Story by Katherine Ramsey
Photo courtesy of Sword Fight Club
Several cars drive up to a deserted church. A group of young men exit and form a ring on the basketball court. Two of them step to the center and circle each other as they prepare to fight. Silence falls in anticipation. They grasp hands. And begin to poke each other in the chest.
This game is called sword fighting, a physical contest in which opponents clasp hands as they struggle to be the first to touch their partner with a finger protruding from their intertwined fists. However, it is not the game that has become a sensation on Drake University’s campus — it is the players.
First-year computer science major Alex Peterson began sword fighting with his friends in high school when he had the idea to film their battles and turn them into videos.
“The whole point was to be overdramatic and stupid,” Peterson said.
While the idea never took off with his friends in high school, his hallmates at Drake were more than enthusiastic. So with a digital single-lens reflex camera, some costumes and a big idea, Sword Fight Club was born.
The ensuing YouTube videos created by Peterson and his Sword Fight Club have the feel of dramatic mini-documentaries. The introductory scenes, music and cinematography lead the viewer to believe they are watching a serious biopic about a gang when, in fact, it’s just a bunch of kids poking each other on the chest in an empty parking garage.
“Generally the comments we get are that there really is no point but the editing is amazing and it’s fun to watch,” said senior management and marketing double major David Heineman, Peterson’s RA, who initially just wanted to make a hall video like the other floors in the building.
“Then (Alex) came to me with this idea he had from high school,” Heineman said, “but it wasn’t until he showed us the footage that we realized what the video quality would be.”
Peterson is responsible for the production value.
“You don’t necessarily need a good camera to make videos like this, you just need the right one,” Peterson said. Despite his computer science major, he has an eye for filmmaking.
“A lot of it has to do with editing,” Peterson said, “You can make the argument that anybody can edit because if you give two people the same raw footage and the same editing program, given enough time they could make the same result. I’ve just had more practice.”
His practice has paid off. The first videos, “Sword Fight Club” and “Sword Fight Club 2,” were released in November and December, respectively. These two films currently have a combined 4,452 views on YouTube.
“Feedback has been overwhelmingly good, people want to join our movement,” said first-year Brian Robinson, a member of the Sword Fight Club.
In order to give the series a more focused direction “Sword Fight Club: Origins” is currently in production leading up to a culmination of the story in “Sword Fight Club 3.”
While the Sword Fight Club storyline is set to end after “Sword Fight Club 3,” the team has other ideas in development.
“Hopefully it leads to other things, either access to more people who are interested in doing a video project or just an audience online,” Peterson said.
It has been a bonding experience for members of the club to walk around campus and see people viewing their videos on their laptops.
“People are watching,” said Peterson, “and we’re excited to see where it leads.”