Shooting a Tomb Raider Fan Film Abroad

October 04, 2017 Kate Sykes 0 Comments

Rebecca Crossdale (Lara Croft) on location in Almeria, Spain. Photo by Dylan Webb.

Fan films are one of my favourite creative mediums in the Tomb Raider community!
It’s always nice to see someone new take on the character of Lara Croft and make her their own, as well as what the filmmakers achieve visually.
Recently, a group of students from the University of Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey, set out to make a short film that would be a hybrid of the classic and reboot Tomb Raider games and started a campaign on Go Fund Me.
The action adventure was released a few months ago (now with over 5,900 views) and I was struck by the impressive cinematography, lighting and especially the beautiful locations and landscapes provided by the city of Almeria in Spain.
The two directors James Ashley and Dylan Webb chatted with me about making this labour of love.

TDD: When did this project start and what made you choose Tomb Raider?
DW: This project started in early October 2016 when my university informed us we had to create a short 5 minute film as part of our course.
I do film production at UCA Farnham and have made several films throughout my time at university​.
These films have all either been dramas or comedies, so for this final project I wanted to do something different.
At the time I was heavily invested in fan films, particularly with Star Wars. James and I tried to get a Star Wars film going outside of our studies but found the costs being way too much, so it was left. I was also getting into the new Tomb Raider video games on the PS4, especially Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. James and I sat down and decided we wanted to make a film that would stand out from our previous work and other students in our class, I love films with a strong female lead and James loves actions films, so Lara Croft was the perfect middle ground, and it turns out we both love her!

JA: The idea to do a Tomb Raider fan film was talked about between me and Dylan as far back as August. We decided we wanted to team up and make a fun film for our final project. There are too many depressing films made with those sorts of projects!

Tomb Raider was a natural choice for us as Lara Croft’s world mixes together several different genres and elements that cater to Dylan and I’s differences in taste.
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale as Lara Croft. Photo by Dylan Webb.

TDD: How much money did you manage to raise with your crowd funding campaign and how did it help with the production?
D&J: We used GoFundMe to raise money for our fan film, mainly due to the project shifting to be filmed abroad and also we are students, money is tight!
We didn't want to remove any elements from our film due to production costs, so we kept it contained in terms of script without hindering the story.
That was an extremely hard task because we had such cool ideas floating around, but they often lead to bringing up the budget. We managed to raise just shy of £350, with our overall budget being £1200. This money helped us out with accommodation and food, essential things for all film productions. 
Without the generosity from family, friends and even some fans we wouldn't have been able to make this film the way we wanted, so we as a team are very grateful!

TDD: How did you go about casting?
DW: For casting, we used Casting Call Pro. I was in charge of casting and I posted the ad up and received an overwhelming amount of responses for this role.
We had over 40 actors come forward to play Lara Croft, and we had and extremely successful audition turnout, I think all but 1 showed up. It felt great seeing how many people wanted to work on this film and play such an iconic role.
We met some great people during the process, but could only pick one and finally went with Rebecca [Crossdale], due to the fact she showcased the most commitment and enthusiasm for the project. She even turned up fully dressed as Lara Croft, something we never asked for but admired. She was definitely the right choice for the role!

Rebecca Crossdale's audition.
JA: We ran two days of auditions in London. We had many hopefuls turn up and with each one we’d talk to them about what the character meant to them and established what experience they might have that would benefit them if they played the starring role.

We also did a very short bit of fight choreography with each potential Lara, to get a feel for whether they’d be able to execute the moves I had in mind for the action scenes.
Finally we selected the top two and ran a final workshop with each of them, it was close, but Dylan and I unanimously agreed that our star was Becky Crossdale.
We have never regretted the decision once, she’s a pleasure to work with and she’s gone above and beyond her role as our lead actress to help us get the film made.

TDD: How did the idea of shooting in Spain come about?

DW: We lost our original producer due to scheduling issues with other productions, so we found another at our university who seemed to really like our idea. It was her idea to take the production to Spain to increase production value for the project, and it turned out to be cheaper to film abroad than in London! Once the rest of the team found out about Spain, it was decided this is what we wanted and I think it helps the aesthetic of the film look professional.
It was a great experience I think other filmmakers should try. We had several production issues, but us knowing we couldn't just hop back on the plane and do a reshoot made us more alert, careful and we were commended for our ability to think on the spot and solve problems quicky! This project has definitely given me a better understanding of how to make a film.

JA: A member of our team came from Almeria in Spain and due to her contacts over there, it seemed like a great option.

TDD: What were the challenges of making this film?
JA: Numerous challenges, our whole crew changed several times before we even finished pre-production, mostly due to scheduling conflicts or visa issues.
When we went across to Spain and arrived in Almeria, our location fell through. 
The bulk of the film was originally going to be filmed in some caves, the final film we came away with was very different as our location manager lost our access to the cave the day before we were meant to start shooting. Our whole script went out of the window.
While everyone was asleep, Dylan and I went location scouting at 1am, desperate to save our film from disaster.
After a couple of hours of exploring, we found a castle, which became the main backdrop for our film. Luckily Almeria has some beautiful countryside too, which we used in the final part of our film. We made up the events of the film the next morning after talking to the castle staff. Thankfully the staff at the castle were very friendly and gave us permission to film there.
We had a small problem with our sound recordist, who was coincidentally also our location manager, sadly Almeria being her home town, she preferred going and socialising with old friends rather than doing that much recording. Which means the film’s sound that you hear, is pretty much all done in post production with dubbing and foley!
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale (Lara Croft) on location at Alcazaba de Almeria.

TDD: Shooting a film that requires weaponry abroad is not an easy task. How did you manage that aspect?
DW: The weapons were a worry for a long time. We were in talks with our university on how to go about getting the guns abroad, and in the end we just decided to be honest and phone the flight companies and explain what we wanted and what we were doing. That was the scariest part as the weapons are key to the film, and we were highly doubtful they would allow it. To our surprise they were fine with it, they understood we were students making a film, and asked a few questions about the project and we were approved. It was such a relief and an exciting moment that we were taking weapons across the border! We wouldn't have been able to do any of this without our amazing producer Christi, who was the one contacting the airports and flight companies to get this sorted and thanks to her we had the weapons in the film - and we avoided being arrested! If anyone if thinking about doing the same, just be honest and ask, you'll be surprised how cooperative people and companies actually are with filmmakers!

JA: All credit for that goes to our talented producer Christi Leigh Cooper, she must have got at least 8 different signatures from the highest authorities at our university and contacted customs weeks in advance to explain that we wanted to take props with us.

With lots of work, she managed to pull it off!

TDD: Is there anything you took away from this experience?
DW: I've touched on this a little already but what I took from this experience is most certainly more knowledge of how to make a film. Going abroad has shown all of us that films are not easy to make, you need to be able to think on the spot and under pressure as well as creatively. It's not an easy thing to do. This was one of the best film experiences I had in terms of the things it had taught me and the confidence it gave me as a filmmaker. I loved working on it and I would certainly do it all again!

JA: It helped me develop my ability to adapt quickly to unexpected situations and think of creative ways around problems we encountered on the spot.

Also to make sure you use people who’re committed to your film whenever possible because you won’t get it made without a massive team effort!
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale (Lara Croft) on location in Almeria, Spain.

TDD: Any plans to do another Tomb Raider fan film in the future?
DW:😎 Most definitely yes. There was always going to be more than one film. Simone, the screenwriter, is working on the next script. Right now we have several ideas floating around and without revealing too much, there may be involvement of dinosaurs at some point! I also like the idea of setting it in a snowy country, I think that will be a nice change from our last film. I'm really looking forward to bringing everyone back to carry on our Tomb Raider films and sharing them with everyone.

JA: If all goes to plan it’s currently planned to be filmed up in Wales and it’ll be a much more story driven piece compared to the non stop running in the first film!

Let's hope Rebecca won't have to run around in the snow wearing shorts. 😉
Special thanks to Dylan and James for talking to me! I look forward to your future projects!
Rebecca also wanted to talk to us when she has the chance.
In the meantime, check out the film and some more exclusive behind the scenes photos below...
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale on location at Alcazaba de Almeria.
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale on location at Alcazaba de Almeria.

EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale on location in Almeria, Spain.
EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Crossdale as Lara Croft. Photo by Dylan Webb.

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