sozou: career retrospective interview
Interview by Duncan 'Thorin' Shields from SK-Gaming.com
Oct 5, 2009
Once considered the best CS movie-maker in the world sozou, the man behind certified classics like 'Odolinksi Chapter 2' and 'Hard Clan - Die Hard', gives some insight into the movies which helped get him into the Hyper Island school of digital media and a subsequent internship.
The 26 year old Stockholm resident Soheill "sozou" Deriss is a legend in the Counter-Strike movie-making community. From the over the top effects-based style of his first movie 'Norslund' to his prime with the massively popular 'Hard Clan - Die Hard' to his final movie 'Team3D - Lost Tape', which was only partially completed and did not see a full release until years after production began, sozou has remained an almost mythical figure amongst CS movie fanatics and makers alike.
Having given up using Counter-Strike as an outlet for his artistic skills sozou has not been publicly seen or heard from in many years and looks unlikely ever to return. I, figuratively, sat down the man who pushed Counter-Strike movie-making over the top and went through what he has been up to since his departure, the various aspects of his entire movie-making career and his motivations for leaving the scene.
For newer readers who are not familiar with sozou's body of work, or older readers who wish to reminisce, all of his movies are embedded within the article so they can be viewed while the piece is read.
What have you been doing with yourself since you finished your CS movie work? What profession do you currently pursue and has there been any further education involved? Can you shed some light on why you left the world of CS movie-making?
I remember, last I did an interview I studied at a school called Hyper Island. Actually before that I did go to a university for a year, but that's not what you want to do if you're going into the digital media buisiness as a creative person or designer. 4 years later after Hyper Island I started digital work - I've worked for web and advertisement agencies and have learned so much about myself, design and people. What I love is variety and that's something you don't get by keeping making CS flicks. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be here where I am today if I didn't play around and make CS flicks. Believe it or not I got into the internationally known Hyper Island school of digital media because of my movies and got my internship later on because of them as well. So what I've learned is do what you really want to do. If it turns out bad or good is not so important as what you have learnd, cheesy but true.
Norslund (released ~2001)
When Norslund appeared you basically came out of nowhere and delivered this movie which had people shaking their heads at the unique editing style which was unlike anything which had come before. How did you get into CS movie-making? What was the path in terms of interests that drew you in and how much time was devoted to learning programs and techniques before your first movie came out?
I have always loved movies, since my dad recorded every film that airs on TV on VHS (he still has them) and as I grew up I got more intrested in how to make my own movies and clips and what I had to work with was my friends and my passion at that time, gaming. So I started playing around in different programs and trying to mimic stuff I used to see in movies and add some stuff that I like. That's how Norslund really got started, it started when I wanted to do a really cool intro and it envolved into making a CS movie. The clips were gathered within a week so it wasn't aimed per se to become a CS movie but everyone I showed it to got really stoked and amped about releasing it to the public and so I contacted this guy at counterstrike.se, not really sure about the URL. As I queried him he was very nonchalant and said basically that I should get lost, but as soon as he saw it he was all excited as well. From the response I got I continued to make a few more movies. If you have the ambition and passion to do something, do it.
Odolinski Chapter 2 (released ~2002)
For your second movie, which was made in a week, you worked with a player who wasn't well known as a top level competitive player and would be unheard of right now if this movie didn't exist and yet he had footage which for a CS movie of that period was good and he was playing competitively in Sweden. So how did that collaboration come about and what were you aiming for when you made the movie? Also what are your thoughts on how the movie came out?
It's pretty funny actually, he somehow forced me to do it. After Norslund's success Robert Odolinski a.k.a. Odo, who was in our buddy clan Norslund, really wanted me to make him a movie. He was a really, insanely, talented player and I wanted to make a movie about him too but I was stuck playing a game called Dark age of Camelot. He said that he would even pay me, which I thought was absurd. You don't take money from a friend, maybe it's my Persian roots which acted, anyway he said for my convenience he would bring his machine to my place with all the frags compiled in their respective avi files. When he left that day he said do whatever you want with the frags, how you make the movie is all up to you. He was convinced it would turn out great, and it did. That movie was his last appearance in the CS scene.
In terms of the movie, I think I did something unique and entertaining with high class frags. My favourite part is the "fun" and "knife" section, where he plays and makes a fool of other top clans, which led to a lot of talk and heated discussions. Odo's favourite part was the ending, which I almost didn't have in the final movie, because I thought it was boring, but Odo convinced me to make it a part of the film and oh boy it was right choice. This also prompted a heated discussion about how he was a cheater.
Hard Clan - Die Hard (released ~2003)
With those first two movies you seemed to be kind of an underground hit, in as much as you were known in Sweden and amongst the hardcore movie fans, but your next movie, Hard Clan - Die Hard, thrust you completely into the spotlight and considerable fame at the time within CS. That movie took a team who were CAL open (the lowest level) in the USA and made them the subject of one of the all time great CS movies which such a success that seemingly all of the techniques have since been used by other people and that team received endless cheating accustions about various scenes in the movie. When you announced the movie's impending release you also made the comment that it had frags people wouldn't believe.
How did you get hooked up with that American team and how did you think that movie turned out since practically everyone considers it your best? Also how did you find the experience of being the #1 movie-maker of the time?
Hard Clan - Die Hard was absolutely my best movie. After Odolinski I wanted to make another one but didn't know which clan I should pick or who the movie should be about. I wasn't looking for top clan in top league type frags, someone asked me what kind of frags you want and I recall saying something like "you spawn, you make random shot through wall and/or get a double headshot". I realized that's not possible but that's what I was looking for. So in the mist of all this searching and watching demos a guy named Montrey private messaged me over IRC which I actually read amongst all 50 PMs that were open at that time. I actually did try to read everyone's and respond to everyone. Montrey stated he had crazy clips, and cash was involved. Crazy clips indeed and it didn't bother me at all that it was in the little leagues so I went for it. I had this idea of a fire intro for a long time with a dramatic soundtrack over it, almost like a cinematic trailer which gets you so excited to watch that movie, but in this case gets you so excited that you want to play CS right away. Mission accomplished. sozou the #1 movie-maker was rewarding in so many ways, getting mail stating "YOU'RE GOD" is not bad at all.
Team3D - Lost Tape (released ~2005)
Your final movie was quite a strange situation since it was shortly after beginning helping Team3D with their homepage that I set you up with the team to make them an official movie. It was also highly anticipated since fans could imagine a combination of some of the world's best CS players' footage with the well loved sozou editing style. Unfortunately it seems as though your motivation for the piece died and the project lay dormant for a number of years, assumed dead by most, until what had been completed appeared online.
What was the situation on your end with that final chapter of your movie-making career and what do you think of what you managed to complete of the movie?
Team 3D - Lost Tape could have been a really great movie. Basically why it didn't become one was that I started studying at a University and had my priorities elsewhere. I had this idea for the movie a while and as I worked on it I felt that it didn't have the same spark as Hard Clan. I'm quite happy with the intro actually, the sergeant that comes up now and then is a good idea, but the execution wasn't what I'd hoped for. Maybe I should have made some sort of voiceover where you only can hear the tense drill sergeant voice. Another complication was that as time passed, so did the lineup and so the order of the movie. I felt I didn't do that movie wholeheartedly and I didn't really have the energy to continue. So I said "fuck it", I just made an abrupt cut in the movie and put my logo at the end and left everyone watching with a big 'WTF?' face.
To what extent do you keep an eye on the CS movie-making scene nowadays and how much contact do you have with CS in general? Have you seen any of the classics released since you left such as 'Deathraizers 4', 'n0thing but headshots' or 'Ruination'? If so what did you think of them and are there any movie-makers past or present whose work you have enjoyed? If you were around now what kind of movie would you make?
I'm not in the scene anymore, but I play other games occasionally with my nick sozou which people still recognize. Usually when I connect to a game they ask right away "sozou the moviemaker?" which is cool I must say. I still have contact with a couple of people, you of course Thorin, and Montrey. As I'm not around in the CS scene I don't recognize any of those movies I'm sorry to say, and I can't remember who I liked and enjoyed watching back in the day but there were a few. 'aAa - against All authority' had a nice movie I remember. If I would make a movie today I would do something different than I have done before and the community has done now. That doesn't say much but it would be something new definitely and fresh.
What words of wisdom would you give to those people who have unrealized aspirations of becoming one of the movie-making greats?
Play around in different video applications. Don't be afraid to make something, be curious. A mistake is something you will learn from. It's not only about the effects. If you have the ambition you will do this without anyone telling you to.
How would you like to be remembered as a movie-maker?
That's difficult to answer. Well let's make it short and say that I would like to be remembered for being an awesome cool editing CS movie guy. People will make movies from here on forth with my name in the credits saying like "Thank you sozou for inspiration and being so damn awesome at making CS movies". Nothing big but something like that.
To find out what sozou is up to outside of CS you can visit his website which contains a portfolio of his post-CS work.