While content made by Riot Games promoting League of Legends esports events has already garnered praise through its portrayal of storylines and building anticipation -- things took a different direction in the middle of 2021 when a production company stepped in to manage that role: Good Boy Creative.
Founded in 2017 by the duo of Nick Brown and Josh Frackleton, Good Boy deals with things concerning production, including, as listed on its website, writing and development, commercial, live event and social media video production, plus editing, sound mixing, color, 2D and 3D animation and more. Since then, the company created projects for a variety of clients such as Disney, Adidas, Copa90, and eventually, Riot.
With Riot, Good Boy produces material that resembles the former’s style, generating hype and highlighting its games but also falls in line with their unique thematic approach, enhancing storylines surrounding particular teams and players. Such an approach has been evident in League of Legends and, most notably, Valorant events also. As a matter of fact, they are the people responsible for producing the material for the first international event in VCT history, which took place in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2021 and the ensuing events to this day.
For those who have enjoyed certain material such as the teaser trailers that preluded each Masters, Champions, MSI, and Worlds events over the years, they have Good Boy to thank for making that possible. For others that applauded long-form content like the opening films for Champions 2022 and the multiple documentaries that chronicled that year’s VCT and Game Changers Championship, they have Good Boy to thank also. Although Good Boy Creative’s existence is short compared to other established esports entities, thanks to its growing portfolio, it has become an esteemed part of the industry’s content production scene.
Shortly after the end of Masters Tokyo, BLIX talked to Nick Brown, one of the founders and current executive director of Good Boy Creative, to talk about how the company started and its progression. In the first part of this interview, Brown discusses Good Boy’s creation, its evolution, how it started collaborating with Riot Games and what difficulties he encountered while producing the initial set of esports events. This is part one of our interview. Read part two here.
What is Good Boy Creative?
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Thanks a lot for doing the interview. To start off, everyone knows what kind of content they have seen in Valorant and League of Legends esports for the past two years but I'm sure not many have heard of exactly who Good Boy Creative is. That said, what is Good Boy Creative and where do you fit within the team?
Nick Brown, Good Boy Creative: Something we kind of pride ourselves on is being able to take just a kernel of an idea and develop it into something that's a really cohesive film language that can exist as a single piece of media or as a body of work that exists across an entire event or tournament, such as you've seen with the work we've done for VCT. In terms of who we are, Good Boy was founded by myself and Josh Frackleton back in 2017. We've worked together for over 10 years at this point, but we met in college. We both attended Syracuse University together and became friends and collaborators there, and from that point forward, we continued to work together in LA as freelancers.
For myself, I kind of fell into more of the producing path, and Josh went into more of the post-production and creative development path. At the point that we started our own shop, we had this really nice division of labor between production and creative. More recently, we've brought on a third partner, Minh Bui, who heads up our post-production department. So all of the editorial and visual effects is what he manages. Among the three of us, we kind of managed the full scale of all these projects.
BLIX: And it wasn't until 2021 that you guys started putting your hand onto esports. I might be wrong on that claim. What was the kind of products that Good Boy was making before getting their hands on League of Legends and Valorant?
Brown: Our background is kind of in more traditional short-form media, so short-form branded documentaries, music videos, and commercials. We had done some work in esports. Myself, Josh and Minh had all freelanced for a different production company by producing short-form content for Fortnite back when they were having their major LANs like the Fortnite World Cup and the Summer Skirmish, PAX West, and stuff like that. I think that was back in 2017 or 2018, so we had kind of had some exposure to the scene doing that, but our background is more so in traditional filmmaking, and that's the lens that we try to apply to all the work we do now.
Read Part two of this interview here.
Every time we have one of these projects or one of these tournaments, we always think about it from a very filmic lens. We think about what would be most compelling to a regular audience member as opposed to someone who's an esports-specific fan and I think that's kind of informed a lot of our creative decision-making as we've been building the business.
BLIX: For you specifically, what was your first encounter with esports like?
Brown: I could probably speak to the first encounter we had with Good Boy working with Riot. It was definitely jumping off the deep end to an extent. We were flown out to Reykjavik, Iceland for Masters 2 and MSI 2021, and it was two tournaments that basically had zero break between the two of them, and we were in charge of producing the daily content for both of these tournaments. The interesting thing for us was the creative goals of the League of Legends event (MSI), and the creative goals of Masters 2 were very, very different.
Obviously, League of Legends has so much legacy as a sport that needs to be acknowledged and respected in the way that you're crafting stories for the game, whereas Valorant was a brand new sport with a lot of players that were relatively unknown. Obviously, some folks had come over from CS. I think the goal for Valorant was to create a kind of visual language in film production in that first event and define what Valorant esports looks like in live-action production.
Brown on Good Boy Creative's Style: “We think about what would be most compelling to a regular audience member as opposed to someone who's an esports-specific fan, and I think that's kind of informed a lot of our creative decision-making as we've been building the business.”
Dealing with initial struggles
BLIX: And there's significance behind working as the people in charge of cultivating the content for an esport that is as new, still in my eyes, as Valorant. Did you and the rest of the team experience any pressure in trying to create the correct sort of content by your planning behind that first Masters event in Reykjavik?
Brown: In a lot of ways, it was actually the opposite. I felt there was less pressure with Valorant because it was brand new, but there was no expectation for what it should or could be. I think as time goes on, and we do more events, our collective team feels more pressure because we feel we have a responsibility to obviously Riot but also the players, the teams, and most importantly the fans to tell stories that are both visually interesting and deep and compelling from a narrative standpoint. Riot's done a fantastic job of cultivating a team around our production company that's allowed us to tell these stories at the speed that we do.
We collaborate with a writing team that works within Riot that helps us craft storylines day in and day out and helps us write questions and whatnot. The more time that it goes on and the bigger the esport gets to be, the greater the pressure is for us. We just want to do justice for a game that we love and a community and a culture that we really, really appreciate.
BLIX: I want to know why exactly you have this thematic approach when it comes to creating content. Where did that inspiration come from for you and Josh, given that you guys have been working together for a good while?
Brown: Josh and I have always loved to push the boundaries of what we deem impossible, for better or worse. There's something that drew us together as creative collaborators and business owners that we just like pushing the envelope. We like doing stuff that gets people talking online and that's always been our goal I think as we've built our team that works on these events for Riot, we seeked out other individuals that kind of have the same mentality that we do in which the most important thing is the content that we put out to the world.
How can we put out the most exciting, compelling content, and how can we tell the deepest and richest stories for the audience? So we've been really fortunate to build out a team of folks from all over the world who collaborate with us on most of these shows, and everyone gets to fly in and work together. That's been a really fun part of this process: it's getting a chance to cultivate this amazing group of creatives who all have this kind of burning passion and work ethic that rallies behind a singular goal of making the best content we can every single day.
BLIX: Going back to the team's Iceland experience in 2021, the fact that you guys had to work two consecutive events with no break in between must have provided a lot of difficulties, but for you, it might have been a welcome challenge. In trying to ensure all your work was done correctly in that enclosed environment, what with the pandemic going on, was it a difficult task to undertake? Or did it help a lot for you and the rest of the team?
Brown: I would say kind of both to an extent. I think, in the fact that we were kind of existing in a bubble, there were obviously no distractions, right? We landed there with a job to do, and it kind of felt like we were the strike team that was going in, and we were like, 'Let's go in, let's do the absolute best job we can, and let's get out.' And on that first event, it was the smallest travel team we've ever had on an event.
I think it was just four or five of us that came in, and then we staffed everyone else locally from Iceland--which the film community in Iceland is absolutely fantastic--and we had some incredible crew, but in working with folks for the first time, you kind of missed that cohesion and collaboration that comes with with working with people over and over again. So it was tough. We've done a lot of long runs where we've bounced from one show to another and kind of been on the road for two or three months at a time, but I think Riot has put together such an incredible group of individuals who are.
What I was saying is the events and broadcast team that brought us under their wing at Riot have been so incredibly empathetic and supportive and, frankly, just kind to us as we've navigated a challenging and kind of uncharted territory for us as an LA-based production company and having that support from them has kind of made the whole process a lot easier. Even when it's sleepless nights and rolling from one show to the next, knowing you're doing it with a group of people who are supportive and looking out for your health and best interests kind of makes it all completely manageable.
Diving into the day-to-day work of Good Boy
BLIX: And it is with that frame in mind that you guys work through an event besides making those teasers such as creating content and conducting interviews. I want to know what's the timeline like for this team when it comes to creating content. Do you guys really have like less than a day's worth of preparation before each given match day throughout an event?
Brown: Almost always. Typically speaking, a tease the airs the following day relies on the storylines of that day to get to a place where we can really start editing it. I think as we've worked on these events for a few years, we've continued to refine our process and get to a place where it's less painful. For the first event, it was really, really tough. We didn't have all the infrastructure in place in terms of the writer team that we work with, and obviously, there were just a lot of stumbling blocks in the fact that it was our first event, and there were technical hurdles and so on and so forth. But we've reached a place now where the day-to-day storytelling is a pretty seamless process in terms of how we end a broadcast one day and start preparing for what we're producing for the following day.
So yeah, daily teases and PMI (post-match) interviews and those types of pieces of content are truly on a 12-to-16-hour post-production timeline. We have folks working in different time zones. We almost always have people working out of our LA studio as well as editors working locally on the ground to help support those super aggressive timelines. For our big opening films, we usually have one or two dedicated days of post-production for those ones, and I think those are kind of the most ambitious projects that we put out, which are the opening films and opening teases.
Brown: The nice thing about our team and how incredibly integrated it is, Josh, working as our creative director, is in total lockstep with men who is our post-production lead, and it also has a heavy hand in a lot of creative development on our projects. The two of them are very, very close, and they have countless conversations in pre-production, and then they develop animatics and they think really critically about what they want the end product to be before we even roll the camera. And then, in terms of actual nuts and bolts and the execution on those shoot days, the moment we have shot out a single card on set, we send it straight back to post-production, where it's ingested, transcoded, and the editor starts working. So we're kind of editing as we're shooting, which can be challenging because we never have all the content in the can until we're actually wrapped with production, but again, it's a refined and somewhat proprietary process that we've developed over the past two and a half years that allows us to deliver the quality we put out on the timelines that we have.
BLIX: I'm sure there's been plenty of quality and attention given to those opening films and also for others specific moments in an event. One of the biggest examples that I've seen from your work is the opening films for Champions 2021 and 2022 and the Grand Finals of Worlds 2022 for League of Legends. How much of an emphasis did you guys put into making sure these kinds of videos were at their best quality?
Brown: As fans of esports, we kind of respond and put our energy into places that feel like they require the most energy and the most involvement. Obviously, there's a lot of stamina involved in putting together this daily content, but when there's a special moment, albeit it the first day of an event or the grand finals of Worlds 2022 that had such an incredible story with T1 and DRX, we kind of just get firing on all cylinders and everyone on our team is really fired up and rally behind a shared creative goal.
I think it honestly comes down to just a lot of adrenaline and us wanting to do the best possible job we can when we know the stakes are high both for the players and also the fans. We want to make sure we match their expectations for the broadcast and the storytelling and really, really come correct. From an endurance standpoint, we can't be firing at 200% every single day for months on end, so we kind of settled into a more reasonable cadence with the way that we craft our stories day in and day out. But when there's a big moment in a tournament, we're always ready to come out guns blazing and try and produce something that will be really memorable.
BLIX: I want to go more in-depth as to what the day-to-day is like. What's the timeline like from the end of matches in a given day up until the start of the ensuing day?
Brown: It actually starts much earlier than the end of the matches. Our kind of story pipeline takes place 24 hours around the clock. So from the moment the first match ends, our producing and creative team puts together interview questions, and we do our post-match interviews with select players from each team, at which point, as soon as we're done shooting those interviews, they get ingested and brought online where if they need to be translated, they get translated. Then our story team gets to work crafting both post-match interview segments, which are broadcast-specific video segments that air just for the broadcast, and we also start piecing together our story for the following day's tease.
We're thinking critically about what that story is as the games are being played and we're always just watching along and starting to think about what those narratives and rivalries are that we can play into for the next day. And then it's kind of a collaboration between our creative team and the writing team that works within Riot to put together a script, at which point our editors get to work, and they will start editing basically a radio edit, which is just a string out of different interview clips. Once were completely aligned with all of the stakeholders within Riot on that radio edit, which is usually in the early hours of the morning at 2 or a.m., we'll basically start cutting pictures and then get into sound mix, visual effects, graphics, all that good stuff as we kind of creep closer and closer to the delivery, which is anywhere from usually 8 am to 10 or 11 am local time at the event.
Evolution of Good Boy Creative
BLIX: As you mentioned earlier in the conversation, this is a team that prides itself on innovation and evolution within the work that it applies towards. Which aspect has seen the biggest evolution and innovation within the production team?
Brown: I think probably the biggest innovation that we've been cultivating over the past few years has just been on the post-production side and finding ways to make the schedule a little bit more sustainable for our editors. Starting off, the hours were just really, really grueling and long, and naturally, in the fact that you're editing content that needs to go out every single day, it has the potential to be a 24-hour job so we've really, really tried hard to develop processes and systems between our LA studio and our remote team on the road to make that process more seamless and give our creative and post production teams the energy and the rest time they need to really strike when those big story moments come up.
When we want to create an amazing finals tease or an amazing semifinal tease, they have the stamina to jump in and do something really special. And then, on the production side, it's been building a team and working with a consistent team over and over again because the event itself has a lot of moving parts and it's not as simple as just saying, 'Hey, we want to interview this person now.' There are a lot of other elements that go into producing a live broadcast that aren't our department, so having a team that knows and understands the larger goals for the broadcast and the event and works well within those confines has been critical as well. All credit to our team, who have stuck with us and continue to grow with us. I think despite the fact that Good Boy was started by myself and Josh, I think the result of our output is a direct reflection of collaboration with our core team that we've worked with since 2021. We couldn't do any of this without them, and it's working with them that makes the job really, really fulfilling.
BLIX: How would you define the Good Boy Creative flair of content?
Brown: I think there are a few things. We consider ourselves filmmakers first and we always like to craft stories that are beautiful and compelling and, frankly, just get the audience as hype as as they possibly can be, but I think, to kind of break it up a little bit, from a visual standpoint, we like to push the envelope and stylistically we like to try and push things as much as we possibly can. I think we also kind of pair that with storytelling techniques that are probably closer to narrative film and traditional documentary film. I think that juxtaposing trendy visual language with sincere narrative filmmaking techniques is what's allowed our content to be successful. That, of course, is always evolving, right?
We're always trying to just push the envelope and change up what we're doing, and it's ultimately experimentation. It's kind of the beauty and the curse of these events where we don't have time to try again. We have to have a lot of creative conviction as we head into these events, and we have to really believe in what it is that we're doing and stick to our guns and really go for it because there are no second chances. We get two or three days with the pro players, and we either are going to create something fantastic or not. I think for us, it's about creative conviction. It's about really being passionate about the storytelling and the pro players, and the audience.
On the visual side, it's experimentation. It's what is a unique and unexpected way to craft a story visually and with audio that's just going to excite the fans. That's ultimately who we do this for. We really want the fans of the sport to feel like the content is an extension of the game that they really love. As silly as it sounds, the comments, the likes and everything is the fuel for us because we love producing content that the fans love. We love getting a reaction out of the fan base, out of the casters and out of the players even, and that's always going to be our number one motivation.
BLIX: Diving into that collaborative process with Josh and Minh, how do you guys work together as a cohesive team and make sure that the resulting product is as good as it is for each event? How has that partnership evolved from the start-up until the present day?
Brown: Well, the interesting thing about myself, Josh and Minh, and it's kind of represented in the rest of our team, is we're all really good friends. We have a really open creative relationship where we'll throw ideas off the wall in a space where there's no judgment, and we'll all kind of like sit together and think about the show and think about the execution. And as close friends, it's something where the conversation never stops, right? We don't really have a hard line between work and life. It's kind of one of the same in the fact that we're all best friends, and we all work on these projects together.
At the same time, we also all push each other really hard. There's an expectation from those guys on me that if we have a challenging production, I'm going to find a way to execute on it and pull it all together and make sure we have everything we need to actually get the picture up and get that first shot rolling. Josh and Minh push each other respectively as well. They're creative collaborators in a lot of ways--Josh as a director and Minh as our post-production lead. They are their harshest critics to each other in a lot of ways, so it's a loving but brutally honest relationship that the three of us have, and I think that's something we've kind of cultivated and extended out to our larger group. We'll tell someone if something they're doing isn't working, and the culture that we have built is if you get hard feedback, you brush it off and you try again, and there's no problem.
Brown: There's a reason why you're working with us, and it's because we believe that you are valuable, we believe you're talented, we believe you care about the content, and feedback and critiques are just a part of that process that everyone goes through. We just kind of brush our shoulders off and keep moving forward, and I think that's why, at least from our perspective, we feel like our content is continuing to get better. Every time we do a show, we all learn something new. Sometimes, it's small things. Sometimes, it's large things, but I think stax said it in Tokyo where it's 'win or learn.' Those are the two options. You either win or you learn and I think that's kind of our mentality as well, and in a best case scenario, you can do both.
BLIX: When it comes to doing these events, there's not a lot of time for you to look back and revise and fix whatever it is that you guys need to fix given the tight schedule that you guys were on? That said, what is an event that you feel you could have done better or done differently?
Brown: I think for Worlds 2021 we had some of the most incredible visuals we've ever produced as a company, but I wish we had told a deeper sports story throughout the entire event. I don't look back at it and think we missed the mark per se, but I think now that I have a greater understanding of what League of Legends fans really crave in their daily content, I think we could have done a better job prioritizing the story of the sport and the legacy of the sport at Worlds of all places. But I think, if anything, that would probably be the one place where I would revisit our approach a little bit, but nonetheless, I'm still very proud of the work we put out.
BLIX: I will have to say, though, the semi-finals video between DK and T1 is one of my favorite League of Legends pieces. The emphasis that you guys put in between Shoemaker and Faker and how Shoemaker had the potential to become the next Faker and him saying how he just wanted to be known as Showmaker was great.
Brown: Don't get me wrong, I don't think we totally missed the mark. All in all, I just think overall, if I were to look back at anything, I'd probably say that's where I'd pushed a little bit harder for those narratives to be more in the forefront, but you've definitely done your homework. I feel like you know every video we produce very well.
This is part one of our interview with Good Boy Creative. Read part two here.