riot games

Leslie Iwerks, the Academy Award and Emmy-nominated filmmaker behind The Pixar Story, has been secretly working on a major documentary about the video game industry.

If you looked at Iwerks’ IMDb page over the past 18 months, you’d see an in-development project referred to only as “Untitled Enterprise Documentary.” On the official website of her production company, the documentary is listed as “confidential” and the following vague synopsis is given: “Iwerks & Co. has delved deep into one of the highest profile entertainment entities to document the company’s dynamic push to transform and buck the trends of the established industry.”

But this week, we learned a bit more about this secretive project. It turns out that this movie is about one of the biggest gaming companies in the world: League of Legends creator Riot Games. And with that revelation comes some recent baggage.

A Secret Documentary About Riot Games

Here’s what we have found out about the film. The documentary “will give you a glimpse into one of the most popular video games in history.” Thanks to a test screening being held in Los Angeles this week, the following synopsis was revealed online:

“The documentary tells the story of the humble beginnings of what is now one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, and their vision to create not only a game, but a community. Featuring interviews from passionate fans, industry experts, and the creative visionaries behind the same, the documentary dives into the world of gaming, professional eSports players, fantastical characters, and more!”

The documentary has been in production for two years and is now deep in post-production. Although that description doesn’t specify, we have learned the film is about Riot Games, best known for League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game that has one of the highest active player counts of any game in the past decade. The company operates eSports leagues and championships worldwide.

However, Riot Games has been in the headlines recently for other reasons. The company became the source of scorn and controversy in recent months following the publication of a report at gaming site Kotaku. The article features comments from dozens of former and current employees claiming that female employees at Riot were being discriminated against in ideas and promotions, as well as accusations of sexual harassment and misgendering. These employees described the environment within Riot as a “bro culture,” feeling more like a fraternity than a workplace.

Riot Games eventually responded to the reports, stating that they have taken action against many of the specific instances in the article and that they are “committed to digging in, addressing every issue, and fixing the underlying causes.” Riot claims they have implemented changes to the company’s internal culture. Only time will tell how things progress.

Is the Riot Games Documentary a Puff Piece or an Expose?

If I have one complaint about Iwerks’ past films, it’s that they are often produced with incredible cooperation and unprecedented behind-the-scenes access with the companies featured. This leads to a finished product that sometimes feels like it’s a bit of a hagiography, sidestepping anything negative or controversial about the subject. I am concerned that Iwerks’ doc might not thoroughly dig into these claims about the culture at Riot Games or avoid the subject completely.

On the other hand, maybe this documentary wasn’t filmed in cooperation with the company like Iwerks previous films. Could it be more of an expose to explore the bro culture behind this company and that’s why it has been kept secret on every project listing?

We contacted Iwerks to inquire, but our call was never returned. Instead, the project listing on their website, screen captured above, disappeared this morning.

Who is Leslie Iwerks?

Leslie Iwerks is a documentary director and producer, as well as the granddaughter of famed Disney animation legend and designer of Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks. Her 1999 feature debut, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story, told her grandfather’s story. Her 2006 short film Recycled Life, about the Guatemala City garbage dump, was nominated for an Academy Award. However, many of her films have been about or adjacent to Disney and the advancing technology of the film industry.

Her 2008 documentary, The Pixar Story, is one of my favorite films about the business and art of animation (if you haven’t seen it, do so). She also produced and the 2010 one-hour television special entitled Industrial Light & Magic – Creating the Impossible for STARZ, which chronicled the rise of George Lucas’ visual effects house. She has also been hard at work on a feature-length documentary about Disney Imagineering.

You can watch her fantastic TED talk about “stories that are meant to be told” in the embed above.

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