Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So what's this Sandrima Rising thing?

Over the years since RvD, and especially following RvD2, Ryan and I have gotten numerous proposals to be involved with other peoples' fan films. Generally speaking, we've said no. Fan films take a lot of time, even if it's "just a saber fight," and if we're going to spend that kind of time on a project it'll be our own.

Then I got an e-mail about Sandrima Rising. As I mentioned before, the actual complete title of the project is The Renaissance Chronicles: Sandrima Rising. The idea was that they were going to pitch it, to George Lucas, as an ongoing Star Wars series about the adventures of this freighter, the Renaissance, and her crew. I'm already on record on several occasions saying that I don't think that'll happen, and I don't, but as I said yesterday, that doesn't mean I think the project is without value.

One thing that intrigued me about the project is that it followed the Han Solo characters. In point of fact, it's basically Firefly with lightsabers and wookiees -- which is fine by me. I loved Firefly, I love lightsabers, and I can live with wookiees (though dealing with the costume is a nightmare), so it seemed like something that would be a lot of fun.

It was (and is) also an extremely ambitious project. I think everyone who gets into the fan film world -- myself included -- gets it into their head to do a feature-length fan film, but only a few have been able to see it through. Sandrima Rising is shortly going to join their ranks.

I'm going to skip over the story of the film's production, because I've only recently stopped having nightmares about it; I will probably talk about it someday, but I need a little bit more hindsight on it all before I can really say anything. I will say that some good came of it for me, even from the bad. I learned a lot about what can go wrong on a feature film project, and I learned that I can take it and still want to make movies at the end of the day. I met one of my best friends on the set, and walked away with many other good friends.

The original plan was for me and Ryan to choreograph the fight scenes, train the actors, and shoot the fight scenes as "action directors". Ryan wound up being unable to get away from work to come out to the shoot, but we did still choreograph the fight scenes and I showed them to the actors. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wound up doing far more than just choreographing and shooting the fight scenes. And I'm not the only one -- almost everyone on set was taking on multiple roles to make this happen. Jeremy, who played Jacen the captain of the Renaissance, became our AD about halfway through. Andrew, one of the Renaissance crew, built the sets alongside Ed, who played Kyp, a rival captain. Our producer filled a role as a Sabacc player, and even I wound up in front of camera as an ill-fated archaeologist.

But I digress. I'm not here to talk about the production, I'm here to talk about the product. The film was shot last summer, edited in the fall, and since the New Year has been in post-production.

By way of introduction to the project, there are a couple of videos available on YouTube. The first is a "placeholder trailer" for the film. The scheduling for the project was a bit ambitious and they had said that they would have a trailer available as of December last year. None of the effects were completed at that time, but they made good on their promise and put together a trailer from the raw footage (greenscreen galore), and lifted the CG shots from Serenity.

Dwight, the director of the project, spends a little while introducing the project in this video. If you want to go straight to the trailer itself, let it load to skip forward; the trailer starts exactly two minutes in.

Additionally, you can see a work-in-progress version of one of the lightsaber fights Ryan and I created for the film. I say work-in-progress because the sounds and music are temporary, and were put together for a screening at a recent convention.

As I mentioned yesterday, I haven't talked much about this project before. A large portion of that is the fact that I didn't want to overhype it, but there's also the fact that I didn't know exactly how it was going to turn out. I didn't want to stick my neck out for something that could have turned out to be an incoherent pile. The shoot was so messy that I didn't know if the movie would come together at all. But against all odds, it did, and I think it's going to really be something special.

The trailer includes shots from Serenity, but the finished film will have completely original visuals created for the film by Dastoli Digital. They happened to release their film "Omega 35" just as we were wrapping up Sandrima and looking toward post-production. The CG work in their film was great and the producer Moe called them up to get them on board, and they've been doing a bang-up job, delivering professional visuals for the film.

The film is feature-length, but it's cut together in such a way that it can be released in 10-minute chunks. While a feature would be difficult to sit down and watch in a go on the web, I think the staggered release is a great idea. The characters are interesting, the visuals are coming together powerfully, and I think each chapter is going to leave the audience wanting more, and the chapter after is going to give it to them.

As I've said before, I think Sandrima Rising will be the last fan film project I do, aside from RvD3, and I think it is fitting to go out with a bang. If the success of the recent Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is any indication, I think audiences will really flock to Sandrima Rising. It's got some great performances, some great visuals, some great saber action, and I think the story -- especially in serialized chunks -- will really interest and entertain people. My experience in production aside, I think that the finished project is going to be one of the most popular fan films ever released. I really think this is the culmination of this generation of fan films -- everything so many other projects have wanted to be but couldn't quite cut it.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. There are things we could have done differently, equipment we could have used to enhance it (I wish we'd had the RED back then). But as a low-budget production, I think it'll blow people away.

Fingers crossed we can finish it soon, and find out if I'm right about that. I'll keep everyone posted as we get nearer to release.

Check in this weekend for the continuation of what has randomly become Fan Film Week here on my blog, and find out how RvD2 fared in the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge.


MasterMike said...

Unfortunately, neither of the two videos have made me particularly excited by this project. I'll be watching, of course, and I hope my suspicions are proven wrong, but it does look like it's trying to be Firefly with some token lightsabers.

Anyway, I hope it's great.

*_*Antoine*_* said...

I knew those CG shots looked too good. I was like, woah!

RhysFletcher said...

Sounds like an interesting project, I am looking foward to it's release.