In the wider LEGO Fan community there’s a widely-discussed phenomenon called “The Dark Ages.” It’s time to talk about what it means for brickfilmers.
The Dark Ages are the time in a LEGO fan’s life when they stop building with LEGO (typically in their teens when they get distracted by school and hormones) before rediscovering their passion years later (usually in their mid-thirties when they have children). Not every LEGO fan has a Dark Age (I myself only had a short Slightly Dim Age), and not all of them have the same trajectory I laid out above. Enough adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs) have gone through some sort of Dark Age that the term has an entry in The Brothers Brick LEGO Glossary.
But this is not a term that is used often, if ever, in the brickfilming community; probably because the brickfilming community tends to skew a lot younger than the AFOL community (75% under 21 in the 2013 Bricks in Motion census). This makes sense. Until very recently, it was really hard to make movies at home. Kids in the ’60s and ’70s may have been able to play with LEGO, but unless they were really lucky they didn’t have the equipment to make a brickfilm. That’s why the Magic Portal and this recently discovered brickfilm from 1973 are some of the only brickfilms we know about from that era. Most brickfilmers are either: 1) too young have had their Dark Age yet, 2) just entering into their Dark Age now, or 3) immune to The Dark Ages.
For a Dark Age to really be a Dark Age, you need to leave the hobby and then rediscover it later. Until very recently, there weren’t any noteworthy examples of a brickfilmer returning to the hobby. Then this happened:
To be fair, Nathan Wells has been back on the scene for a couple months now, but this film makes his comeback official. The video cleverly addresses the reasons for his absence (I laughed very hard at the part about lost subscribers due to Minecraft videos) and is also a visual tour de force showcasing Nathan’s skills as a set designer, cinematographer, and animator. Nathan Wells is a legend among brickfilmers, and this film reminds us why.
Nathan Wells returning to the fold means that there is hope out there for all the other brickfilmers who have fallen into The Dark Ages. Which brings us to the Saga of Stonebreakers10.
Most brickfilmers entering their Dark Ages don’t have a big laborious public breakup with the hobby; they just stop posting LEGO videos on their YouTube channel. Stonebreakers10 (Matt Giudice) is different. Matt wasn’t just a brickfilmer, he was a meta-brickfilmer, and his video I am a Brickfilmer was part of his successful campaign to become a winner of YouTube NextUp. He also made a hilarious video about brickfilmer problems. But after winning NextUp as the token brickfilmer, the Stonebreakers10 channel started to become populated with more and more live-action videos and fewer brickfilms.
Even his final brickfilm is about his decision to leave brickfilming. His sigfig argues with characters from his past brickfilms, who all exclaim that his decision to leave brickfilms “just doesn’t seem logical.” This is clearly a decision that Matt (who paints himself as indecisive) had a lot of trouble coming to terms with. The video ends on an ambiguous note:
“No more brickfilms for the rest of your life?”
“For the rest of my life? Well, that just doesn’t seem logical, does it?”
The final screen reads “TA TA FOR NOW.” Given the lackluster performance of his live action videos, maybe that return will come sooner rather than later. Or not. I’m certainly not trying to be a stone to his flower. The value of having the shared concept of The Dark Ages in the LEGO fan community is that we don’t judge people who leave the hobby. We know they’ll be back some day, and like the Renaissance artists or Nathan Wells, they’ll produce even better work than they did before they wandered.
What do you think about The Dark Ages for brickfilmers? Do you know brickfilmers who are struggling with a Dark Age? Did you go through a Dark Age? Tell us in the comments.