27 September 2015

From its initial plans, Tomb Raider Divinations was always going to be an ambitious project, both as  a fan film and a creation funded by public support. The announcement was made February of this year by the Director and Writer, Graham Jones. The announcement also accompanied a pledge campaign set up on Kickstarter to finance the film. Divinations would be Black Dragon's second Tomb Raider fan film, following Tomb Raider: Lost Valley last year. This time the team returned with expanded exceptions and a bigger budget.

In anticipation for their project, I had the opportunity to talk to Graham as well as Anna Tyrie who plays Lara Croft.

Promotional Shot from Tomb Raider Divinations' Facebook Page.

The original goal for the campaign was £1,000 but by the end the team had collected £1,228 with the help of the project's 26 backers. However using a service like Kickstarter also adds a further element of risk; its no longer personal project but one with financial backing by numerous partners in which money was put forward for a project in its infancy. Many projects with funding campaigns can have problems persuading or finding their audience, whereas others receive the full backing but due to complications struggles with the budget given. To avoid these issues, planning and preparation is absolutely vital.

In our interview, Graham explains the reason for choosing Kickstarter and where the money raised throughout the month went to: "We produced our first 'Lost Valley' film with nothing but a few pounds from my pocket to put together a costume and dye each piece. We filmed in one day. When we came up with our fresh trilogy story we knew that Divinations would need more than just a few pounds, as we wanted to start to bring other locations into the film; that would mean travelling between locations, feeding people, dressing our characters and updating some of our equipment. It just seemed that Kickstarter was for us, a great community of people for fan film producers. We gathered together all of our research, looked into locations and actors then started to set up our campaign page."

Like many publicly funded projects, while the campaign collected donations throughout the month, it was the final few hours which secured financial support for the project. Graham comments about those last few hours "we were all pretty shocked in the end, we had been throwing out the campaign for that month, and it started to generate some interest; but as the donations started to flow in right at the end, it almost feels like our hard work was working. Just had to wait that little bit longer and not give up on our project." While the team had a plan in mind encase the Kickstarter goal wasn't met, a successful pledge campaign allowed them to expand on their original plans and bring the film to its fullest potential. "Tomb Raider was a perfect opportunity to show the web the potential our small filming group has."

Production Photo from Tomb Raider Divinations' Facebook Page.

With their project funded and underway, the team's new goal was to meet the expectations both of the audience and themselves. Graham explains that he didn't want to recreate a scene from a level of Tomb Raider, "we wanted to cross our ideas into a small series, but at the same time I didn't want to push for a larger budget".

The film's leading lady, Anna Tyrie, is perhaps a familiar name to Tomb Raider fans with similar previous experiencing portraying Lara in Tomb Raider Ascension and Tomb Raider The Lost Valley. As an actor with a passion for the series, she is the perfect in the role. Returning to that role she explains her trick for getting into character "Costume plays a huge part in finding that character.  Once you put on the boots and the holster you really start to feel kick ass.  I will spend quite a lot of time in training in the run up to filming, focusing on fitness and technique. Then on the day it's simply a case of focusing." Anna's approach to the role brings a very clear passion for the series and character, "Lara is very simply strong and stunning.  I love strong women.  And Lara does it with such style. "

"Shooting Tomb Raider Divinations was as thrilling as all of my Tomb Raider shoots.  I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to portray my heroine.  There is nothing more fun than throwing yourself around in a forest or on a beach." And with a new adventure comes new scenes and opportunities for Anna. Describing her favourite memory on set, "I think my favourite day was when I got to play with a sword, it was rather heavy but so much fun."

Production Photo from Tomb Raider Divinations' Facebook Page.

As the Director and Writer for the fan film, Graham's favourite moment was about the atmosphere on set and the day ahead. "My favorite moment would have to be meeting up each morning, grabbing food from a superstore and driving in our mini convoy to the set. I love starting early with all my best mates, setting up the costumes and equipment. There's never a dull moment on our sets, doesn't matter if we are making a comedy or a horror, we are always have cracking banter." Throughout the filming, behind the scenes videos were recorded of the cast and crew heading to the set and reflecting on each day, and with each recording you can feel their enthusiasm.

Of course, with every project, there's always challenges to completing it. Filming began in early Spring, and in England that can be one of two things; unseasonably hot days or Winter's struggling grip. Unfortunately for the cast and crew it was the latter. Similar situations were faced by the team behind Hunted and Tomb Raider: Reboot, with Lara adventures so often set around curses, perhaps they've uncovered a real one. Anna begins, describing about the challenges she faced on set. "I am always shooting in the cold weather, it seems to be my curse.  I was aware that it may be a little chilly and so I packed thermal underwear and try to make sure I was well rested and that I ate well in order to stay healthy. "

Production Photo from Tomb Raider Divinations' Facebook Page.

Graham's challenges were a little different, especially as his role involved capturing the perfects shots to schedule "every time we went to a location to scout it out, beautiful sets with everything we needed. Classic in my Jones nature of luck, we turned up to film at the Quarry.... Norwich council were chopping down our forest because of an over running amount of Ivy eating away at the trees. So we really had to work around the sounds of men yelling, and Chainsaws ripping into trees, on the one day we had a huge schedule, we had that to battle with!" While Lara is in contact with Zip throughout her adventure, the film also features quieter moments in which she must survey and master her surroundings in order to progress. These scenes were filmed with a combination of good focus for the actors and precise timing, as they were shot between the groan of chainsaws.

Tomb Raider Divinations celebrated its launch just a little while ago! It's a polished and impressive film which has taken months of dedication and care to get it to completion. In our interview, Graham talked about the final stage getting to the final product. "The final few months saw my electricity bills rocketing through the roof as my PC was endlessly rendering out visual effects elements for the film, each night saw me getting home from work cleaning animations, setting up scenes and setting it off over night to render through my ever growing queue of graphics." In addition to the animations, various last minute additions were made, "towards the end we really wanted to add scenes that were in the script that we couldn't pull off because of the budget. We had a mad rush around to tie up any loose ends, going back to locations to capture any extra shots we wanted."

Now with Tomb Raider Divinations completed, the team at Black Dragon will be finishing their work on the Kickstarter campaign. While future plans for them weren't discussed in detail, we were promised to see unique projects coming from them in the future. For Anna, she's continuing her work on stage in London, but also teased a possible return to Lara's boots. "Well I am working with Secret Cinema at the moment in a live event in London (Star Wars but shhhh it's a secret) that runs until September 27th.  Then I will be working with the Tomb Raider Divinations crew to create something original but equally ass kickin'. "

Thank you to Graham Jones and Anna Tyrie for talking about their experience on Tomb Raider Divinations. Make sure to watch the film on their YouTube channel, and subscribe to both Black Dragon and Anna for more goodness in the future! Check out the Tomb Raider Divinations Facebook page for more production photos.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Divinations! So well done and Anna is the perfect Lara! Can't wait to see what the team gets up to next.