Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swordbearer, the First Shoots!

(photo by Melissa Mohr)

This past weekend, the Swordbearer project kicked off at The Castle Post, a large castle located in Versailles, KY, just on the outskirts of Lexington.

It is a spectacular place, with crenellated walls, towers, a big keep, and a beautiful landscape. As Swordbearer is medieval fantasy, you could not ask for a better place to kick off the film shoot.

(photo by Melissa Mohr)

We only had a short window of time to work with due to our location agreement, so the crew started arriving around 6 am, and we were under way with shooting a little after 8. The scene that we shot involves the arrival of Andalarn Thran back to Thran Keep, the family stead that he is reclaiming for the Thran family after centuries of exile.

An honor guard, including several Telmet (like dwarves) generals, are on hand to welcome him as he comes up with his wife, Kalene, the sea captain Hothorn, Baliak (one of the Kel, very elven-like folk), and four of their children that survived a sea wreck.

As independent film shoots tend to be, the earliest portion of the day involved everyone settling into their tasks, from costuming, to props, to the camera department, etc.

Clouds threatened rain, but once we got underway with shooting, we really moved smoothly. Of course, the threat of rain spurred everyone to stay on track, which didn't hurt!

I am really excited about the cast in this film. I have worked with several of them before, such as Vince Bingham, who is playing the part of Hothorn, and there are many new faces, such as John Wells, who plays Baliak, and Margaret Whitney, who plays the Lady Kalene (John and Margaret are pictured, photos taken by Melissa Mohr). The cast did an excellent job, from the House Guards like Dale Miller, to the Telmet generals like TJ Moreschi and William S. Tolliver, to the Thran family, which included Ally Wells. Cherokee Hall, who played Loncaer, turned in an excellent performance, delivering dialogue in the manner I was wanting, as did Matthew Perry, who is playing Andalarn Thran.

Major kudos to the costume department. Abby Cook, who recently stepped in to head up the department, was assited by Lori Baker and Robin Blankenship. They worked fast and efficiently to garb about twenty in a very short amount of time. Similarly, Billy Boyd and Justin Powell (who has been helping in just about all departments) managed to coordinate weapons and props very well, including some brand new pieces made by John Billy Foley. Makeup and Hair went well, thanks to Kinnari Shah and Sven Granlund (wearing one of his ten thousand hats).

Grips/PA's were on top of everything, from Jordan Mynk, to Josh Parsons, and Andrew Blankenship. Aaron Champion, our DP and the guy on the A camera, and Sven Granlund, who ran camera B AND managed to oversee audio, captured some fantastic images.

On my end, I was very happy with my trusty, awesome First AD Nathan Day, and our new assistant producer Cara Worick. Both really helped to keep things organized and flowing.

All of this flowed into day 2, which took place in the first half at Ft. Boonesborough, in a blockhouse in the fort that we used as a medieval tavern/waystation. We headed down to Boonesborough beach for the shooting of 2 more scenes in the afternoon.

This shoot was special, as we had the author of the novel on whom Swordbearer is adapted from. H. David Blalock, author of Ascendant, was on hand personally, along with his wife, Maria, and daughter Herika Raymer (who is a published author as well). David was placed in the tavern as one of the ale-drinkers, while Herika was one of the boisterous bar maids. I think David had a real blast seeing his own characters in flesh and blood, and I was highly relieved to discover that he was happy with the cast.

(David Blalock, Tom Williams, and the Kel, photo by Melissa Mohr)

The tavern scene involved some nice jib and dolly shots, and we finished largely on schedule. The first beach scene went very well, and I included some shots allowing for some ad-libbing on the part of Matthew and Margaret, to create a little extension to the scene focusing on their relationship as husband and wife. Needless to say, the two of them blew the roof off with their performance. I couldn't help but give a fist pump as Margaret finished up one of the cuts, as the performance and shot were simply fantastic. (photo by Melissa Mohr, features Ronica Jones, who is in our makeup and hair dept., working with Claude Miles, one of the Kel band)

We had to wait until nightfall to get the final shots, involving a party of 4 Kel, including Baliak, looking out to sea to a small ship struggling on the horizon in a storm. We got the first two of the three shots knocked out, and then, right on the verge of rolling camera for the last shot, the lights tripped the circuit breaker. The park security ended up not having keys to where the breaker box was. I asked all the cast and crew their thoughts on calling it a night, and doing a short shoot on a later date, or forging ahead with setting up at a shelter nearby that had power, which would add a couple hours onto the already full day shoot.

The cast and crew were unanimously determined to finish. Cara, Jordan, Aaron, Sven, Matthew, myself, Nathan, and the cast members made our way over to the shelter, set up, got the last shots, and reached the end of the night.

I can't wait until we get to show the first footage from this shoot. I have seen many clips, and the project is looking very, very nice.

This week we are focused on the big fight rehearsal between Al Snow, who is playing Hennock, one of the two champions that meet at the end of the film, and Benjamin Wood, who is playing Tchek, the other opponent. Fight Coordinator is Allan Gilbreath, out of Memphis TN, who has a tremendous fighting and weapons background, including expertise in medieval weapons and fighting styles.

Some of the production team will be recording portions of the rehearsals to plan for some subtle CGI effects that will be added.

As for myself, I will be returning to ConText this weekend, a great literary convention in Columbus Ohio. I am set to do a couple of panels, and exhibit in the dealer room, and it will be great to catch up with many of my author friends, such as Michael West, Maurice Broaddus, Steven Shrewsbury, and Jason Sizemore, the Apex head honcho.

Obviously, things are insanely busy, but I really don't mind it when I'm doing what I like.

Oh...did I mention that book 2 of the Fires in Eden series is on the home stretch now! :) I think the readers are going to be very, very pleased with how this one turns out. Karen Leet, my editor on this book, has expressed that she is very happy with it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swordbearer Kicks off This Weekend!

It has definitely been a hectic week, but Swordbearer is poised to kick off this weekend with 2 shoots, covering 4 different scenes.

Day one will be at a castle location, doing a scene where the Jarl Thran arrives at his keep, meeting his regent, Loncaer, and an honor guard. Should visually be a very, very nice scene, as we couldn't ask for a better location.

Day two will be down at the Ft. Boonesborough park, using both the beach area on the Kentucky River as well as the old Civil War-era fort. A tavern scene, a scene with the Kel Mari (like elves), and a scene with the survivors of the shipwreck will be taking place this day. The author of Ascendant, the basis for Swordbeaer, H. David Blalock, will be making a camero in the tavern scene shot at Ft. Boonesborough!

I will scrape up some photos, but it is going to be very, very busy over the next few days as the kickoff the Swordbearer looms!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alaska, Fright Night, Indy, and on to Swordbearer!

Yes, this is going to be a bit of a long entry, as I have admittedly been slacking on my blogging as of late. I am working to correct that, I promise!

In mid-July, I had the opportunity to go to Alaska for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I went, and it turned out to be quite an amazing experience. We went up the coastline, visiting places like Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, taking a few detours to go into some big fjords.

The scenery was simply stunning as was the wildlife, ranging from sea otters to humpback whales. The massive, mountainous terrains, capped by snow and with cloud layers well underneath their peaks, were fertile grounds for the mind of a fantasy author!

We finally ended up in Seward, which harbors quite a fishing operation, with the 7th largest output in the entire United States. From there it was inland by bus to Anchorage for a day, and then by train to the Denali national park, and finally we ended up in Fairbanks.

Alaska is a fantastic state, and the people there were definitely my kind of folk...very individualistic with a great deal of self-determination.

After getting back, I had to get ready in a hurry for the Fright Night Film Fest in Louisville Kentucky. This event is a fairly big one, getting a few thousand attendees as a horror genre convention. I had an exhibit in the dealers room, and got to visit quite a few of my indie film friends, to the extent that it felt like a reunion of sorts. Also got to catch up with some of my good author friends, like Michael West (pictured with his son, Kyle), Elizadeth Hetherington (Pictured with the cheerleading outfit on) and Michael D'Ambrosio.

Fright Night is expanding next year into the FandomFest, which is going to have multiple tracks, in multipe genres, and I have agreed to come aboard to help in coordinating the Author's Track for the event. I can't wait to bring together a great group of panelists and develop some outstanding content for what promises to be a very amazing weekend July 29-31 of 2011.

The following weekend was Indianapolis, and my return to the downtown Borders that was one of the first bookstores to embrace me with The Exodus Gate. The signing was being held during the GenCon weekend, as downtown Indy is flooded with thousands of fantasy/scifi/horror fans.

I had a great time, and got to visit with some special readers and friends, some of whom were in for GenCon and some who came from the Indy area. One of the most surprising visitors of all was the guy who was my high school newspaper's editor. He is now a star reporter for the Indianapolis Star, and I can't say enough about how cool it was to look up and see him (I recognized him instantly!)

Jon Klement of DragonTalk Radio and Stephen Kendall, who is on the staff of InConJunction, came by (pictured). I found out that Stephen (who is wearing the awesome Atari shirt) is an afficianado of classic computers like the Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 64, Atari 800, and all the computers that got the PC world started. Also visiting was Courtney Lantz, who was in my film The Sirens, and her boyfriend, Tom Williams (pictured below the photo with Jon and Stephen), both of whom should be making an appearance in Swordbearer. Afterwards, a few of us headed over to the Rock Bottom, which had outstanding micro-beers (I behaved, don't worry...just had one)and sandwiches. After that Michael West, his son, and I headed over to the crosswalk from the large mall there leading to where GenCon was taking place. Elizabeth Darvill and Nick Valentino took a break from GenCon to come out and say hi. I got to chat a little longer with Elizabeth, and found out about her new releases, saw new cover art for one of her upcoming books, and more. She and Nick are becoming quite the steampunk team on the con circuit.

Throughout all of it, I have been working very hard on preparations for Swordbearer. Casting, details of locations, props, costumes, and more occupy a lot of time and tedium, but it is all necessary if you want to pull off a quality project.

We have a great team assembled for this one, including the guys from Cineline Productions, Matt Perry and Sven Granlund, and one helluva DP in Aaron Champion, one of the most talented and craziest people I know. We've been tracking everything on our Facebook page for the short film, and I will be doing a few more posts about the project leading up to the big opening weekend of shooting August 21 and 22.