The Hobby Part 1

The Hobby is a fun documentary about board games from Toronto filmmaker Simon Ennis. 

It was screened in Austin for the 2024 South By SouthWest (SXSW) festival.

We subsequently had a chance to sit down with producers Tina Pehme (Vancouver), Justin Rebelo (Toronto), and Kim Roberts (Vancouver) at SXSW.


HNMAG:  When producing a documentary, do you need to pay for location permits?

Kim Roberts: Generally no permits at all. It’s great in places like New York, where you have a small crew so you can get a free permit.


HNMAG: Do the rules differ for documentaries when it comes to company logos? One of the gamers in the movie was wearing a Hostess t-shirt.

Tina Pehme: That was Dan. 


HNMAG: Do you get product placement for that?

Kim Roberts: Nobody gives you product placement. The main issue you have now with movies or TV, is that the broadcaster doesn’t want to interfere with their advertiser. They’re sensitive in that regard. For the most part, trade-marks are not a problem. Unless you’re slagging the product or service, you’re not using it to sell your own product. Nobody would bring an action against you for that. 


HNMAG: For games, you can copyright the names, designs, and art work but not the mechanics, is that right?

Kim Roberts: You should also be able to protect how your game works but I don’t know what the answer actually is. Movement around a board would not be possible but perhaps there are certain rules that would fall under the protection of intellectual property. 

Justin Rebelo: Patents are expensive and copyrights are less. There is a practicality when it comes to investment. 


HNMAG: How did The Hobby get started as a documentary?

Justin Rebelo: It’s an interesting story. Simon really immersed himself in the board game community. He kind of fell into the deep end. 

Kim Roberts: It was a coffee table discussion. Meyer Shwarzstein, our executive producer, said let’s do a documentary about it. 


HNMAG: How did you find Simon?

Justin Rebelo: That’s the only reason why I’m here. I worked with Simon on a documentary that premiered at TIFF called Lunarcy! It played at SXSW in 2013. It was about people obsessed with the moon. Kim and Meyer told me about their idea and I said I have the perfect director. We were at TIFF and I immediately texted Simon. That was back in 2017.

Tina Pehme: Making a documentary can take a while.

Justin Rebelo: The irony was that I told Simon it would be fast since we had all the funding for it and then all the funding fell apart. 

Tina Pehme: Then COVID happened.

Justin Rebelo: We rebuild all the funding in a new way. 

HNMAG: How did you get accepted into SXSW?

Justin Rebelo: This was an absolute perfect fit. We felt that from the beginning. 

Tina Pehme: There was so much footage that didn’t end up in the movie. Entire storylines were scraped. 

Justin Rebelo: We started play-testing the movie in September of 2023. As it was going, we missed the SouthBy deadline but we reached out that we might have it ready and they said, ok, send it along. In December, we sent a Hail Mary and asked if there was any chance they could still look at it. They responded, “If you can send it today, we can take a look.” We got it in by January, it was a mad rush to get it here. 

Tina Pehme: It wasn’t even finished either. 

Justin Rebelo: The final cut arrived two days ago. 


HNMAG: Your companies are from Ontario and BC.

Kim Roberts: It’s good because we get tax credits from both provinces. It was also very attractive from Telefilm’s perspective. 

Tina Pehme: We’ve had previous movies funded by Telefilm. It really matters on the film, less on your relationship. Telefilm was also a fan of Simon’s previous work and relationship. 


HNMAG: Is there a theatrical release?

Justin Rebelo: Sales are open worldwide at the moment. My company Vortex is repping. We’re fielding offers. With a telefilm-funded documentary, a Canadian exhibition is likely. We are also open to other opportunities. 


HNMAG: There are amazing people that Simon spoke with. I was particularly impressed with Irving Finkel from the British Museum. 

Kim Roberts: He is not at all interested in heavy games. He looks at the rule book and says, why would anyone want to play that? If you go to the British Museum and examine the ancient board games, you can see where they’ve been cut to transport the artifact to London. Finkel is a very interesting guy. I did a pre-interview with him. I came away thinking that this guy was amazing. When we met in person, he spoke for an hour straight without interruption. 


HNMAG: During that type of interview, are you considering the cutaways at the moment?

Kim Roberts: Oh yeah, you can see that Simon used his interviews very effectively. 

Justin Rebelo: Having him at the beginning, someone called it a nice misdirect. 


HNMAG: Do you play board games?

Kim Roberts: Not much. It wasn’t because we were passionate about board games that we got into this. We were curious about it. Who are these people who are crazy about board games? 

Tina Pehme: Meyer, our executive producer is a huge board game fan. He made us play board games and I felt it was a very competitive, confronting thing. I got nervous. I discovered that it’s really about bringing people together and finding a way in. It does bring out certain traits in people. 

Justin Rebelo: I like board games but I’m not a heavy gamer. More about party games with friends. 

At Hollywood North Magazine, we like board games so we really enjoyed the documentary. You don’t have to be a fan of board games though to be entertained by The Hobby. It turns out to be more about the people, their passion, and their journey. We also learned the terms Heavy and Light in terms of the different types of board games. That refers to the amount of strategy and explanation of the game mechanics. A complex or heavy game would be something such as “Twilight Imperium” whereas a lighter or less complex game would be “Snakes and Ladders.” Come back next week for our conversation with a few of the game players and director Simon Ennis. 

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