arch City were men of many talents, but more importantly, men of many interests. When they arrived, we made our polite exchanges. Three of the four gentlemen were able to meet up with me. Brian Jasper, Justin Greathouse, and Jason Moody sat down at my table, and we were off to the races.
Like my Harry Potter moment, I knew most nerds could pinpoint that exact moment in their life, that thing that drove them into the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy.
“I was 6, waking up and there were Ninja Turtle toys,” explained Brian Jasper. “It was the first Christmas I remember, and I loved them. So ever since then, I just- I was really nerdy growing up. It’s something you grow up with, being a nerd. You don’t become a nerd later in life.”
For co-founder Jason Moody, the story was a little different. “Mine comes through heartbreak. I was young, maybe like 4? And my parents had, you know there was a movement in the church and it was like ‘these cartoons are evil’. It was He-Man. Masters of the Universe. They had bought it all for me. I had Castle Greyskull and everything He-Man you could imagine, probably 30 different figures. They came in my room and they showed me this video, it was called I think, Terror in The Toy Box.“
Jason’s memory was mistaken. The film was not Terror in the Toy Box, but rather, Turmoil in the Toy Box.
Jason’s parents explained that it was up to him, but they wanted him to throw away his He-Man collection. And that’s what he did. But ultimately, he couldn’t throw away his internal geek.
The irony of it all was that Jason inherited his geekdom, like so many of us, from his father. Together they would watch Saturday morning cartoons. Now, Moody is passing that same nerd gene down to his own children.
“It’s fun because you pass it on to your own kids,” said Moody. “My daughter- we just started watching Lost.” Jason’s daughter is 12, and he couldn’t wait to let her dive into one of his favorite shows. “She’s loving it. We hadn’t shown it to her yet, but now we’re 3-4 episodes in. Introducing them to that stuff is fun. You get to pass it on.”
Building their hobbies into something more has been an interesting journey. Although they’ve had plenty of ideas over the years, they have finally settled into making short films. “We cover a lot of geeky topics, you know whatever is on our mind, on our podcast,” explained Brian. “But we’re working on a short film right now, and it’s more of a drama with a sci-fi edge. We appreciate how sci-fi and fantasy can talk about broader truths of things.”
The guys wrote their own script, and it wasn’t the first time. Arch City has been producing short, entertaining pieces for years now. Most notable of these is “Need to Feed”, their 2016 entry to the 48 Hour Film Festival.
“I think that our heart is in original content and storytelling,” said Jason. “I think that Youtube and Vimeo are kind of still a wild west. A lot of the content is funny shorts or riffing on culture or news coverage. But in terms of episodic original content, it’s still pretty new. Not a lot of people are doing that. Popular channels aren’t doing that. And I think that’s where we’d like to build an audience. We want to build original content.”
The rules of the 48 Hour Film Festival are extensive. But the concept is simple. You have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit and score a short film.
The film had an original song, which they plugged shamelessly from the time the film was created until the showing a couple months later. In that time, they played their original song “Need to Feed” across the web. They were able to make a movie poster and a trailer, and by they time the film premiered at Gateway, people in the audience were actually singing along with the song.
One of the most intriguing aspects of what Arch City does is the way they are involving themselves in the community. Instead of an “everyman for himself” attitude, Arch City decided to reach out to those just starting. The guys offer new content creators a place and the equipment to make their dreams a reality. And they do it all for free.
“When we got started, we realized that we really liked the community,” said Brian. “I come from a teaching background, and we’re all Christians, so we help people that way. We just wanted to help people.”
“It is hard to get started,” said Jason. “If you don’t have the networking– we didn’t have cameras when we started. If you start and you say, ‘I want to make a Youtube channel’, there is a lot more to it. We want to make stuff that looks high quality, not just like we pulled out a cell phone. What sets you apart as an artist, is having the right connections, having the right tools to be creative with.”
Arch City will put those tools to use this summer, on their short film, their 48 Hour Film Festival entry, and many more projects. Next week, they are hosting an open casting call for actors for their short film.
It’s always nice to chat with fellow nerds, and these guys can chat. We talked about a range of topics, from Dungeons and Dragons to Doctor Who. By the end of the conversation, the guys had put their podcaster hats on, and it felt more like I was being interviewed than doing the interviewing. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see me on Geek And Stein, letting my inner sci-fi obessesed self out! Just for fun, I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite Arch City Studio creations, Jason Kills Time, starring Chelsie Webster of The Bachelor.