24 November 2014

Gaming has a strong ability to unite people, whether it's through a shared passion for a character,  a series or a game. Over the past 19 years, the Tomb Raider franchise has connected people from across the globe and has helped fans express their creativeness.

I want to tell you about a fan film which I am so excited about. While every fan film has a unique touch, this one especially caught my eye when it was first announced.

The film is called Hunted and is written by Kate Sykes and directed by Josh Pate. It stars Sara Croft, Anne Roig and Carla Lemley.

Kate Sykes, The Writer.
                  The Inspirations     

The story is written by a close friend of mine, Kate Sykes. If you don't know her, then where have you been!
She's a cosplayer, a talented writer, an actress, a photographer, and she's also a genuinely lovely person.

Over the past few years she has written guest posts for the Official Tomb Raider Blog as well as Guns and Grapple. She has been spotlighted for her cosplay skills by Crystal Dynamics in Croft Couture and has been a featured cosplayer for a month at Lara Croft Cosplay. She has written her own mini Christmas Tomb Raider fan film and she is currently participating in Meagan Marie's cosplay charity store which supports Room to Read. These are just a handful of projects she's done, I recommend checking out her Facebook page for amazing ventures.

Copyright Kate Sykes

For Hunted, Kate is in charge of creating an interesting and engaging storyline as well as giving the characters a voice. Over the past few months she has worked closely with the cast to discuss the plot. "It's tremendously exciting!" Kate describes "I've wanted to make a Tomb Raider fan film ever since I decided I wanted to make films for a career, which was when I was about 14, so to be able to do this project all these years later with some of my personal inspirations is very special."

In the series, Lara travels in search of mythological truths and fascinating treasure but for each adventure there's a personal aspect to it. For Kate, the driving force behind her involvement in the project is a similar reason. In 2007, she met Anne Roig who plays Lara in the upcoming fan film and the two quickly became friends. Kate has complete faith that Anne will deliver a great performance. "She is incredibly talented and has already shown that she's an excellent Lara Croft through her cosplay." Around the same time, Kate also met Sara, the owner of Lara Croft Cosplay. After learning that both Anne and Sara were planning to meet for a photoshoot and a possible fanfilm, Kate jumped at the idea of writing for them. As talks of the fanfilm became more serious, Carla also joined the cast to portray Himiko. "To have Sara and Carla Lemley - who are also veterans in Tomb Raider cosplay - involved as well is a dream come true for me."

Copyright Kate Sykes

The latest Tomb Raider has certainly grabbed the attention of the gaming community. The sleek, new reboot took Lara to the brink of insanity to show the strength and determination of humanity and the treasures of pursuit. Kate is among the title's fans; "It's a beautiful, emotional and brutal story that shows a broken young Lara who finds her inner fighter in order for her and those she loves to survive. It's something that's never been seen before in Tomb Raider." Kate wanted to focus on Lara's and Sam's relationship, a variation of Rhianna Prachett's story, which also includes her own personal touch to script.

Sara Croft, Sam Nishimura
                  The Filming     

For those involved or interested in cosplay in the community, Sara's name will be very familiar to you. She's the creator of the community's largest cosplayer website, Lara Croft Cosplay. Through it she has launched several exciting projects including recently a care package programme for those fans interested in creating their own Tomb Raider costumes but are experiencing financial difficulties. In recent months, she has been spotlighted  in Croft Couture and arranged a cosplay charity auction which raised over $1000.

Sara's Tomb Raider (2013) Photoshoot
She's a woman of many talents, with skills in photography, video editing, crafting and sewing. While you may see photographs of her scaling trees or plunging into cold water as Lara Croft, for the upcoming fan film she will be embodying Lara's friend Sam Nishimura.

Like Kate, Sara fell in love with Lara's latest adventure "When I got to play the game, I really liked the character development. She's just a young girl whose been backed into a corner by fate and either she fights or she dies." Sara is best known for her dedication to the cosplay community; a hobby that isn't just about looking like a character but capturing them. What intrigued Sara was Lara's complete determination throughout her adventure and her unwillingness to give up. "If it was me, I think I would have given up when I washed up on that beach, but you watch her develop into a fighter, and if a normal girl can do that, so can we."

Earlier this year, Sara, Carla, Josh and Anne met to record scenes from film. While in great company, the weather seemed anything but. "We needed to shoot a few scenes in the snow and even though you bring coats and try to mentally prepare yourself for the cold, it's never enough. Although I was able to handle it better because I layered shirts and pants on underneath my costume. I had to do a couple takes barefoot in the snow as well" Some fans have suggested that Lara could have acquired a jacket from one of the scavengers in the game, Anne more than anyone probably wishes that was the case now. "I felt worse thinking about Anne in two tank tops and ripped up pants and Josh in the Mathias costume in 29 Fahrenheit weather!"

Sara and Anne as Sam and Lara. Photo by EAT Photography.
Sara's enthusiasm for the project certainly shows through. When I asked about why she wanted to create a fanfilm, her answer solely focused on the people involved on the film;  "honestly just for a chance to work with Carla, Anne and Josh in person. They are wonderful people that I love dearly and it's like we were all split from the same egg. The amount of things we have in common is overwhelming so it made the whole process easy and really fun."  She also spoke about her admiration for her friend's acting skills especially during a fight scene between Anne and Josh "without speaking a word, Josh had thrown his staff at Anne and she instinctively blocked it (not to give up too much) but the improvisation carried on throughout the scene and it was perfect! We still remenise about that scene!"

Anne Roig, Lara Croft
                  The Challenges     

Anne's journey into the world of cosplay started at the young age of 14, encouraged by Lara Croft's adventures, and viewing her as a source of inspiration throughout school. Since then her love for the series has driven a number of cosplay projects. She has been interviewed for Croft Couture on the Tomb Raider blog as well as been a spotlighted cosplayer on Lara Croft Cosplay and Complex. She has modelled for Hibernacula, been featured in the book Gorgeous & Gory, and has starred in the sci fi series, Venus Rises. With her Hunted cast members, she is currently taking part in Meagan's cosplay charity store.

While I know many incredibly cosplayers in the Tomb Raider community, Anne was one of those fans whose work I admired but I had never talked to her personally before. Everyone I interviewed for this article spoke fondly of her, it wasn't until I approached her about the project that the reason became incredibly clear. Anne is probably one of the sweetest and most accommodating people I have met. Her enthusiasm and complete adoration for the fan film and her cast members shone through immediately.

Anne's Tomb Raider (2013) Photoshoot
Her passion for the games is obvious from the outset; despite being introduced to the series in the early Core Design days, she thinks there's something special about Lara's latest incarnation who she describes as her "absolute favorite. There’s a certain rawness, or vulnerability I guess you could say, to Lara that no one has ever seen!"

Anne refers to the fan film as an "exciting challenge" stating that "we are not a professional team, just a bunch of crazy hardcore Tomb Raider fans with a passion to bring Lara to life!" Her description of the group seems somewhat fitting, especially after hearing of some of the tribulations that they faced while filming. "I believe nothing could have prepared us for the crazy journey that soon took place as everyone was getting ready to meet." Even before filming even begun, a broken down car and impossibly cold conditions hindered the group travelling. After Sara's car broke down on the highway just 40 miles into their journey, Anne and her fiancé Josh drove down to New Hampshire to collect the team. Despite a hectic and expensive day, they continued preparation for the fan film. "we had to juggle finishing up miscellaneous props and costume pieces, taking care of my son (who, might I add, is in his terrible two's!), and get filming equipment ready."

Behind the Scenes photograph with Anne and Josh.
The following day was filled with further troubles. "It seemed like fate was completely against us" Anne describes, as the freezing conditions made it impossibly to safely film the scene. Despite feeling frustrated with the sudden turn of bad luck, the group still managed to make the most of the day by arranging a photoshoot. Getting up early the following day allowed for the cast to make up for some lost time. " Thanks to Sara and her ridiculously awesome ability to organize everything with her lists, seriously… I’m super impressed! We made it on location, and even though it was still dangerous for us to film, we did it anyway! We took all of our props and gear, (which collectively weighed a couple hundred pounds, at least!) and hiked roughly 15 minutes in through the frozen tundra of a forest to get to the perfect location." By the time that filming was finished, a blizzard had began to roll in, travelling through fresh snow and frozen lakes with the equipment, proved to be an additional challenge. Despite talking about the challenges of filming, Anne remains completely optimistic as she retell her experiences "we all stuck together as a team and got through it alive! And for that, I’m extremely proud of us! "

Carla Lemley, Himiko
                  The Surprises     

 If you've been following the Official Tomb Raider Blog or any Lara Croft cosplay groups, Carla's incredible reboot photoshoot has probably graced your computer screens a few times. She has a real talent for cosplay and can accurately embody the characters she is portraying. Her recent Lara cosplay, dedicated to the first incarnation of Lara, has received praise from numerous gaming websites and has been described as a perfect tribute to Core's protagonist. While we've seen her as Lara, she is exploring new ground in the upcoming fanfilm and will be playing the antagonist, Himiko.

Carla's Tomb Raider (2013) Photoshoot

The project is a collaboration between fans spread over thousand of miles. For Kate, video calls were set up from the UK to the States. For Carla, this first meant a series of transfer flights across America. Talking to her in the middle of production, Carla is enthusiastic about the fanfilm; "This project is very exciting we have a great crew with lots of ideas and ways of crafting that will make this film certainly memorable!" It's certainly a film to keep an eye on!

In its concept, the fan film, simply titled A Tomb Raider Fan Film by Kate Sykes, starred Anne Roig and Sara Croft. As the script and project developed, the idea grew into something more complex and in the months that followed, the group released a series of surprise announcements, among which was Carla's involvement with the project. Prior to the film, Carla had been working for a number of years as an admin with Sara and Anne at Tomb Raider Cosplay, but until the fanfilm, the group had never met before in person. In preparation for the fan film, Carla drew inspiration from the latest game, "I took into account the traits, mythology and aspect and transferred that into my part in the film "

Upon arrival, Sara had a special surprise lined up. Months prior to the meeting, Carla had purchased several custom items online to be used in an upcoming cosplay, the items never arrived. Before the group began filming, Carla was presented with a series of surprise handmade gifts sent all around the world by Lara Croft cosplayers to replace the items she should have been sent. Click HERE to watch the unboxing video.

Himiko's Promotional Poster. The outfit was made by Kate's mother (Sarah-Jane Underhill), and cost around £200 to construct. The costume was then shipped to America to be used in the film's final scene.

Speaking to Carla, it quickly became clear her passion for the project and for her hobby "My most memorable and favorite moment of the project has been the behind the scenes crafting with Sara and Anne,we sat down for the evening and just painted and detailed some amazing props Sara made and we all put our personal touch to them."

Josh Pate, Mathias
                  The Directing     

In the upcoming fan film, Mathias returns to our screens, played by Josh Pate. In-game, the antagonist is often manipulative with a determination to kill Ms Croft for her interference, but in real life Josh and Anne are a couple. As a still life and cosplay photographer (EAT Photography), Josh is someone who is often seen behind the camera rather than in his photographs, but from his photoshoot below he looks comfortable in front of the lens; he does an amazing job at portraying Mathias.

Josh's photoshoot as Mathias.
In addition to starring in the film, Josh had the additional challenge of being the fan film's Director. With his experience as a cosplay photographer, it will be interesting to see how he incorporates his prior experience into recording the film. Sara described her time working with him on set: "Working with Josh Pate was a delightful experience, his passion for his art often became contagious, and was like a surge of energy throughout the crew.  He always had a smile on his face no matter what we faced. We as a whole crew decided that he would be the best person suited to direct. So as the director, it was an enormous responsibility that we threw on his shoulders but he rose to the occasion beautifully. "  

Speaking to Sara about Josh's portrayal of Mathias, she comments: "he did an excellent job portraying, I honestly don't understand how he was able to juggle directing and acting at the same time, especially because we were in extreme weather and temperatures." In addition to the fanfilm Josh also portrayed Mathias for a special photoshoot which took place earlier this year. He joins his castmembers in Meagan's charity campagin, supporting Room to Read, where you can purchase his Tomb Raider prints.

Josh's photoshoot as Mathias.

Throughout the filming, Josh was an invaluable member of the team, as he also photographed the experience "he was incredibly quick and on point, he was great at directing all of us and we captured some phenomenal pics. That's the kind of decisiveness you need in your crew chief. we are a lucky bunch to have him."

Have a Facebook account? Make sure to "like" the Hunted page for regular updates on the team's progress. You can also follow Hunted on YouTube, where you can see special behind the scenes videos from the filming. Stay tuned for more information!

Thank you to the team for the interviews and for their amazing support with the article. A special thank you to Sara for last minute help and exclusive behind the scenes screenshots.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful article Jaden, we are all humbled and very grateful for your hard work <3