The Hobbit and Kardashian marketing

I must say I’m not that enthused about Peter Jackson spinning out The Hobbit into three parts. He’s taken quite a few liberties with Mr. Tolkien’s untouchable tale, some of them rather benign and some of them (girl elf-Fili, or Kili, whatever, love story) reprehensible. Jackson should have his beard shaved off for that one in the manner of the king’s emissaries who were humiliated at the court of Edom (or wherever).

At any rate, it’s galling that Sir Jackson (Sir Jackson? that’s what people get knighted for these days, as opposed to fighting the Moslems at the battle of Tours?) has gone the route of Kim Kardashian marketing with the good Professor’s wit. Spin it out, enlarge it, hash and dash it and repackage it with something shiny.

Yes, I’m going to go see the movie. Even though I’ll gnash my teeth from time to time (sans popcorn, as it doesn’t seem to agree with my health — little agrees with my health these days; save me, Jonathan Gruber!, or at least let me know when I’m supposed to die so I can schedule my dry cleaning accordingly).

And, yes, I’m almost ready to publish the latest Tormay story. Hopefully before my dry cleaning’s date with destiny. Wait. Am I talking about clothes or closure?

And, yes, winter is coming, and that has nothing to do with George Martin. It’s simply winter, a much more profound and persistent entity than any Stark.

Ranger Filming Finished

elves and rangers
Elves and rangers

The Rangers wrapped up filming out in Virginia. The footage is looking great! The locations were mostly in Rappahannock County, which provided some gorgeous, pristine scenery. The cast and crew numbered somewhere north of 60, in addition to a lot of kind support from local businesses and the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.

Anyway, now it’s time for post-production: color correction, sound design, any necessary dubbing, editing, etc. Ron Newcomb, the director, is hoping to have things wrapped up by the end of the year.

elves on the skyline
Elves hunting orcs

The Star Exponent, out of Culpeper, had a very nice write-up about the project. Among other things, the article touches on the angle of community involvment. Local business owner Rick Combs summed up the perspective of the locals on the film project:

“It’s an excitement being brought to Culpeper,” he said, “and it’s a nice movie about good triumphing over evil in the end. If they want to make more movies here in the future, there is a business community that will support them.”

Sabine
Sabine

Just as a quick aside, there’s no reason why films need to be primarily made in the Southern California area. That’s an outdated concept. With the substantially decreased costs in necessary technology, the willingness of talent to travel, and welcoming communities as evidenced by Combs’ comments, I bet that indie film will be flourishing even more in the years to come.

Our hope with The Rangers project is that we can use this initial film to spur more interest and development of further stories in that fantasy world. There’s quite a market for that genre and, as a writer, it’s a fantastic genre to create in. If you’re a finance person and interested, get in touch with me.

The Rangers cast and crew
Rangers cast and crew

Fantasy has certain unique attributes that are not easily available in other genres. For one thing (and I think this is key and dreadfully important), you can deal with the subject of joy. Not joy in terms of happiness, but joy in terms of the knowledge that the world is broken and it shall one day be made whole. More on that idea later, as it has wide and deep-reaching ramifications. Both Tolkien and Lewis dealt with it in their fantasies, as did George MacDonald. I hope to re-enter the Rangers world very soon and, amidst the orcs and elves and rangers dealing death and fighting the darkness, find the heartbreak of joy.

By the way, thanks to Jessica Mellow, Sebrina Scott and others for the use of the photos. If I missed someone to attribute for a photo, please let me know!

Rangers in full-swing of production

director and elves
Elves, director and makeup.

The Rangers, the latest indie film I wrote (with Ron Newcomb and Scott Mathias) is currently shooting in Virginia. Thankfully, I’m out here in California, hidden away and safe from the lunacy that usually comprises a set. Having worked for several years in television (all location dramas and documentaries for the BBC, ITV, etc), I have scars… Anyway, here are a few pictures I’ve culled from various Facebook posts from the cast and crew.

In all honesty, I’m actually torn. My introvertish self loves that I’m miles away…yet, I do love location projects. Yes, they can be tedious, but there’s a certain fascination seeing how a shot comes together, seeing how a director and actors interpret a scene, seeing how a location colors a scene.

orc
“Bring out the Bieber so we may put him in our dinner stewpot!”

One of the main things that interests me about indie film is the control aspect. Typically, a writer has zero control over their script, once it gets sold. They’re often not even welcome on set. With indie film, however, some amount of control is maintained (stress on “some amount”). Not all, of course, unless you want to go the Robert Rodriguez route (too much work for me–that guy must be insane). The Rangers is my second indie film to go into production, and it is whetting my appetite for a third.

With the combination of film and novel, nowadays, one can create a property in novel form and then bring it to film afterward. If the budget is kept low (see: minimize locations, minimal to zero special effects, contentment with B-list actors and locals, crowdfunding), it is legitimately possible to pull off a decent project.

Kulta Blackhand
Kulta Blackhand

And then sell it? Yes, of course. You’re not necessarily going to end up in theaters, but you can certainly get it on foreign television, Netflix, iTunes, video-on-demand.

Anyway, like I said, despite my oysterish nature, I’m starting to think more and more about producing my own projects, instead of just writing scripts. Heck, if Robert Rodriguez can do it…

The Rangers ready to start filming

woodland
Woodland location for The Rangers

The Rangers will start filming on August 15. I have to admit, it is much more peaceful to just write scripts and let other people film them. I get to lounge around in California while Ron Newcomb (director) and Scott Mathias (producer) and their teeming minions do all the hard work out in Virginia. I’m already feeling tired just thinking about their shooting schedule.

Anyway, like I said, they’re going to start filming on August 15 and will be filming for 9 absolutely packed days. Two crews, four cameras, breakneck speed. Quite a large cast, lots of extras, actors flying in from quite far away (Scandinavia, for some of the elves, I think). What’s more, this is a period piece.

The dwarf Tiberius from The Ranger
The dwarf Tiberius from The Ranger

Yep. Period piece. The Rangers is not specifically a spin-off of The Lord of the Rings, but it comes close in look and feel. Medievalish setting. Elves. Orcs. Rangers. Wizards. Lots of weaponry. Fighting. Magic. A dragon makes a brief appearance. Definitely a period piece (those are much harder to pull off in terms of sets, costumes, etc, in case you’re wondering why I mentioned it).

Like I said, I’m lounging in California while they’re doing the heavy lifting. Filming, if you’re not getting the hint, is not glamorous. It’s a lot of work. Hard work. There’s a great deal of time that’s already gone into the pre-production phase: scouting, casting, a great deal of armor, weaponry and clothing had to be constructed, script development (I’m about to finalize the 9th draft), securing crew, finances…

Anyway, like I parentheticalized above, I’m about to finalize the 9th draft of the script. After that? Onto the next script. I’ve got a fairly goofy idea for a romantic comedy. If I can’t get Ron and Scott to go for it, I think I’ll shoot it myself out here in California. Which means I’ll be doing all the hard work…

The Rangers in pre-production

Lieutenant Wolf of the RangersThe Rangers is currently in pre-production, with filming scheduled for August. We’re doing a short film of 40 minutes, fully funded from our Kickstarter campaign from earlier this year. In a nutshell, Rangers is an epic fantasy off-shoot of the Lord of the Rings in sensibility and types of characters. The story involves a Ranger unit operating in the wild lands, trying to administer the King’s justice while fighting off bands of orcs. A deeper darkness, however, has come to the wild lands, an old evil that is working behind the scenes to topple the kingdoms of men and elves.

I co-wrote the script for this one, along with Scott Mathias and Ron Newcomb. That’s the same trio that wrote The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers, the indie comedy that won Best Feature at the Indianapolis Gen Con Festival 2012. While that film didn’t get theater play, it has gotten plenty of foreign television deals (France, UK, Russia, the Middle East, etc), as well as straight-to-video deals in places like Walmart, as well as streaming on-demand on Netflix, etc. Ron is directing the Rangers and Scott is producing.

There’s quite a market for epic fantasy films these days, not that that’s apparent from the Prince Korlan of the Dark Elvesmovies showing up in your local cinemaplex; rather, there is a steady stream of low-budget indie fantasies from companies such as Arrowstorm Entertainment. Epic fantasy, as a genre, has a fan demographic that consumes at a fast and rapid rate. Therefore, a great deal of new stories are needed, whether that be in book form, comic form, or film/tv form.

Celistar of the Wood ElvesAt any rate, I’m looking forward to what Ron and Scott and Company pull off. Shooting will occur in the Virginia area. If you’re interested in working on the project in a crew or cast capacity, please get in touch with the production office (there’s info at this link for how to upload Youtube auditions if you’re interested in a part). I’ll post updates from time to time. The images in this post are from some conceptual photo shoots: Lieutenant Wolf of the Rangers (that’s Wolf Sherrill, who played a big role in our previous film, The Fellows Hip), Prince Korlan of the Dark Elves, and Celistar of the Wood Elves).