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LAist Interview: Jordan Mechner

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It's hard to believe that Jordan Mechner is only in his 40s. He's accomplished an awful lot in a short period of time. Hailed as a visionary game designer, Jordan is an icon in the video game industry. His first game, "Karateka," was an immediate success. Using innovative character animation techniques, Jordan's next game, "The Prince of Persia," redefined the look and feel of video games for years to come.

Currently adapting the screen version of "Prince of Persia" for Jerry Bruckheimer, Jordan divides his time between writing and making documentary films. His most recent film, Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, is a look at how the community of Chavez Ravine was destroyed and eventually replaced by Dodger Stadium. Chavez Ravine is a timely topic due to the success of Ry Cooder's latest album, derived from music Cooder created for the film project, and the recent death of Frank Wilkinson, the former assistant director of the Los Angeles City Housing Authority and social reformer, whose efforts to improve the lives of the Chavez Ravine inhabitants inadvertently led to the neighborhood's destruction. Eventually, Chavez Ravine became the site of Dodger Stadium. The short documentary will be screened for free this Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at UCLA's James Bridges Theater as part of the 24th Annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences/UCLA Contemporary Documentary series. The screening starts at 7:30 PM.

Screenwriter, videogame designer, independent filmmaker.

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How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
Going on seven years. Silverlake, then Los Feliz.

Will there be a Prince of Persia movie? How involved are you with the adaptation?
John August and I brought the project to Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures, who hired me to adapt the screenplay. I'm also an exec producer on the movie along with John, Mike Stenson and Chad Oman. Jerry Bruckheimer is the Producer with a capital P.

What are the differences in writing for video games and adult-oriented TV/film projects?
In a movie or TV show, the story comes first. It's the locomotive, the creative driving force. Whereas in a video game, the game play is the critical element that drives the project; the story is just one of the supporting elements. One of the biggest traps for a screenwriter/game designer is to overestimate the importance of the writing, as compared to other aspects of the game designer's job. You have to remember you're making a game, not a movie.

How did you happen to make the film Chavez Ravine?
Shortly after moving to LA, I read a review of Don Normark's book of photographs of Chavez Ravine in the LA Weekly and realized I knew him. His son had been my college roommate. Don was from Seattle, I was from New York, and now here we both were in L.A. We had dinner, one thing led to another, and three years later the film was finished.