Geek Dons Chain Mail, Makes Fool of Self


When I was a kid and deathly bored in the summer, I’d make movies. I borrowed a Super 8 movie camera from my mom (she was a teacher and used it in her classroom) and I took to the woods around my house to film my friends’ adventures as super spies. When I discovered the secrets of stop-motion animation, I began to make movies with Plasticine modeling clay. Once, when my sister was away at 4-H camp, I turned her bedroom into a set, spread sand on her mattress, and filmed claymation monsters who battled amidst our HO scale train set-up.

I thought I’d go on to the be the next Steven Spielberg or Chuck Jones. Instead, I became a writer. Over the decades, that impulse to make movies got buried.

But thanks to the democratization of technology, namely video and digital equipment, average Joes like me can make reasonably good-looking images and edit them (roughly, in my case) into something watchable. And thanks to YouTube, these movies can sometimes find an audience.

In "A Hard Day's Knight," our hero seeks help for his quest and begs for spare change

With dreams of stardom in my eyes, I set out into the neighborhoods around my apartment, armed with a camera and a suit of chain mail. My friend Jeff manned the camera and directed me, suggesting improv ideas as I interacted with total strangers (who were good sports and played along with my foolishness).

What emerged was this movie, A Hard Day’s Knight, my DIY search for glory, camaraderie and donuts. Plot summary: Searching for Gandalf, Frodo and Harry Potter, our hero battles indifference and ridicule as he tries to convince others to join his fellowship and begs for spare change for the quest.

OK, I’m not going to move to Hollywood and quit my day job (wait a sec, I don’t have a proper day job). But the project goes to show you that you never know what will emerge when you set out on a quest with a camera. Remember what Bilbo used to say: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

And if a 44-year-old geek can publicly embarrass himself, so can you. OK, your kids.

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the award-winning book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, his travel memoir investigation into fantasy and gaming subcultures the Huffington Post called “part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky,” National Public Radio described as “Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road” and proclaimed, “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes.” Follow Ethan’s adventures at

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