Behind the Scenes of "The Fallen Empire"

October 21, 2016 Kate Sykes 1 Comments

Since the arrival of the first Uncharted game in 2007, we’ve seen a lot of crossover fan art and cosplay dedicated to Lara Croft and Nathan Drake, from being romantically involved, allies or rivals.
In 2014, a teaser trailer for the first screen tribute emerged for Veritas - an Italian web series starring the two adventurers. It was later cancelled part way through production.
Now with the release of Uncharted 4, even more filmmakers (including myself) have been inspired to bring them together. A handful of projects for the web are currently in the works, one of them being a US based web series entitled The Fallen Empire by Genius Films. The trailer was hugely popular, now with over 93,000 views and counting!

I had the pleasure of talking to Kyle Schmidt (Directer/Nathan Drake) and Estefanía Rebellón (Producer/Lara Croft) about the dedication, challenges and pressures of creating this project.
Estefanía Rebellón (Lara Croft) watches a fight between Kyle Schmidt (Nathan Drake) and Tarnue Massaquoi (Col. Mosi) off camera.

TDD: How was the idea born? What made you choose Tomb Raider and Uncharted as a subject?
KS: The idea was born because my brother Joel and I are both big fans of the Uncharted and Tomb Raider video game series.
Estefania and I had been creating an action series called Hand2Hand and she is a big Lara Croft fan so it was destined to happen. We realized that the dynamic between both Drake and Croft would be really interesting because they are on a similar journey, but they have different motives and when those collide it would make a great story. It was also an idea that have never been done before.

TDD: The quality of the series looks very impressive! How do you go about creating a project like this?
KS: Thank you! Well it all starts with bringing on the best team possible to create and stay in line with one vision.
Clair Chang, the director of photography, came out to the desert with us for the first location scout and we knew that we were already set. He is very talented and truly cares about the work he does. Then as we grew closer and closer to the shoot dates we were recommended to Jose Castro, the sound man who is amazing. We were coming up a little short in a few areas and posted an ad on craigslist. We were blessed to have both Robert Bravo, SFX make-up and Veronica Bouza, the 2nd Camera both come from the Craigslist post! It’s mind blowing to think how well everything fell into place. 

EXCLUSIVE: The Fallen Empire team on location in the scorching desert!

KS: Even casting went a similar way. We only had a few people come prepared to audition for Col. Mosi. We decided to put a casting on Facebook and along came Tarnue Massaquoi.
He is such a professional and a really talented actor. We knew the first time he did the scene we had Mosi. And then the excitement and the love we all had for the project is what really pushed it forward.
On the practical side of things it’s a lot of time ironing out little details, creating a shot list, organizing, scheduling, testing.
A great combination of preparation meeting talent meeting Faith.

EXCLUSIVE: Tarnue Massaquoi (Col. Mosi) on location.

TDD: How did it feel getting such a positive reaction from fans of both franchises?
It’s been amazing especially when the characters and the games are so coveted.
We wanted to do our best to put Lara Croft and Nathan Drake into a cinema format if you will, to keep as true to both video games as we could while taking a few liberties to create a live-action series.
It’s lovely to hear that other people resonate with it and are excited about it.

TDD: Was it daunting taking on the roles of Lara Croft and Nathan Drake?
ER: With every iconic character there are built in expectations.
By focusing on the character I was able to get rid of the pressure and just concentrate on what I needed to do.
This is a character who is not only highly intelligent, but also physically demanding.
Even though it was a big challenge I was excited to explore and play the role.
Estefanía Rebellón as Lara Croft.
KS: I would say that it is initially, especially when Nolan North is so phenomenal as Drake.
Once I threw myself into the script and started training that went away. For me it became less about the pressure to get Drake “right” and more about doing him justice because I love the character so much. Then it just became fun and I was able to play.
Kyle Schmidt as Nathan Drake.

TDD: There’s been divided opinion, and different takes on this from fans.
What kind of relationship can we expect to see between the two treasure hunters in The Fallen Empire?
EXCLUSIVE: Mosi's scar.
Well we don’t want to give everything away, but because of their strong personalities it starts off with them sizing each other up. Drake has his charming, playful attitude and Croft is more focused and serious which causes tension between them. Beneath all of that we think there is a strong connection between both of them, look at their lifestyles!
It’s not often you run into a war zone hunting for treasure and come across another person doing the exact same thing, not many people like that in the world hahaha.

TDD: Naturally, there’s a lot of action in this series and by the looks of it, some fantastic stunts. Did either of you do any training or have any stunt experience prior to filming this?
We did. We had been training and working mostly on Hand2Hand, the action series we had been shooting. So we had some experience going into it, but we definitely centered our focus on what the characters specifically demanded from us and started training those skills.
We were aware of Croft’s and Drake’s weapon handling experience so we knew that was going to be a priority. We did bow and arrow training for Estefania as well as double pistol handling and for Drake Kyle did fire arm weapons training as well.

EXCLUSIVE: Kyle Schmidt (Director/Nathan Drake) sets up the fight between Drake and Col. Mosi.

Our training routine included fight choreography in the morning, usually a two hour hike in the afternoon when it was really hot for endurance and to get ready for being under the sun in the desert. Then at night we would go to the parkour gym to rehearse the choreography we had worked on earlier and practice rolls, falls and any other stunts we had. A few of the stunts were learned on set as well hahaha.

TDD: How did you scout such a wide rage of locations?
The locations came right off the script we knew going into this project that both franchises demand a lot and we wanted to do both of them justice. We are very fortunate to live and shoot in California because you can pretty much find anything here. The sand dunes in our opening shot are located just four hours away from Los Angeles near the border of Arizona.
The caves just literally took a google search and a day to go visit them. We scouted for several caves and found one that we really liked, but it was completely covered in graffiti. Which is not ideal for a
burial chamber so we covered it up with gold spray paint and that became the cave.
Natural lighting was also an important part of each location we considered. It comes down to choosing what is best for the project and serving the story.
EXCLUSIVE: Estefanía Rebellón (Lara Croft) covers Kyle Schmidt (Nathan Drake) in sand before shooting a scene in the desert.

TDD: What has been the most challenging thing to achieve so far?
The most challenging thing has been getting kicked out of Bronson caves the first location we had set for shooting. 
We had been shooting in the cave for about five hours and then we were asked to leave.
Because of the low budget everyone was volunteering their time and that wasted a day of shooting.
We sent everyone home and then immediately went to scout a new location.
That is how we found the second cave location covered with graffiti which we fixed up and came back there to shoot the next day.
That threw everything off an entire day of filming, but we all just kept moving forward to get it done.
EXCLUSIVE: The team on location at "The Burial Chamber".

Tarnue Massaquoi as Col. Mosi.
TDD: What is left to do now?
We still have some parts of the script left to shoot. We are in the process of finding a Producer to come on board and help us with the budget to complete the rest of the series.

I strongly recommend keeping an eye on this series! So much talent and dedication has gone into this to make it happen.

There will be a video version of this interview coming to our Youtube channel soon. For now, be sure to follow Genius Films on Facebook and Youtube. You can check out the trailer below!

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1 comment:

  1. Very nice interview. As to 'Fallen Empire,' well the trailer certainly looks good, the behind scenes shots look very professional and all the actors look very physical. Wish them well with it.