Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swordbearer-The Big Fight Scene

Last Saturday morning started pretty early for me, the cell phone alarm (I don't trust to electricity on crucial days!) ringing at the ripe time of 4:15 am. Still, it wasn't entirely hard to get up, since I knew that the day ahead was going to be an adventure doing something that I really like.

Our crew call time was 6am, at Cove Spring Park in Frankfort, KY, a beautiful 275 acre park located just outside of downtown Frankfort. From Lexington, it is about a 25-35 minute drive, depending on what part of the city you live in.

I drove down with Nathan Day, our wonderful first assistant director, and Tommy Allen, a friend of mine who had recently gotten ahold of me, and was willing to dive in early on Saturday to help on crew side and be an extra. On the way down we touched bases with some of our core team, as Matt Perry was leading one caravan down, bringing gear and the all-important craft services.

Cara Worwick, our assistant producer, was one of the first on site (with Rox, one of the extras in the shoot), along with Kinnari Shah, who has been a great part of our makeup and hair department, and Lori Baker (costuming) and Robin (costuming) and Andrew Blankenship (crew and extra). The park did not have lights at the entrance, which was tough to see in the dark when we arrived, but we did manage to arrive at the main parking lot without incident.

The location was perfect for this shoot, as the tree-surrounded meadow, in which there is a great-looking, tall stone overflow tower that looks medieval, was a very short walk from a couple of shelters and a building housing restrooms. We were able to set up a nice base camp, in which one shelter was used for costuming and props, and the other was set aside for extras and for serving lunch.

The headlights began to cut through the dark, making it feel a little like Field of Dreams...if you film it, they will come, so to speak, lol. Crew, and then cast, and then extras arrived in greater numbers as the sky began to lighten. We had some very special guests, such as the author of Ascendant, which is the basis for Swordbearer, H. David Blalock, who came up with a friend from Memphis. Also coming in from Memphis were Allan Gilbreath, our fight coordinator, and Kimberly Richardson, a great editor and writer who was willing to be an extra (I should mention that Allan is also a great writer, and both Kimberly and Allan are main forces with the highly regarded Kerlak Publishing). Some of the others that made some large drives included Natasha Smith of Nashville TN, who jumped in to play one of the council mages, author Janet Harriet and her husband Elie from Columbus Ohio, and author Elizadeth Hetheringon and her husband Vance from Wisconsin. (Top Photo by Robin Blankenship, of several extras in Swordbearer, and 2nd Photo by Melissa Mohr, of another group of extras, including David Blalock)

(Photo by Sonny Burnette, of myself, with Kimberly Richardson, David Blalock, and Allan Gilbreath!)

Camera, sound, and other crew brought vehicles across the small bridge to the meadow for unloading, as Abby Cook took charge of the shelter area for costuming tasks. We had some great new designs for this shoot, created by Abby and by Maggie Miller, who both have been amazing in the amount of work done for this project. Abby, Robin, and Lori had their hands full as we got a fair number of extras, and had the main cast to prepare. (Photo by Stephen Zimmer, of Matthew Perry and John Wells, playing Jarl Thran and Baliak, showing costuming)

(photo by Andrew Blankenship, of insurance wizard Elie Harriet and author Janet Harriet, two of our gracious extras in their costumes)

The scene we were set to capture is the climax scene of the short film, in which the two great swordbearers meet for a fight to the death, as champions of two rival houses. Playing the part of the fighters were Al Snow (Hennock) and Benjamin Wood (Tchek). Al is a well-known pro wrestler, having been in the WWF/WWE/ECW/TNA and more, while Benjamin is a newer face on the wrestling scene, participating in the OVW circuit. They are both really good guys to work with and be around. As a director, I wanted them to concentrate solely on the fight choreography. The fight scene was very physical in nature, and as this is an independent project, we were only able to arrange a few sessions to prepare for it, including the major rehearsal with Allan Gilbreath that look place in late August. Though the blade edges were dull/blunt, the swords being used were still metal, and I wanted the fighters to have full concentration on the fight itself without having any micro-managing, as our camera team could adapt to the fighters when they were in the action. The focus on choreography and safe execution was paramount in my mind. (photo by Melissa Mohr, of Al Snow and Benjamin Wood at the cusp of the fight scene)

As such, we had Allan, Al, and Ben work together from the get-go, summoning them only when we needed to get their characters into the processional shot captured in the first half of the day's shooting. That part of the day involved the crowd shots, a subplot involving mages on the city council and mages serving the current Ascendant in the story, DJEMO (played by Roni Jonah), and the lead up to the fight itself. The procession, where Jarl Suum (Jason Crowe) leads Tchek in on one side, and Jarl Thran (Matthew Perry) leads Hennock in on the other, looked very nice and should really build up dramatic tension before the action begins. (photo by Melissa Mohr, of Al Snow and Matthew Perry, prior the procession in)

We were able to create a fairly solid semicircle of extras and cast, and had no less than 4 cameras on site for this shoot. First AD Nathan Day was phenomenal when we got the crowd shots, getting cheers, jeers, and everything in between, as camera operators floated amongst the extras and cast. Nathan and Justin Powell (who has worn many hats on this project, and was wearing a nice cowboy hat on this particular day, lol ) served to give the extras eyelines and whip up the cheers. Nathan did fantastically, and really exerted himself in getting the frenzy going. Thankfully, Justin was able to reinforce with some crowd appeal and action for the crowd's eyelines, resulting in some almost comical mock-fights between Nathan and Justin. (photo by Andrew Blankenship, of myself and First AD Nathan conferring on set)

(photo by Stephen Zimmer of Nathan Day, First Assistant Director)

(Photo by Stephen Zimmer, of Sonny Burnette and extras and cast prior to Sonny's dialog)

Sonny Burnette, playing Latacolc, a major council mage, was fantastic as he addressed the crowd and fighters. Sonny and I conferred on the style and delivery in how he should address the crowd, call the fighters together, and then question them. I had asked him to direct the first part of his dialogue in a public address, and the second in a firm, unwavering questioning of the fighters, in a style that demanded answers from each, and he performed as I knew he would. (and we even got the extras to do a big chant of "Sonny B! Sonny B! earlier in the morning, which was very cool, and most inspiring to all!). Personally, I was very excited that Sonny fit the part of Latacolc, as I've been wanting to work with Sonny for some time. He's one of the most active actors in Central Kentucky this side of Stacey Gillespie, and is a consummate professional that keeps getting better and better. I definitely want to work with him again!(Photo by Melissa Mohr, of Stephen Zimmer and Sonny Burnette discussing the approach to the scene)

The sub-plot with the mages involved Latacolc, and three guards, Djemo (Roni Jonah) Jarl Suum (Jason Crowe), the two Djemoan mages (Ronicah Jones and Abby Cook). All did wonderfully, from the guards, to Sonny, to the group with Djemo.

The weather was clear, and things warmed up considerably, and it was closing in on 1pm when we broke for lunch (after getting a great dolly shot with Baliak, played by John Wells, which is going to be the last shot of the film as currently planned). Matt had arranged for some great trays from Subway, and everyone had plenty to eat while we took about an hour off.

The second half of the day involved the fight scene itself. Four cameras rolling, Ben and Al going at it, and an energetic crowd were all engaged in what turned out to be a very smooth afternoon shoot. Having Aaron Champion as a DP has been amazing. The guy has a real depth of technical knowledge, mixed with a great sense of art and a "can-do" attitude. He and I communicate very well, as our meetings and discussions on shot lists prior to the shooting day go very well, to the point that Aaron keys right in one what I'm hoping to capture when on set. On set it is easy to talk to Aaron and make adjustments, as he has a very level-headed demeanor and approach. I hope to work with Aaron again and again in the future, as he is a major league talent that is absolutely pleasant to work with. (photo by Melissa Mohr, of myself and Aaron talking over where we are at on the shot list)

Allan had designed the fight with Al and Ben in segments of 5-7 moves, each segment with a centerpiece that allowed for efficient filming of the individual segments without having to have the guys do the entire fight scene. We captured the segements, and then selected a few key moments within each segment to get specific shots of, whether a POV shot or an extreme close-up of a strike.

The camera team worked together wonderfully, with DP Aaron Champion, Sven Granlund (who was simultaneously overseeing audio and makeup...the guy is amazing), Phillip Richardson, and Jordan Mynk assigned to given goals on each take. Shooting this way, segment after segment, with 4 cameras, adjusting some of the goals on various takes, and then getting some specific key moments in a segment, we were able to acquire a mountain of coverage. (photo by Andrew Blankenship, showing myself, with Jordan, Phillip and Aaron on cameras, Nathan Day, Ben Wood and Sven Granlund are in the background.)

(photo by Stephen Zimmer, of Aaron Champion, DP)

(photo by Stephen Zimmer, of Phillip Richardson, camera operator on Swordbearer)

The crowd stayed into it, and it did not hurt that the fighters were intense and incredibly realistic in all of their reactions (something that I know their pro-wrestling backgrounds were quite beneficial for). From Al throwing Ben over his shoulder, to groin kicks, sword clashes, and more, the fight scene looked amazing. We had to pause from time to time to add cuts and blood, but things flowed very well all throughout. We had to get a few specific shots for SFX purposes, which Matt and Sven outlined for the camera team and actors, as the finale of the fight is going to involve a very definite, unambiguous conclusion.

The vibe at the end of the day was very good, as I believe everyone knew that the shoot had gone smoothly, and everyone could see just how good the fight scene was. We wrapped things up a little after 5pm.

Aaron Champion, the DP that never sleeps, actually put together the fight scene in a rough edit from just the footage off of his Canon 5D (to get an indication as to whether the scene will cut smoothly), and the sequence looked REALLY good, which is tremendously promising once the footage from the other three cameras is added to the mix. Matthew Perry, who is editing Swordbearer, will have a ton to work with. The shots I have seen look fantastic, and I think that all involved area going to be stoked with this scene.

We had many heroes throughout the day, from Rhonda Bingham, who jumped in to pick up lunch, to Schaeffer Tolliver, who kindly went to get a resupply of water, to Cara Worwick, who was everywhere all throughout the day, to Nathan Day and Justin for their aforementioned help in working up the extras. Major kudos to all of the extras, who really put a lot of spirited effort into having a dynamic crowd scene, and who soldiered through a full day shoot out in the sun.

(photo by Melissa Mohr, of one of the three Moorkai Guards)

So as things stand, there are two more scenes to go, both taking place next week at the Cane Ridge Meeting House in Bourbony County Kentucky. Great locations, and these scenes will have some good moments for the actors involved, with some larger dialog sequences. Thankfully, these are interiors, so we don't have to fret so much about weather issues.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Titles now up for those with Sony eReaders and other devices.

Just a couple of days after the announcement that the Rising Dawn Saga is available in the iBookstore (and Crown of Vengeance will be there shortly), I am happy to say that both The Rising Dawn Saga and Fires in Eden series titles are now available at several online eBook retailers for users of Sony eReaders and other reading devices that accept the ePub file format.

This rounds out eBook availability, with the ePub versions for numerous reading devices being added to the Kindle and iBookstore versions.

Here is the post from the SSP site and blog, which I copied over to my website's home page:


Pricing is consistent with the Kindle and iBookstore pricing, with the retail price for The Storm Guardians at $3.99 and Crown of Vengeance at $2.99. The Exodus Gate will have a retail price of $2.99 on October 2, 2010 (it is listed at its previous pricing of $7.99 until that date, when the new pricing goes into effect)

Here are some sites where the 3 titles can be found.


South Africa:


Friday, September 17, 2010

Location visits, the new book, and more...

Been a very busy week, as I have been attending to the final polishes of the new Fires in Eden Book, while keeping up with Swordbearer tasks, and attending to my tasks as a technical director for the broadcast of the very prominent Keeneland Thoroughbred September Sales going on right now in Lexington.

It is kind of a surreal climate, when you begin to regard a $250,000 sale as being "run of the mill", lol. We've seen a 4 million dollar sale and another for over 2 million, and overall it seems to be going fairly well. The horse industry has taken a real pounding in the last couple of years, and I am really hoping that this sale goes well as Keeneland is a first class place that has been outstanding to work with. They take great care of those who come in to work with them. The dynamics of the sale is fun to observe. It is a massive undertaking with hundreds upon hundreds of horses being housed and moved on a daily basis. By the end we will have seen a few thousand thoroughbreds with prime pedigrees move through the arena, and the sales totals will exceed a couple hundred million dollars.

I must say that it would be nice to bounce into someone who was wanting to get a movie going as much as they want to get a horse!

Swordbearer preparations are falling into place. We have the big scene on the 25th in Frankfort KY, involving the sword fight between Al Snow and Benjamin Wood. We will then have our final two shoots on October 4 and 5 in Bourbon County Kentucky. I don't think it will be all that long until we have at least a teaser trailer to show.

I am really excited about the new Fires in Eden book. Similar to the situation with the release of The Storm Guardians in the Rising Dawn Saga, this is the second book in the series. With the foundation and parameters set in book one, book 2 can really accelerate with events and action. It contains some huge revelations for the series, and has loads of high-octane action and an absolutely epic battle in it. I cannot wait to get this one out.

Matt will be very immersed in the artwork for this one shortly, and I have no doubts that it will turn out amazing, as all of his work has been in the past. Once the artwork is finished, we will also be rather speedy in getting the first book trailer up for this new release. (and if you haven't seen the trailers for the other three books, they are all up on YouTube or watchable on my own site at )

This week also saw The Exodus Gate and The Storm Guardians pop up in Apple's iBookstore. The price for the eBooks is the same as the Kindle titles, $2.99 for The Exodus Gate and $3.99 for The Storm Guardians. Crown of Vengeance should be available any day now, and the three titles will be appearing the new prices in a slew of other eBook outlets.

I hope to have more soon regarding the new announcement involving an ongoing writing project that I will be doing. I think fans of Fires in Eden and The Rising Dawn Saga will be very pleased with what this project is, hint, hint...

anyhow, that's it for the moment. time to get back to business, and get ready for going to visit the location we are using for the 4th and 5th of October. I'm heading that way later today!

and on a personal note, my mom is doing much better healthwise. At least she's maintained a fairly steady blood pressure since coming back from the hospital. I hope that the new medication approach helps to keep it managed, but we will be watching her closely. The doctors cannot explain why she had the severe spike in blood pressure prior to being taken to the emergency room. I really appreciate all of the kind emails and messages that I received, and I did pass on all the well wishes to mom, which she was very touched by.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A harrowing last week, but I'm revving back to speed.

Haven't been online much over the past few days. Had a real scare on the homefront when I had to take my mother into the emergency room last Thursday, due to an extreme increase in blood pressure. At first, it looked like a stroke was underway, but thankfully the tests showed that it was not. She was unresponsive, and then had a major seizure, so it was a very nerve-wracking situation to be observing. But once they got the blood pressure under control, she regained her alertness, etc. They kept her in ICU until this past Sunday, then two days in another section for observation, and they released her yesterday. Things look okay, but it was a harrowing few days.

I'm revving back up to full speed, as I was only able to tend to the most timely project issues during the recent few days, normally at very late or early hours.

We are getting the last few planning elements in place for the 3 shoots that are left for Swordbearer. The big shoot is on the 25th, when we will have the fight of the champions, Al Snow and Benjamin Wood. It is going to be a long shoot, but has the potential of being a very, very good one.

also got the good news that one friend, TammyJo Eckhart has a new agent, which is fantastic news for her outstanding vampire book that she will be finding a home for. Also, Steven Shrewsbury had a new novel called Hell Billy picked up by a great publisher. Big Congrats to the both of them.

I am in the stretch run on the final polish on the 2nd Fires in Eden book. It is on course for a December release, and I think folks that enjoyed Crown of Vengeance are in for a big, big adventure. My editor on this one, Karen Leet, was very happy with the pacing and the flow of this one. Matt will be doing another set of illustrations for it, building onto the body of artwork that has already been established.

In other notes, The Exodus Gate and The Storm Guardians are up now on Apple's iBookstore. Crown of Vengeance should appear there shortly. All three titles are available on Kindle, and in about a week the three titles will be available in many eBook outlets. Those with Kindles, iPads, or Sony eReaders are well-covered. The titles are very favorably priced, with The Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance being just $2.99 and The Storm Guardians being just $3.99.

Look out for some new announcements to come shortly, involving some short stories.. ;) that's all I'll say for the moment!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

...and a new Crown of Vengeance Trailer

In addition to the two trailers released last week, we have a new Crown of Vengeance trailer that was just put up on YouTube, which matches the other two trailers in style. It is a very nice showcase of Matthew Perry's artwork from the book. You can view it here:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Rising Dawn Saga Video Trailers Up Now!

Just wanted to let everyone know that we have 2 new video trailers up for the two books in the Rising Dawn Saga. It fills a gap that's been lingering for awhile, and I really feel that these trailers give a good notion and feel as to the content the books.

They definitely showcase the artwork from Matthew Perry, in a dynamic way, using each art piece as a layer to pan across, or zoom in or out on, in a sequence that introduces the books.

Be sure to find these on the YouTube page to get the direct links and/or embed codes, so that you can share them or embed them in your own pages. That would really help to spread the word farther on the series! I appreciate any consideration you can give to embedding/linking the trailers.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A visit to ConText and other adventures...

Last week I had another excellent Columbus experience up at ConText, a fantastic literary convention that has an impressive array of guests. I ended up having a fairly light load of panels, doing just one urban fantasy panel as well as a Kaffeeklatsch, an hour long meet-and-greet type session in the morning, at which ConText generously provided Starbuck's coffee and fresh cookies, etc. for those attending.

I really did not know what you expect at a Kaffeklatsch before, but now I absolutely love them. It was a great, casual way to hang out and just talk with reader friends, as well as get a little extra caffeine to start the day.

I spent a great deal of my time in the dealer's room, running an exhibit, but I did get to catch up with many friends on the Con circuit. Michael West, Steven Shrewsbury, Jason Sizemore, Maurice Broaddus, Janet and Elie Harriet, Scott Sandridge, Maura Heaphy, Travis Clemmons, and many friends were on hand, and I also got to meet many news ones, such as Frank Hall, a bookstore owner from Indiana, Greg Carter, Cat Barth, and Rhonda Wilson (who I've seen at many events and had not met yet, despite the fact that we have many mutual friends!)

Here's a few pics from the Con...

me with Maurice Broaddus

me with Michael West

me with Maura Heaphy (and her book!)

I did finally get my Apex t-shirt, which you can see me proudly wearing in the photos on this page.

(me, with Jason Sizemore of Apex, with me wearing my new Apex shirt!)

The weekend did not pass by without one particular adventure. Friday evening, after having a nice dinner with Steven Shrewsbury, Michael West, Brady Allen, and Michael Knost, I headed on the 3 mile drive to my hotel. I was having a little trouble seeing the street signs, as trees were obscuring them in a neighborhood area. Therefore, I was slowing down and speeding up in between streets. I attracted some attention, evidently, as blue lights showed up in my rear view mirror.

I pulled over, and kind of got the idea that the officer suspected that I may have been drinking. I explained that I was a guest at a convention, and that I was having a hard time finding the left hand turn I was looking for. The officer checked my license and registration, and indicated that he was going to let me off with a warning.

But on the way back, shining his light in the car, he asked me about the "large bladed weapon in the back". I had forgot that I had a large, sheathed blade that we had used the previous week for one of the Kel in Swordbearer still in the car. It had been covered by some of the material I had brought up for the exhibition. To my mind, it is a prop, to the officer's, it was a weapon, and being that it was a functional blade, his assessment was more accurate than mine!haha

Fortunately, I was able to explain this as well, and the blade was sheathed, in plain view, in the back seat, so it did not violate any statutes outright. The officer advised me to put it in the trunk so someone didn't smash my window and try to steal it. He then helped me find the left hand turn I was looking for.

Needless to say, I was highly relieved that the officer was of the reasonable sort, as the situation could have been made out to be a whole lot worse. I am going to have to remember that not all "props" in my mind are seen by the general public as props!

Since I did not get locked up, I was able to see my first live Steven Shrewsbury read on Saturday night, and it was everything that I had hoped for! I had always been told that Steven delivers one of the most entertaining reads you can see anywhere, and he did not disappoint. He has a true flare and style, which including a loud outcry to Odin as well as a thunderous whomp on the table to punctuate the end. Michael West was brave enough to sit right by Steven during the read, which was commendable!

The Con did go very well, and ended with me having a nice dinner with Janet and Elie Harriet, two of my favorites in the Columbus area. Janet has a busy slate coming up in 2010, and will be one of our panelists at FandomFest in Louisville, KY.

(Janet and Elie, with me)

The rest of the week has been a blur, doing work for the new Fires in Eden book, spending a great deal of time on my duties for FandomFest and Duckon (doing programming for the Author's Track and Writer's Track respectively), as well as continued preparations for the next round of shoots for Swordbearer.

I am glad to report that the fight choreography sesssion between Al Snow, Benjamin Wood, and Allan Gilbreath was a success. Held in Louisville during my trip to ConText, they met in a park and put in several hours, a bunch of which was recorded by Matt Perry and Justin Powell, who were on hand. All parties reported a great day, and the genesis of a fight scene that is promising to look absolutely wonderful on screen.