Welcome back, LCL Mag fans!
Those of you familiar with my nonfiction work know how much I love airship stuff. If you’ve been around here a while, you also know what I think about cinema today: There isn’t enough of our favorite genre. The direction big studio labels have gone means that we’re not likely to see much if any classic adventure as the relative lackluster public reaction to the long awaited fourth Indian Jones film proved. Our only hope for a somewhat regular big budget presence in theaters will be if video game franchises like Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed or even Bioshock take to the big screen and are huge hits. Anymore we know that big screen movies must be big hits or not only does that mediocre performing film’s characters never see theaters again, pretty much anything in the genre will be rejected. Today’s big screen has room only for comic book heroes.
But there is the small screen and the festival circuit. Not only is the small screen saving cinema as an art form, it is the best hope for the adventure genre. I’ll be looking at recent and upcoming cinematic adventures here on the blog pretty regularly now that it has naturally replaced LCL magazine – and there is much to be excited about outside theaters. Indie cinema, as we know, has exploded with the advent of widespread access to filmmaking technology and that includes the means to create the visuals so beneficial to stories set in the past and in the exotic locales that may feature the bizarre and fantastic.
Our first in-depth look at indie cinema adventure is The Skyship Chronicles from Litewave Media. This film/web series has been kicking butt at festivals across the globe. It has won two Audience Choice awards, two Best Web Series awards, a Best Cinematography award, and has been the official selection at two additional festivals – and all of this has happened in just the first half of this year!The Skyship Chronicles has also been making the various comic con rounds all summer as well, building an even bigger audience.
Set in Ireland, 1895 in a steampunk fantasy world. Molly Madigan's grandfather is killed by his partner, Gustav, who steals his inventions, Molly’s quest to take back what is rightfully hers has lasted twenty years when an unwitting postal clerk in Wichita, Kansas, discovers a mysterious box containing Molly's grandfather's most powerful invention -- the ‘Potestatum’. Of course Gustav is hot on the trail and he tracks Molly down kicking off a battle for the ultimate weapon.
I took the opportunity to ask filmmakers Jeff Zampino and Christian Schweir some questions about their colossal achievement.
LCL: How long have you been doing steampunk projects?
‘Our first foray into steampunk was a photo shoot, set on an airship captain’s bridge. That project turned into a photo spread/feature article in the steampunk magazine, Dr. Fantastique’s Book of Wonders. And we were hooked!’
LCL: What motivated you as filmmakers to produce The Skyship Chronicles?
‘We have both been big steampunk junkies for a while. Christian enjoys cosplaying at conventions as a cavalier air pirate (Lucius Black), and Jeff reads steampunk literature and loves all things antique - he collects pocket watches, vintage movie posters and wood letterpress type. We’ve produced about a dozen films together, mostly comedies and action/adventures. So we thought “Let’s try to push ourselves and do something really different, with something that we really love.” We wrote a script, set over 100 years in the past, with outrageous characters, bizarre props and costumes, far-off locations, and visual effects galore -- Not your typical “indie” film. And -- we had no budget.So we created a Kickstarter campaign and raised enough money to feed our cast and begin filming. We assembled a “dream team” crew from our past films – animators, sound designers, composers, costumers, armorers, stunt coordinators, camera and lighting techs – who were all passionate about the project. Most of our crew hailed from our hometown of Tampa Bay, but some were from as far away as Los Angeles, Argentina, and even Australia.’
LCL: What was your biggest challenge during production?
‘Learning to tie bow ties and corsets (it’s much harder than it looks.) As with most independent films, money and time were big challenges. We wanted authentic costumes, custom props and weapons, and unique sets, so a good portion of the budget was spent before the first day of filming.
|Tampa union Station 1922|
‘But perhaps the biggest challenge was creating a period piece in modern day Florida. It wasn’t your typical “Florida” film. Not one scene takes place on a beach!The film begins in a cabin in Ireland circa 1880. We found a great “Old Western” town a local built in Tampa, and we repurposed and set designed it to look like a steampunk inventor’s cabin.
|Photo by Joseph G. Holland|
‘The rest of the film takes place in turn-of-the-century Wichita, Kansas. A small town in Florida has one of the only remaining operational steam engines in the U.S. called the “Orange Blossom Cannonball,” on which we filmed an interior and exterior scene. Tampa’s Union Train Station, with early 20th century architecture was a location we always wanted to film in. The city granted us permission to film for an entire day to shoot the scene where our heroes first meet.But it wasn’t always that simple. When we couldn’t find a location, our team of set designers had to build them in our Tampa video studio, Litewave Studios. The post office, the bowels of an airship, and the villain’s “torture room” were all built from scratch.’
LCL:Has reception of the film matched anticipated goals?
‘We have currently only screened it for cast and crew, but we have been in six film festivals and we also made it available via Vimeo on-demand. It is available for rental or purchase at SkyshipChronicles.com.'
LCL: Who is your primary audience?
‘Fans of steampunk would be our primary audience, but we think it would appeal to anyone who likes action, comedy, adventure, airships, trains, sky pirates, horses, sword fights, gun fights, lightning blasts, or explosions!’
LCL: Do you have any other projects that are steampunk/adventure/pulp?
‘Our last feature film (which premiered at Gotham Screen International Film Festival in NYC) was Jules Dongu Saves the World, a genre-blending anime/action/comedy. Currently, we are focusing solely on The Skyship Chronicles, and fleshing it out as a complete web series. The Skyship Chronicles Part Two.
Part one sets up all of the characters, and introduces you to the Skyship Chronicles universe, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. We have so many incredible ideas and awesome locations for part two, and we can’t wait to continue the story. We hope fans and steampunk lovers will join us on
LCL: Working with horses certainly adds to the production value.
‘Tommy Turvey of Equine Extremists (who did many of the horse stunts in NBC’s Revolution, and AMC’s The Walking Dead) performed all of our horse stunts with his horse Blade (Rick’s horse from The Walking Dead.)’
LCL: Though Skyship Chronicles certainly features some, it’s not always easy to find ready-made locations, right?
‘Locations didn’t always work out. We scouted the ideal post office in St. Petersburg, FL. We spoke to the USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., but they wouldn’t let us film inside, due to security. So, instead we constructed a post office set in our studio. Over 300 P.O. boxes, with custom numbers were made to replicate a local turn-of-the-century post office setting.’
LCL: Nature doesn’t always cooperate and you had to get technically creative, I’ll bet.
‘For the opening scene, our lighting tech created moonlight by hanging twelve 1,000 watt lights from a 40 foot crane. At night -- In a forest. To simulate the mists of Ireland, we used an industrial-grade fog machine to encompass the entire set.’
Anyone who has attempted to produce an indie film understands what a struggle it is just to get done, and some are never completed. Jeff and Christian and the Litewave folks deserve kudos just for that, but to make the rounds and be appreciated by audiences is quite an accomplishment. I don’t know about you but I’m excited for this series to take off and continue. LCL will definitely cover the further adventures of The Skyship Chronicles. I recommend all LCL fans check it out and give it the chance that such dedication as these filmmakers have put into this deserve.Go watch the film and check out their Facebook page! -- WBB
For more images go to Skyship Chronicles Festival Circuit